‘An exciting time’: Totem Eco eyes opportunity in conscious consumerism, targets SEA in expansion plans

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Totem Eco aims to tap into the growing trend of conscious consumerism as it embarks on its international expansion. [Totem Eco]
Totem Eco aims to tap into the growing trend of conscious consumerism as it embarks on its international expansion. [Totem Eco]

Related tags eco-conscious Deodorant Sustainability Packaging conscious beauty

Australian personal care brand Totem Eco aims to tap into the growing trend of conscious consumerism as it embarks on its international expansion, with South East Asia as a major focus.

The brand was founded by Toby Gibson, a former research scientist, and Katie Gibson, a hair and makeup artist. It is best known for its multiple award-winning natural deodorants, which use magnesium to provide odour control.

Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Asia, the husband-and-wife team said they were motivated to start the brand after both experiencing health scares.

The overarching goal of Totem Eco was to create a line of planet- and people-conscious personal care products that also celebrated native Australian ingredients.

“These are products people use every single day and can have a massive impact. We wanted to create a brand that was clean, safe, sustainable, and overall, responsible. We’re in a really exciting time right now with the beauty market transitioning towards a cleaner, greener, safer future,” said Toby.

He noted that the brand is strict with its ingredients and chooses not to use ingredients such as palm oil and its derivatives.

Katie added that consumers have developed a keen eye for ingredients, aided by mobile applications like Yuka, which facilitate easy access to detailed information about cosmetic products and their ingredients.

After two and a half years, the brand is now working towards an international expansion, with its first target being SEA.

“Of course, the business must be viable, but the bigger we grow, the more we can make a positive impact on the planet. So, we are very interested in exploring the potential in SEA, which is our closest neighbour.”

Katie added: “I think our products will be of interest to consumers in SEA because of the unique ingredients that we feature.”

The company already ships its products internationally through its official website, but it is aiming to get local distribution in SEA.

Specifically, the company is eyeing expansion in Singapore’s mature beauty and personal care market.

“Singapore is a progressive market, and it just feels like the natural choice. It would be a really good litmus test and see how well we will be received there. Right now, we’re hoping to connect with like-minded distributors that could give us the boots-on-the-ground knowledge on the market,” said Toby.

Product development hurdles

Currently, Totem Eco offers a range of natural soaps, deodorant pastes, and deodorant sticks.

The latter spent two years in development as it was a struggle to create a stable formula for the stick format using a limited list of ingredients.

The founders told us they were keen to expand its offerings with more personal care products, including shampoos.

“Our main focus is the products that people use every day because that is where we can make the most difference,” said Katie.

However, one major hurdle the company faces is finding the right packaging, said Katie.

“We’ve got a few products in the pipeline, but packaging is the biggest challenge. We are very careful about what we use to package our products. We don’t want to go down the road of using plastics.”

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