Crossbred wool is not valued as highly as purebred wools like Merino and is being replaced by synthetic materials on the market.
According to Kimberley Bray, founder of Sub & Tarctic, the poor returns that farmers get from crossbred wool can severely affect the socioeconomic and environmental status of New Zealand.
“If we can’t find a way of supporting sheep farmers, they will look for alternative uses for the land that may not be as environmentally sensitive as what sheep farming can be,” she said.
Part of the company’s mission is to understand the available resources and use them in more interesting ways, said Bray.
The company based its products on a piece of research by Lincoln University and The New Zealand Wool Board which was looking for an alternative use for crossbred wool.
“They made functional keratin they extracted is slightly different from other keratin. It is slightly different in molecular weight and also remains bioactive,” explained Bray.
Additionally, it is also more sustainable than conventional keratin which typically comes from hooves, horns and chicken feathers.
According to the research, the patented wool keratin has multiple functions that can relieve the negative effects of lifestyle and environment on the skin.
“Wool keratin has incredible wound-healing effects and has anti-inflammation properties. It also stimulates collagen type-4 and 7 and skin cell proliferation,” Bray elaborated.
Not just a woolly idea
Bray told CosmeticsDesign-Asia that consumers were now more aware of the damage lifestyle and environmental stress can cause to the skin.
“Consumers are now more aware of the damage that environmental pollution can do to our bodies. A lot of our consumers, are in that space where they are trying to juggle family and careers. It's a lot of pressure on the body,” she said.
Sub & Tarctic uses the wool keratin in all of its products, including its skin, hair and nail supplement, Keranourish.
“The supplement is the centrepiece of our range. The idea of our brand is beauty from within. It is complemented by our topical solutions. For instance, using our supplement and scalp tonic, will provide the protection from the outside and help increase hair growth from the supplements.”
Bray believes there has been more consumer acceptance over beauty supplements recently.
“We're seeing an increase of acceptance of that idea that looking after what happens internally can make a significant difference to the health of your skin or hair. I think what missing so far in the conversation is robust science. That is something we bring to the table.”
With these consumer trends, the company sees plenty of potential locally and overseas.
“The reception [in the US] has been really good, particularly to the night cream and the supplements. As well as the scalp tonic, because I think scalp tonic is still quite a new idea in the market. We are also looking at China. We are partnering with a local company to enter the Chinese market by next year through the cross-border e-commerce channel,” said Bray.
Additionally, the company has been attending trade shows in the South East Asian region, where its products have generated interest.
While it does not have any solid plans to enter SEA yet, it has already obtained a halal certification for its ingredients.
Bray said: “We got the halal certification for our ingredients just four weeks ago. Now that we have that, we will go through the process of looking to certify our finished products. At the end of the day, we want to be as inclusive as we can with our brand.”
In addition, Bray hopes Sub & Tarctic will help raise the profile of ‘made-in-New Zealand’ brand of cosmetics.
“I think there’s a general understanding of New Zealand and our ingredients. Most people who look at New Zealand brands will think about natural beauty… However, what we are seeing now is that New Zealand brands are bringing a lot of clinical evidence with them and a lot of interesting technologies.”
She added: “I hope people will start to understand that yes, New Zealand has great natural ingredients but also a lot of clinical evidence and technologies that supports what we're doing here as well.”