Georganics is a British oral care brand that creates sustainable and natural products for your bathroom cabinet. Founder Alessandro Rochi sits down with Ample to tell us about the mission and origins of his company, challenges in changing the way we think about dental hygiene, and plans for the future.
Hi Alessandro, thank you for joining us to discuss Georganics! Can you tell us more about the company?
I started making my own toothpaste in 2010. At the time, I was on a cleansing mission between dietary and personal care changes, clearing out all the toxic stuff I used to use. The diet was easy because you just shop for organic, but with cosmetics and oral care, I couldn’t find anything food-grade. The ingredients we put into our mouth do get absorbed into the body, so it was so important to me to find something natural. Everything that was labelled natural at the time wasn’t as natural as it said, so I started making my own.
I asked at the local farmers market if they were interested in me selling toothpaste and they said they only sell food. Luckily, my product is food-grade, so they gave me a little table. The toothpaste was really popular, so I realised I should bring my products to a larger audience. There were lots of people who, like me, were into clean living. That was in 2014 when I started the online shop and by a stroke of luck, Wholefoods became our first client.
We’re a brand that is based on two pillars: sustainability and natural ingredients. We focus on reducing the impacts of oral care, including single-use plastics and materials that aren’t compostable. It’s something that everyone uses on a daily basis, so the impact is huge. We’re not yet plastic-free — our floss and toothbrush bristles have to be made from nylon, but anything we can do without impacting the efficacy of the product, we’ll do it. For example, the nylon we use for the floss comes from castor oil as opposed to petroleum. If you want to return them to us, we have a scheme where we allow free-of-charge returns so we can recycle the bristles. We go the extra mile where we can.
What are some of the barriers you’ve faced in growing the business?
The number one challenge we’ve faced is getting the customer expectation around the mouthfeel. For example, if you’ve used a regular water-based formulation of toothpaste for 20 to 30 years that is highly flavoured with sweeteners and flavourings, when you switch to a product that is flavoured with essential oils and is a lot thicker, you have to be aware of the reaction you might have to that. The big challenge is to have the customer transition from that to a natural product and retrain their pallet.
What we’re trying to do is educate the customer to take control of their oral health. And that’s about making changes that go beyond using a certain toothpaste, and that’s not an easy thing to do. We use social media as a platform to educate and share useful information and all of the content we create is divided by the values we believe in, natural living, nutrition and lifestyle, and sustainability.
How did you develop the ingredients you use? What was the development process like at Georganics?
One box I wanted to tick was to ensure the ingredients weren’t synthetic. They also have zero toxicity. Nowadays, there are various ways to measure the toxicity of ingredients, Environmental Working Group is one of the platforms we use. Instead of using glycerin, instead using virgin coconut oil, you know that it’s going to be a suitable replacement. We looked at all the ingredients needed for toothpaste and found alternatives that would maintain the functionality but would also satisfy the feel-good factor. That’s how we reformulated the products.
Is Georganics certified by any standards bodies?
We are a B-Corp business, which covers our business practices. We also test all of our products for their properties. For example, if we market toothpaste as whitening, we have done a trial on that claim to prove that it works. Then, of course, we have other certifications like the Soil Association which has to do with the organic matter we use in our products. Each claim we can back up with some kind of study or trial.
You mentioned that you have a recycling scheme, can you tell us more about that?
It’s called ZTL, which stands for Zero to Landfill. If you’re using a manual wooden toothbrush, you can snap the head off. We require customers to send back at least 5 toothbrush heads to reduce the impact, and you can drop them into a mailbox for free. We have a big container that we send every three months to Terracycle, where they remove the bristles to be recycled. Because the handle is made of Beechwood, you can compost it, reuse it, or throw it into your fireplace.
A lot of legacy brands are moving into the sustainable product space — even Colgate now sells bamboo toothbrushes. Do you see this as a positive step or greenwashing in action?
I think it’s a bit of both. There is an attempt to become clean, so I think we all have to support each other. Being a smaller company, we can quickly pivot our business. For a large multinational, that process will take years or decades longer, so we can’t point the finger just because they’re behind, but that’s the reality. We manufacture everything in Sussex, and we don’t use any external manufacturers or third parties, so all of our products are as local as possible.
What are your ambitions for the business?
Our main focus is on developing the business in the south of England and the UK in general — that’s our maximum reach. And that’s because we want to lower the impact on our consumers.
We don’t want to compromise our values, so if we scale, we want it to be true to our values. I think it’s the only way to scale because the market is already going in this direction.