Eco Deo: HK’s Coconut Matter takes first steps to achieve circularity with new compostable paper deodorant tube
Coconut Matter was founded in 2015 by Diane van Zwanenberg, who left the world of finance to develop a personal care brand as a platform to share sustainable values.
“Our brand is a mission-driven brand… and I have a very simple mission – to convert your bathroom into a plastic-free bathroom,” said van Zwanenberg.
The company offers a range of natural personal care products from deodorant to lip and hand balms that come in plastic-free packaging.
Its best-selling natural deodorant is currently available in biodegradable paper tube packaging.
However, the company is currently phasing them out in favour of a new compostable paper tube as it aims to become a circular beauty brand.
“My aim is that when a customer is done with any of my products, they don’t have to send it to a recycling plant… Asia is not like Europe where recycling facilities are very common. Ideally, I would love to create products that just decompose by themselves, buried safely in your own garden. That’s the ideal solution, but it takes time to get there. We are committed to this and we will continue to look for new solutions,” said van Zwanenberg.
While the choices for sustainable packaging and ingredients have improved since the brand launched six years ago, van Zwanenberg told us that it still struggles to find solutions that align with the brand’s circular vision.
“A lot of times, you may have this concept, but you have to find the people that are doing it. Most of the time, a lot of them are not using for the cosmetics industry so sometimes you have to cross industries to find that solution.”
Embracing the complaints
For its latest compostable deodorant paper tube, the company has had to compromise on certain features. For instance, because the paper is coated with oil rather than a bioplastic laminate, making it less resistant to wear and tear.
“While it still has some form of protection, the colour [of the packaging] will rub of easier and stains won’t clean off as well. I think we’re going to get a lot of complaints about that.”
van Zwanenberg is no stranger to consumers nitpicking over the brand’s paper product packaging.
“Honestly, a lot of customers say they love our product but ‘hate’ the paper packaging… They are a lot of complaints and I’ve lost customers because of it. But at least we are having this conversation with the consumer. It gives us the opportunity to tell them that even though the paper is different, you will be doing good for the environment.”
Despite this, van Zwanenberg is still adamant about using paper-based packaging materials.
“There are times I feel frustrated, especially during formulation. If I didn’t use paper it would be better for product stability, ingredients would be easier. But the brand was born with the intent to share social and environmental values,” she said.
“Obviously it's more work. It requires us to spend more time with our customers. I guess at the end of the day, we’ve realised imperfection is fine. That’s something I don’t think big brands could stand at all.”
Despite the gripes, sales of its natural deodorant have continued to increase year on year. Since its launch six years ago, the company is producing around 10 times more of its deodorant. It has also expanded across the globe to America, South America, the Philippines, UAE and South East Asia.
Working on the future
At the moment, its deodorant paper tube packaging has undergone at least seven iterations and van Zwanenberg said it would continue to work on improving it.
“The deodorant is our hero product so we want to push the boundaries with it as much as we can because it represents us. We may not be pushing as hard for our other products, but that’s because we don’t have the capital and our team is also very small.”
Moving forward, the company plans to release more personal care products and is focusing on developing water-free formulas.
“Less water means less packaging, less logistic waste so there are many reasons to go water-free. We make all of our products are water-free and we will continue looking at how we can create products like water-free shampoo, conditioner, soaps… All these will be exciting to work on.”