It's a Matter of...Ingredients
Think Twice and Trust Your GutAugust 31, 2021 BeautyMatter
August 31, 2021
The Holy Grail of most brand founders in the beauty industry is an exit to a strategic player that comes with a big payday. While this remains elusive for most it is a reality for others that fuels future entrepreneurial ventures built on the lessons learned and the freedom to think beyond the confines of funding. These seasoned brand founders have a recipe for success and a passion that keeps them in the game.
The Art of Shaving Founders Myriam + Eric Malka sit down with Kelly to discuss how they are back in the beauty game with a new brand that embodies their 'less is so much more' philosophy and their passion for ingredients.
[beginning of recorded audio]
Myriam Malka [00:00:16]: Hi, I’m Myriam Malka. I am the co-founder of the Ingredients brand.
Eric Malka [00:00:20]: And I am Eric Malka, co-founder and CEO of Ingredients.
Myriam Malka [00:00:24]: And to us, it’s a matter of ingredients.
Kelly Kovack [00:00:32]: The holy grail for most brand founders in the beauty industry is an exit to a strategic player that comes with a big payday. I’m Kelly Kovac, Founder of BeautyMatter. While this remains elusive for most, it is a reality for others that fuels future entrepreneurial ventures built on the lessons learned and the freedom to think beyond the confines of founding. These seasoned brand founders have a recipe for success and a passion that keeps them in the game. The Art of Shaving Founders Myriam and Eric Malka are such founders. Realizing their work wasn’t finished, they are back in the beauty game with a new brand that embodies their less is so much more philosophy and their passion for ingredients.
Eric and Myriam, thank you so much for joining us today. All three of us have been in the industry for a very long time, but I don’t think we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting each other.
Eric Malka [00:01:27]: That’s right. I’ve known of you for a long, long time, getting your newsletters and watching some of your podcasts, but I’ve never had the pleasure.
Kelly Kovack [00:01:37]: Yeah, and I think even pre-dating that, you know, I did a lot of work with The Grooming Lounge, so the men’s – it was kind of like in the early days of men’s grooming, you guys were real innovators. So maybe we can get started at the beginning. You guys made your mark on the beauty industry in a pretty profound way with The Art of Shaving. But I’d love to go back even further and hear a little bit about your personal story, because I didn’t really know it until sort of reading the background on Ingredients. And it sort of feels somehow that it’s very relevant to your new beauty baby. Can you share a little bit about how you met and your life kind of leading up to founding The Art of Shaving?
Eric Malka [00:02:20]: Sure, we’d love to. Well, I’ll start, Myriam. So we met in Miami when we were quite young. Myriam was 20, not even 20, and I was, like, mid-20s, and we hit it off instantly. We both have a French-Moroccan background. Myriam is from Paris, but her dad is also from Morocco as I am. And I think one of our first conversations, she said she was vegan, and I said, so am I.
Kelly Kovack [00:02:48]: Oh, wow.
Eric Malka [00:02:49]: So it was quite a match made in heaven. And we both had, on separate paths, acquired a passion for natural lifestyle due to some issues we had – not major issues, but health issues we had in our youth. Soon after we moved to New York City, because we had ambitions that Miami, at the time, was not able to fulfill, being a very sleepy town in the mid-90s. And I took on a job working, coincidentally, for a distributor of English shaving products while Myriam pursued studies of herb biology and aromatherapy. Well, you put those two together and one morning, Myriam made an oil. I had just discovered brushes and creams, the old English stuff, and I had discomfort shaving. Myriam knew that I had sensitive skin, and she decided to use some of her newfound knowledge in aromatherapy to make me a pre-shave oil in our kitchen in Chelsea, and I had the best shave of my life. So we thought this is potentially a good business to get into. But being quite broke, the only thing we had was a nice little car and we sold it, and with the proceeds, we were able to script together opening a tiny little shop on 62nd street on the Upper East Side. And very quickly we gained recognition from the press, including a big article in the New York Times six months into it, which just blew up our sales in that little tiny store, and that prompted Myriam and I to decide to open a more prominent location on Madison Avenue. We were quite ambitious. And Myriam also started to develop our own brand, and maybe Myriam, you can talk about that a little bit.
Myriam Malka [00:04:41]: So I, my background being in herbology and aromatherapy, I wanted to develop a product made with botanical ingredients. And at the time, I had a lot of difficulty actually finding chemists that understood my way of formulating, eco-friendly, toxin-free ingredients, so I decided to open my own laboratory, and I did so in our headquarters – The Art of Shaving headquarters, and started to formulate all of the products for The Art of Shaving with botanical ingredients and essential oils and we already had a list of non-harmful ingredients. We were avoiding hundreds of chemicals at the time, which was really pioneering at this time. And I started to develop all of the formulas for The Art of Shaving.
Eric Malka [00:05:40]: Yeah, Myriam was always very forward-thinking in formulation, and at The Art of Shaving, her clean approach to product creation was really an industry first. We didn’t call it clean products back then. We were also clean retailers. We were one of the first retailers to sell brands like Aesop in the US and anything else we could find that was clean, which prompted us even more to create a broader range for The Art of Shaving with our clean philosophy.
Kelly Kovack [00:06:07]: It’s very interesting because the branding of Art of Shaving was so traditional and so there’s sort of this – I had no idea that the formulas were sort of intentionally clean. It wasn’t something you necessarily marketed to.
Eric Malka [00:06:23]: No, we soon realized that our consumer target really couldn’t care less.
Myriam Malka [00:06:28]: We were really focusing on the shaving. It’s so much information you can give to someone, and we were really focusing on the shaving techniques and which product to use. We had the shaving system, so we were already very heavy on explaining the shaving system that we had little room, really, to talk about the natural product. And people at this time were really not open or in tune with natural ingredients. But we had in our promotional – our catalogue and our website, we already had our list of ingredients we were not using and we were promoting the essential oils and the botanicals, but it was really second. It was not the first marketing message.
Kelly Kovack [00:07:17]: Well you guys were really part of that sort of first pioneering of the men’s market. I feel like in the past 20 years I’ve heard the men’s market is going to explode, probably no less than like 10 times. And you know, we’re having the same conversation again.
Eric Malka [00:07:36]: I know. Our only consolation for that trend that never came was that within men’s grooming, we really believe that shaving was a different situation. That we couldn’t compare shaving cream and its potential in the market place with men wearing eye gel. But yes, one thing that was interesting at The Art of Shaving was that consumers often came in and said, I love the way this smells. I love the way it feels on my skin. And we knew it was the ingredients inside the products and sometimes we were using rose water in our products for a grown man. In the ‘90s, they wouldn’t be caught dead telling their friends about that. But we always approached clean beauty and ingredients because of our own personal ethos more than as a marketing pull for consumers.
Kelly Kovack [00:08:28]: Yeah. So, you know, you kind of lived the indie beauty dream and had an exit in 2009 to Gillett. You went straight to the strategic exit. What have you been doing since The Art of Shaving? And did you know that you’d eventually launch another brand?
Myriam Malka [00:08:46]: So, actually, after the acquisition in 2009 with PNG we stayed on board for a couple of years for a transition period. After that, we took a break and had babies, and that was another project.
Eric Malka [00:09:04]: Our greatest creation.
Myriam Malka [00:09:06]: The most difficult, actually. But, actually, during this period, I experienced some health issues coming from environmental toxins and I had to go through chelation and body detox and I had to go through a home detox. And at this point, I didn’t want to put any more petrochemicals on myself and had a lot of difficulty finding a brand that was clean enough. And that really came from the inspiration of creating a brand that’s going to raise the bar on purity, safety, and transparency, and we came up with the idea of Ingredients. We trademarked the name in 2011. We always have been obsessed with ingredients, from the food we eat to the products we put on our skin. We had our lab so we were sourcing all of our ingredients, and at this time already, we were wondering why brands are putting ingredient listings on the back or at the bottom in very, very small fonts that you can barely read, and for us it was the most important part.
Eric Malka [00:10:21]: Yes, and also during our two years with PNG, the first thing they did was look at changing our formulas. So that became another frustration for us to even go further in purity. And as soon as we left the company, Myriam and I, I think we had a 30-minute brainstorming session and we knew exactly what our next brand would be, what it would be called, what it was about, that it would have ingredients on the front. But we also knew that we didn’t have the courage to re-embark on that journey immediately. So it took eight years, but we knew right away, and we trademarked the name right away.
Kelly Kovack [00:10:57]: That’s interesting. You know, I think that there’s kind of almost this – you know, everyone is saying there’s an indie beauty trend, but there was an indie beauty trend sort of 20 years ago. It was very different, but equally as profound. And I think sometimes something that gets lost in a lot of these founder stories, because I think venture capital and private equity is getting involved in brands far earlier than 20 years ago, so it changes things because the founding stories are now about attracting capital. So everything is 68 and sunny in everyone’s days, every day. And I think the difficulty of building a brand, and how long it actually takes to build a brand, sometimes gets lost in that narrative.
Eric Malka [00:11:46]: Absolutely. And you’re right. I mean, I think 20 yeas ago was the beginning of this indie trend, it was just starting, and I think between all the money that’s available on the sidelines to invest and seeing how these indie brands were starting to sell for extraordinary amounts of dollars, that really created this frenzy that we’re seeing today.
Kelly Kovack [00:12:06]: It’s sort of this idea of build it and someone will come with a billion-dollar check. And if that were the case, a lot of us would be on the beach sipping cocktails instead of grinding it out every day.
Eric Malka [00:12:21]: I agree. I speak to entrepreneurs all the time and I tell them there are millions of brands in this world, and only a handful make it.
Kelly Kovack [00:12:29]: And some really good brands. You know, it’s not just because they weren’t solid brands or solid businesses, there’s also a healthy amount of luck and timing.
Eric Malka [00:12:40]: Timing is so important. I mean, we had it at The Art of Shaving. It couldn’t have been better timing for the brand. And that’s the one element of success you can’t control, and if you have it, it can really be magical.
Kelly Kovack [00:12:52]: Yeah. So, you know, Ingredients is – when you came up with the idea, the kind of concept of clean is not what it is now. So this whole concept of clean is kind of rife with clean washing, green washing, you name it. I think sometimes it’s unintended and it’s just the amplification of misinformation. Sometimes it’s intentional and opportunistic. But needless to say, it’s a little bit of a free-for-all. How are you differentiating yourself?
Eric Malka [00:13:24]: Well, we don’t follow trends, you know? We’ve all – in this podcast – been in the industry for so long, we know how the industry likes to hang on to buzzwords and trends. For us, health, wellness, sustainability, those are not buzzwords for us, they’re meaningful, they’re a mission in our lives.
Myriam Malka [00:13:42]: I think our big differentiation is our transparency – our radical transparency since we decided when we created to apply our formula with percentages in front of the packaging. And we are out really to redefine transparency and what’s safety, not just in skincare, but in multiple categories. So we have also a very strict process when it comes to our development of a formula and the sourcing of ingredients. We don’t private label. I formulate in-house, so I have full control of what I put in my formula. We source – I’ve been in the industry over 25 years so I’ve been visiting and having established relationships with manufacturers. And I have a very strict process when it comes to the selection of the ingredients. Actually, we looked at the process from the harvesting of the plant to the process of the plant, and we will look at sustainability, ethical famring practices, natural or organic certification, traceability, manufacturing process, you name it. So we scrutinize the ingredients in all areas. We even look at the breakdown and the chemicals. So we will offer to the clients really a very safe and very pure ingredient, and all the ingredients you see on the front of the bottle is what you have inside.
Eric Malka [00:15:23]: And that’s really our first – the way we’ve always looked to win as a brand is really by nailing the two moments. The first moment is when the consumer first comes across your brand. And our strategy for this is rooted in our transparency. I mean, we’re doing something completely disruptive, unique, and in the best interest of the consumer. When they see the percentages on the front of that bottle, we stand a much higher chance of standing out in a crowded space and achieving that trust with the consumer almost instantly. The second moment happens at home after the consumer actually tries the product and falls in love with Myriam’s formulas. And that’s where it’s a two-punch situation, where you have to get them first to try it and then you have to keep them after trying it. And that’s always been a recipe for our businesses.
Kelly Kovack [00:16:18]: You know, I honestly think that there’s going to be – I guess this is, you know, I have my trend hat on, but I really do think that transparency – there’s going to be a reckoning coming for all of these brands, and I think COVID sort of – it’s one of those things that accelerated. Peple don’t want to be lied to. They want science; they want experts. And I think technology is enabling visibility through the supply chain in a way that wasn’t possible before. So I think brands like you that are doing the work are going to be able to substantiate and claim the work you’re doing. And if you’re not doing the work, it’s going to become – I don’t know how long it will take for this radical transparency to kind of separate the wheat from the chafe, so to speak, but I think it’s coming, and I think consumers want it.
Myriam Malka [00:17:10]: And a few more points that I’d like to add which can differentiate ourselves as well, we use a very little amount of ingredients. We will use eight ingredients or less, which is going to maximize the concentration of each ingredient and maximize the efficacy. We do not use any purified water or any petrochemicals in our formulas. And also, most of our ingredients are sustainably processed as well as our packaging as much as we can.
Eric Malka [00:17:40]: But you know, Kelly, by exposing our formula, our secrets on the front of our bottles, we’re really exposing everybody else’s. That’s the bottom line.
Kelly Kovack [00:17:51]: It is true. I think that, honestly, I have never so many products before in my life, and I often wonder to myself, like, where are all of these products being sold? On the other hand, I think we’re entering into – you know, there was this moment, I don’t know, maybe like the last five years, where everything just felt the same to me. And it was just sort of like it was all pink, it was all sort of – it was all the same. And now I’m really excited because I think that there are a lot of founders like yourselves. On one hand, I hear stories where older founders are having a hard time accessing capital because investors don’t think they have the energy to launch a brand, which I find mind-boggling, but there are a lot of them. And you know what they’re saying? They’re like, screw it, I’m going to do it myself. And there’s a lot of, you know, 25 years of showing up every day and running a beauty business, there’s a lot of learnings that come along with that. And on the other hand, I think there’s a new crop of entrepreneurs and they use technology in a different way, and I think the next sort of few years, there’s going to be so much innovation in the industry. Are you feeling that as well?
Eric Malka [00:19:06]: I hope so. Innovation is at the core of everything we do. If it’s not going to really move the needle on innovation, we’re not going to touch it. so we really want to push the envelope. And I think that there’s a great synergy between the younger up-and-coming entrepreneurs with their technology savviness and the experience that older entrepreneurs bring to the table. Those two together make a great combination. But I also think that we lost the mom and pop world of entrepreneurs in this country to brick-and-mortar consolidation, and the internet has re-opened that playing field. So even though we’re seeing so many brands, we’re also seeing an entrepreneurial spirit and opportunities for moms and pops. Obviously all of them are not going to become mega-brands, but as an entrepreneur, it’s nice to see.
Kelly Kovack [00:19:56]: You know, I’m glad you said that, because I also feel like in the industry, we need to reframe what success looks like. Because success is different for everyone. If you can be an entrepreneur and launch a brand and pay your mortgage and put your kids through school, that’s success. Success isn’t these sky-high valuations and exits. I mean, it’s success for some people, but I think it diminishes sort of people who are truly making a living, and there’s success in that as well.
Eric Malka [00:20:29]: That’s right, and I coach entrepreneurs – younger entrepreneurs – and the first question I ask them is: what do you want? Because that frames the entire strategy. Do you just want to make a nice income working for yourself? Do you want to be a billion-dollar brand? I mean, those are different wants. It’s up to you and takes a different sacrifice depending on what you want.
Kelly Kovack [00:20:48]: It does. You know, many successful founders kind of have a formula they follow and you know, once their non-compete ends from an exit, they sort of change the color and do something similar. But Ingredients, now it seems more similar to Art of Shaving than I realized, but your experience in building The Art of Shaving, how did it inform Ingredients? They’re wildly different categories, different design aesthetic, but it feels like the inspiration starts at the formula and it seems very similar, actually, now that we’ve had this conversation.
Eric Malka [00:21:25]: Oh, absolutely. The Art of Shaving is Ingredients 1.0. We’ve really honed our skills there, and we continued to hone that skill after The Art of Shaving when we worked with PNG. Myriam spent two years working with their R&D, having our lab. It was always about – for us, we always are guided by certain key principles. The outfits could be different, the packaging could be different, the brand can be different, but the principles stay the same. And we’re always really driven by purpose. We want to add value in our society. We’re not going to sell something that we wouldn’t consumer ourselves or that is not going to encourage health and wellness. We like to create very high quality, innovative formulas, and we like to use plant-based with strong branding. We like to be extremely consumer-focused. Everything we do, every decision we make is about the consumer. And we feel that as long as we’re true to these three elements, everything else is going to work itself out, and that’s really been our recipe.
Kelly Kovack [00:22:35]: At BeautyMatter, we’re committed to leveraging the platform we’ve built and the community we’ve nurtured to help make change happen. Our first impact partner is the Eco Soap Bank, a global humanitarian non-profit that’s saving lives by rescuing, recycling, and redistributing soap to communities that otherwise lack essential hygiene. Eco Soap Bank is quite literally changing the world one recycled bar of soap at a time. As an industry, we can help them empower women and fight preventable disease. It’s time to get involved. Learn more about partnership opportunities and the global impact a bar of soap can have by visiting www.EcoSoapBank.org.
I think for me, the most profound change in the industry has probably happened in the last decade. What do you think is the most significant shift building a brand sort of this second time around?
Eric Malka [00:23:41]: Well, technology obviously has been a gamechanger. We didn’t operate a business for ten years and we felt like we were frozen for a hundred and we had missed so much, so we’re catching up. And technology has made things so much more envisioned and allowed us to scale the business and to get the word out there in a way that we couldn’t have even imagined in the ‘90s and the early 2000s. I think that’s been a huge shift. The other shift I see is, you know, Myriam and I have been into natural ingredients since the mid-90s and even before that, and now we see the consumers are really catching up to that and it’s no longer a trend, it’s no longer an anomaly, it’s now mainstream. And consumers are asking for healthier, safer, more organic. I mean, when we started out, there were no Whole Foods out there. So those are the two big changes I’ve seen in the consumer mindset and technology.
Kelly Kovack [00:24:40]: And also, you know, I think this time around you launched D-to-C, which I guess in At of Shaving, you launched D-to-C as well because it was just a physical storefront.
Eric Malka [00:24:52]: That’s right, the original D-to-C.
Kelly Kovack [00:24:55]: Yeah, you know, because I think what’s really interesting is that things have changed, but I think the fundamentals of branding and marketing have not, right? So brick-and-mortar retail is D-to-C. The concept of influencers is not something new. When we were at Bliss, we used influencers. We didn’t have any money, we gave free stuff to people and they talked about us. I think technology just amplifies all of those things, but they’re not new concepts at their core.
Eric Malka [00:25:25]: No, and I’ve been saying this for years. It was always the offline versus online, and I’ve always said it’s both. It’s not one or the other. This is not a dinosaur. I mean, retail is not dead. It might be committing suicide sometimes when we look at some people, but retail is not dead. It just needs to reinvent itself and have a new reason to exist in this new world that we live in.
Kelly Kovack [00:25:48]: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting because during sort of that moment in time when everyone thought D-to-C brands had reinvented the wheel, in the back of my mind, I’m like I’m just running the numbers, and I’m like it can’t scale. And I was like, maybe I’m just old. Maybe this is the time where it’s a different generation, but there’s something that just does not add up here. And also I kind of think the traditional building blocks of a brand kind of went out the window temporarily because it was all about speed to market. And I feel like we’ve made a full circle where it is about building a holistic business with touchpoints and doing the hard work of building a brand, because that’s your safety net, because that tells you and informs who you are.
Eric Malka [00:26:54]: Yeah, branding has gone out the window sometimes for the sake of building a company. And I agree with you, it is coming full circle. I think it’s a pendulum situation where we’re coming to center now, slowly but surely. And the fundamentals, you know, that’s why I talk about principles a lot, because those are timeless. Principles are timeless. Situations change, society, technology changes, but fundamentals are always there to guide you.
Kelly Kovack [00:27:01]: I agree. I also have worked with a lot of entrepreneurs bringing their concepts to market. Early in my career, there were always those classic benchmarks of I want to build a Chanel, I want to build an Apple. They were legacy brands. And then all of the sudden, that was replaced by speed to market and how fast can I do things. And now I speak to entrepreneurs that really want to create legacy brands again, something that has longevity to it.
Eric Malka [00:27:29]: Absolutely. That’s the game we’re in. I mean, I’m not going to lie to you, The Art of Shaving was built to sell. We were struggling entrepreneurs and all we cared about was the destination. But fortunately, now, Ingredients is really built to last and it’s a totally different approach and totally different enjoyment as we know the journey is the fun part, that I was I would have enjoyed even more in my previous company.
Kelly Kovack [00:27:56]: Do you guys find yourselves enjoying it much more the second time around? And sort of appreciating it in a different sort of way?
Eric Malka [00:28:03]: Oh my god, so much so. You know, I can tell you I knew – out of 800 stores we sold in, I knew a few buyers back then. And now, I demand to speak to every owner of a store. I want to know what their business is about; I want to get to know them personally. This is part of the enjoyment for me. I’m a people person, and the journey is really what I’m enjoying right now.
Kelly Kovack [00:28:27]: What about for you, Myriam?
Myriam Malka [00:28:30]: Now I’m really enjoying my responsibility of product development, so what I love to do. And what I’m happy about is that those lost maybe five years, I saw in the ingredients side so many new companies or existing companies that sells natural botanical ingredients, which when we had The Art – to compare to when I was doing tradeshows, for example, at the time of The Art of Shaving, I was going to a supplier there, I could find maybe five ingredients companies that were selling botanicals. Now, unfortunately with the COVID it’s a different story, but pre-COVID, I was going to ingredient tradeshows in Europe and the US and I could find hundreds of companies selling botanicals. So you have access through that because plants grow all over the world, to have access to many different plants, and the same for packaging. Those last few years, I would say only the last few years are there offering for sustainable packaging have grown tremendously compared to previously, where it was even like two, three years ago when I started to work on the line, it was pretty difficult. We had some sustainable packaging, but it was really few offerings when you were going to tradeshows. Now it has changed completely. There are so many more options for sustainable changing, recyclable, post-recyclable, compostable, refillable. So now I see this area, for me, I’m really happy to be able to find a lot more offerings and we can select for future products for the Ingredients brand.
Eric Malka [00:30:23]: Yeah, and Myriam, mention also your passion for visiting the farms where the ingredients are made all over the world.
Myriam Malka [00:30:30]: Oh yeah. So one of our goals is to visit most of the farms that we work with. We work directly with farmers, so we did already visit many farms but the idea for us will be to promote all of the ingredients through a video where we go to the country and we see the havesting and the processing of the plant. So to be really fully transparent. You can go on our website and find a glossary of the ingredients where you can find all of the details of the plant, how it’s processed, all of the certifications, but we would like to show physically where it comes from. So right now, because of the COVID time it had been a little bit on hold, but that’s something we’ll share very soon.
Eric Malka [00:31:16]: And that’s how we’re enjoying the journey, frankly. I mean, for me, it was incredible to see the work that it takes to get an ingredient shipped to us. It takes years to grow those plants and to harvest them and to pick them. And just visiting those beautiful countries. I mean, that’s how we’re enjoying the journey more right now.
Kelly Kovack [00:31:37]: As the industry moves to sort of cleaner and a focus on naturals, I mean, the ingredients you’re using, there’s a finite amount of them, right? And there’s also a fragility in the supply chain. So, I mean, I guess my question is how are you sort of future-proofing the business to address those things? I mean, I think COVID sort of exacerbated everything, but…
Eric Malka [00:31:59]: Yeah, I mean, we’ve seen some spikes in certain ingredients that are immune-boosting, but we’re not too worried. We’re going to have to make millions and millions of units before we even encounter any issues with that. And our farmers – and when we say farmers, they’re owned by larger corporations, but in the end, they’re really running little farms. They have the ability to expand as much as we want. It’s highly sustainable.
Myriam Malka [00:32:25]: Yeah and it’s why they are farmed, they are sustainably processed, for sure you’re dependent on climate and environmental disasters like fires…
Eric Malka [00:32:38]: But petrochemicals are really the bigger issue for sustainability and the planet and human health. So there’s a shortage of lavender and provence, you know, I’ll take that over drilling more oil and putting it on consumers faces.
Kelly Kovack [00:32:54]: Of course.
Myriam Malka [00:32:55]: But you know, we work with many farmers. So, for example, if we have an issue of provence, we can go to Bulgaria, for example, where they have a great lavender. So we have many sources as well in case something happens.
Eric Malka [00:33:10]: We’re not too concerned. We have scalabilities analyzed for the brand.
Kelly Kovack [00:33:14]: Yeah. So you know, Myriam, you touched a little bit on sort of sustainability and packaging, and I honestly feel like finally the packaging side of the industry has caught up with everyone else. But it’s still, you know – sustainability is one of those kind of divisive issues and there’s two sides. Some people are very collaborative and kind of open-sourcing the things that they’re discovering, finding, realizing that we can only really make change if we do it together. And then there’s another side of the industry that’s like, I’m right, you’re wrong, glass is better than plastic. It’s such a complicated thing and you know, every conversation I have ends with it depends. It depends on your business model. It depends on so many things. It definitely is not black and white. And the technology, quite honestly, doesn’t exist yet for us to be completely sustainable.
Myriam Malka [00:34:12]: No, you cannot unless you find compostable packaging that will go back to the ground. But for us, I mean, we try to follow a circular system where we have some compostable packaging, like we do teas, all of our bags and pouches are compostable, but most of our components are from post-recycled material and they are recyclable. For sure, you know to recycle as well you create CO2 emission. So, for example, we use glass that’s made of originally sand and/or a factory has an electric furnished that will not give off too much CO2 emission because it’s electric, it’s made on coal. We use aluminum that’s used with 70% post-recycled material, but you have to recycle, so there is some still CO2 emission. We use plastic that’s eco-certified, where all the plastic is PCR and it comes from post-recycled material and it’s fully – there is no metal parts in it. It’s made of 11 parts and it’s fully recyclable. So sustainable is a big world. There is not really any regulation put in place for what can you call sustainable, what’s not sustainable. So unless there is some regulation, but we’re trying to do the best as we can and have packaging that are made in a sustainable way and that can be recyclable. So we’re trying to do the best we can.
Eric Malka [00:35:59]: And I think it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing game. And what bothers me the most is that – well, besides the fact that sustainability is the latest buzzword, talking about plastic packaging or recyclable packaging or sustainable packaging and making formulas with harsh chemicals and petrochemicals is like putting a Band-Aid on a flesh wound. I mean, that’s the game we’re in. We want to refocus everyone the subject that no one is talking about: the actual formulation; the actual ingredient makes that people are consuming. Petrochemicals are wrecking havoc on the environment and they are hurting our health – we know this for a fact now – much more so than plastic bottles are. That’s something I want to always add to that conversation.
Kelly Kovack [00:36:48]: I think it’s important because it is, to your point, it’s not regulated. It’s a box that people check, it’s a word that people throw around, but it means different things to everyone, and I think, you know, at the end of the day, I think we just need to be good corporate citizens or global citizens. But I do think on the packaging, you know, previously you’d get your packaging – and the work you’d do around packaging was much more about fine-tuning the cost of goods or maybe tweaking the brand. Now it’s a piece of the business that constantly is evolving. So it used to be one of those, like, okay, decision made, I can move on. Now it’s something that’s kind of a moving target. How do you deal with that?
Eric Malka [00:37:36]: Well, we were lucky to launch our brand in 2021 because there’s been so much advancements in that area that we’re able to not have to change our packaging after six months because it’s completely against trend and consumer desires. So we’re very comfortable with where we are now on the sustainability area. We have a whole deck about our packaging and about our ingredients. We’re very sustainable. We have compostable elements, post-recycled materials. We have only two packages out of 16 SKUs that are in plastics and they’re eco-cert, 100% recyclable. And again, the ingredients are not – they’re sustainable. They’re not petrochemicals. They’re not synthetics. They’re not made in a lab. They’re not leaking into rivers.
Myriam Malka [00:38:32]: They are fully biodegradable.
Kelly Kovack [00:38:34]: Yeah. So I would love to end with sort of the same question but for each of you. You know, you have so much experience and sort of success in building beauty brands. If there was one piece of advice that you would give to an entrepreneur listening or contemplating launching a brand or a lesson learned, what would that be?
Eric Malka [00:38:57]: I think for me it’s really about if I can have one thing to say to someone creating a new brand in personal care, it’s do everything within your power to remove all petrochemicals from your formula and all synthetic, harsh ingredients. I mean, that’s a step in the right direction. And I think those who do, in the future, follow that advice, will be rewarded.
Kelly Kovack [00:39:23]: Myriam, what about you? For all of those formulators out there.
Myriam Malka [00:39:27]: Eric said it all. For formulators out there…
Eric Malka [00:39:33]: I mean, simplicity is your thing, right? Ingredients are less.
Myriam Malka [00:39:36]: Yeah. You know, less ingredients, more plant-based, less petrochemicals.
Eric Malka [00:39:43]: Easy formulas with 80 ingredients in a small bottle.
Kelly Kovack [00:39:46]: I know.
Eric Malka [00:39:47]: I mean, 40 is already a huge stretch. For us, eight is the max, max. One is the ideal, you know?
Myriam Malka [00:39:54]: And so for me, formulation is about I believe that your skin is like a sponge and absorbs everything, so I will say to formulate with safer and pure ingredients would be one of my recommendations and plant-based.
Kelly Kovack [00:40:12]: You must love this sort of time in the industry where science is cool and kind of scientists and experts are sort of being respected.
Myriam Malka [00:40:22]: Yes, yes.
Eric Malka [00:40:23]: Yes. We’ve actually – it’s funny because we changed Myriam’s title from Chief Creative Officer to Chief Science Officer in the company.
Kelly Kovack [00:40:31]: It’s interesting because those roles didn’t really exist until recently, but it’s one of the things that I find the most interesting because science does matter and consumers are smarter than ever. But it was so nice to meet you guys. You know, one day it would be lovely to meet in person. We’re getting there, you know. The possibility at least exists pretty soon. But Eric and Myriam, thank you so much for sharing your story. It was kind of great to hear it firsthand.
Eric Malka [00:41:01]: Well, thank you for having us.
Kelly Kovack [00:41:09]: For Myriam and Eric, it’s a matter of ingredients. It always has been. When they started The Art of Shaving, all of the ingredients were formulated with botanicals and pure essential oils. They were way ahead of their time. Fast-forward, both consumers and the industry may have caught up with the Malka’s way of thinking. But they are busy pushing boundaries again with a commitment to radical transparency, raising the bar on purity and redefining what it means to be safe. Their obsession about everything that goes into the formula has been integrated into the packaging of the product with exact percentages of each ingredient designed to be front and center. So in the end, it’s a matter of ingredients, and that’s what matters. I’m Kelly Kovac, see you next time.
Myriam Malka [00:42:01]: Hi, I’m Myriam.
Eric Malka [00:42:03]: Hi, I’m Eric.
Myriam Malka [00:42:04]: And to us, what matters is ingredients.
Eric Malka [00:42:07]: Because wellness starts with ingredients.
Kelly Kovack [00:42:14]: It’s A Matter Of is a production of BeautyMatter LLC. You can find more content and insights on www.BeautyMatter.com and follow us on social media @BeautyMatterOfficial.
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