Would ewe believe it? Tasmanian dairy develops skin care range from unwanted sheep’s milk
Ewecare was the latest addition to the family’s operations, which already included Grandvewe Cheeses and Hartshorn Distillery, which produces an award-winning vodka using sheep's whey.
The businesses are run by Diana Rae and her children Nicole Gilliver and Ryan Hartshorn.
The family conceived of Ewecare to utilise milk that was unfit to be made into cheese and would otherwise have been disposed of.
“That particular milk going into cheese production was almost a revenue neutral proposition, particularly during COVID, where the opportunity to sell direct to the public where we make greater margin was taken away from us,” said Gilliver, the executive director of Grandvewe.
“We considered not taking that milk, but that meant the farmer would have to dump it that did not sit right with our values.”
Knowing that milk has historically been used as a skin care ingredient for centuries, the firm dove into research on the skin benefits of sheep’s milk.
“We’re very familiar with the functional food aspect of sheep’s milk. It has twice the minerals, twice the calcium and is the only milk that contains vitamin C. We went down a bit of a rabbit hole in investigating the science and found that Massey University in New Zealand was doing a lot of studies on the topical applications of sheep’s milk,” said Gilliver.
The science showed that sheep’s milk had wound healing properties and was beneficial for skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
“There's science as well as anecdotal evidence around sheep milk fats being used for thousands of years specifically in wound healing,” said Gilliver.
Specifically, Ewecare’s creams used Awassi sheep milk which has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties – this made it ideal for sensitive skin.
Furthermore, this milk has a high natural fat content and is rich in vitamins such as A, C, D and E. It also contains lactic acid which is an effective alpha hydroxy acid.
“Despite the fact that we are known for sheep, we don’t have dairy sheep; we have wool sheep. We’re supporting a fledgling industry by trying to come up with creative solutions to problems around sheep milk,” said Gilliver.
Ewcare Launched in July 2021 with day cream (U$47) and a night cream (U$58).
In addition to sheep milk, the company used a range of natural ingredients found in Tasmania such as fucoidan kelp extract, Cape Grim water, coastal tea tree oil and Tasmanian Mountain Pepperberry extract.
‘We know what sustainability looks like’
Stepping out of their comfort zone and into the personal care space presented a big sustainability issue for the company which did not want to be responsible for adding to the industry’s single-use plastic problem.
“We’ve been in the agriculture business for 20 years and we know what sustainability looks like. We’ve been making cheese and turning the whey, which is our biggest waste product, into vodka and gin. This is interwoven into our belief system, so it was very important that Ewecare represented those values as well,” said Gilliver.
The solution was to sell each portion of the cream in a home compostable sachet that can be filled into any container of the users’ choice.
Ewecare also sells bespoke ceramic jars (U$119 - U$130) made by a local artist that can be reused. These pots are emblazoned with unique markings that are made by burning waste wool on the jars.
Since the launch of Ewecare, over 6,000 jars have been made and 2,000 more are in the pipeline.
“Right now, the artist we’ve commissioned employs two people just to make these jars,” said Gilliver.
While the firm sees global potential for Ewecare, it is not rushing to expand the brand.
“It’s a journey and we’ll see where it takes us. If it goes global, then fantastic. We're very Australian – we make things up on the fly,” said Gilliver.
She added that the company does not wish to go down the conventional marketing route of engaging influencers and saturating social media with paid advertising. In fact, the strategy is to take an understated and organic approach to growing the brand.
“You can see the pots aren’t branded. It's quite deliberate that it doesn't have Ewecare plastered all over it. It’s supposed to be something that if you know, you know. It’s a bit like how Burberry has built its brand recognition with its pattern. When people see that, they know it belongs to the brand. And with that kind of approach to marketing, we know it means it will be a very slow burn.”