Scalp care before hair care: Unilever-backed Australian prebiotics start-up begins international expansion push

By Si Ying Thian

- Last updated on GMT

Straand is looking to enter South East Asia, China, Europe and the US this year on the back of funding from Unilever’s venture arm. © Straand
Straand is looking to enter South East Asia, China, Europe and the US this year on the back of funding from Unilever’s venture arm. © Straand

Related tags prebiotics Skin health skin microbiome Scalp care Hair care Hair

Australian prebiotics hair care brand Straand is looking to enter South East Asia, China, Europe and the US this year on the back of funding from Unilever’s venture arm.

Straand specialises in prebiotics hair and scalp care, with products spanning a shampoo, conditioner, scalp scrub, and scalp serum.

It was founded in July 2022 by four colleagues in Melbourne with complementary experience in product development, manufacturing, brand creation, launch and global retail and distribution in the beauty and personal care sector.

Product range © Straand

Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Asia, ​co-founder Sarah Hamilton saw a convergence of skin care and hair care and identified a market gap for products like theirs based on their respective professional experiences and from speaking with retailers.

Because of our joint experiences, it somewhat gets easier to identify opportunities. When we look at the incumbents in the market, the way they’re treating dandruff is not a taboo subject anymore. It’s not something to be only solved with chemicals, and we think it’s important to use key skin care ingredients that balance the microbiome and stop the dandruff, as opposed to stripping the scalp.

“We were also lucky to have so much attention from retailers at an early stage [of our business]. We were just on a call with a retailer in India and Indonesia, and we see skinification of hair starting to really pick up and this is exactly what their customers are asking for.”

The ingredients used in its products include a proprietary prebiotic known as Defenscalp, panthenol (Vitamin B5), jojoba oil, hydrolyzed wheat protein, sweet almond oil, and polyquaternium-10.

International expansion

In February this year it received AU$2 million (US$1.42 million) of pre-seed investment from Unilever Ventures intended for its international expansion into South East Asia, China, Europe, UK and the US.

It is currently distributing in Australia, US and China. In the Australia, its products are made available at beauty retailers and domestic shipping via its website. In its export markets, it is available in US lifestyle retailer Urban Outfitters and Amazon, as well as Alibaba in China.

It said that its products are generally well-accepted among international consumers, but there has been some differences in consumer preferences in its export markets.

There’re some other markets that are more advanced. I feel like the US is more advanced in terms of the scrub. While there’s been a pick up of serum in Australia and the UK, the scrub is still something that Australians think why they need that for. So, we’ll need more education around that. The US is picking that up faster than other markets,” ​Hamilton explained.

It added that its focus this year is expanding its current distribution channels in Australia and kickstarting its South East Asian distribution this year via a retailer.

Everyday use, not a treatment product

Its other co-founder Tim Brown said that the brand took over 14 months for product formulation to achieve both scalp balance and product stability for everyday use.

Its products charged an average of AU$24 to $28 (US$16 to $18).

However, it added that consumers still tend to have the misconception of its products being a treatment range. While its products are targeted at maintaining the scalp, it denies having medicinal ingredients that resolve scalp issues, it said.

As the brand has always positioned its focus on scalp care, Hamilton said that it has given them the “authority​” when it comes to consumer education in that regard.

Consumers and retailers-alike are not confused by its offerings and were able to communicate what they expect for its next products, she explained. The brand is also working with trichologists and consultants to lend scientific legitimacy to its product claims.

On NPD, Hamilton: “We’ve got some more scalp health products coming out. We’re also looking into other products around healthy hair and scalp, like a growth range and an SPF range. All about protecting the hair.

“Actually, it was interesting when we spoke to a retailer who said that hair ageing is a concern. I asked whether that means grey hair? It’s actually damaged old hair. The repair space is something we’re looking quite closely as well.”

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