A tongue-in-cheek bath bomb campaign may have ruffled feathers this week, but there are serious issues being tackled behind scenes in the way Lush sources the suppliers of ingredients and works with them to develop good conservation and farming practices, writes Simon Constantine.
With our latest Valentine's range hitting the headlines this week - in particular the purple, bulbous aubergine (eggplant) bath bomb, coupled with the Metro’s bizarre exploration into the safety of using a bath product internally - it reminded me of an old window campaign we ran. It was another tongue-in-cheek fruit and vegetable theme with a 50s housewife holding a cucumber suggestively; a comic sans speech bubble came from her mouth exclaiming: “Ooh, Lush really do put the whole fruit in!”. We caused a minor furore with it as it rolled out on the British High Street.
Today things seem to have been made more explicit with the dawn of emojis.
Firstly, as a personal plea, absolutely do not use our products internally! A bath bomb is designed to fizz and froth on contact with water so I’ll leave to your imagination why using it internally would not be a good idea ...
However, Lush’s links to vegetables go beyond the suggestive marketing, the point originally of our fruit campaign was to remind people that when we say we use a bendy banana, a slender cucumber or juicy melons, that these really do go in our products. We have fresh deliveries of fruit and vegetables to our factories almost every day. These are peeled, blitzed, boiled or mashed into any number of our products from shampoos to face masks.
Why do we need to labour this point?
Well, this is in stark contrast to many other manufacturers and retailers of cosmetic products. Firstly, we have a manufacturing set up that works to deliver fresh product. We really mean it. In the UK, alone, we bought just shy of 100 tonnes of fresh fruit and veg last year.
We have products that have a short shelf life because they have a benefit to being used fresh; just like the food you eat. Outside of our major manufacturing sites, we set up small scale ‘kitchens’ which make our Fresh products – those face masks and cleansers kept on ice in store - as close to shops as possible.
In addition we use vast quantities of fruits indirectly. Let’s take grapefruit as an example. In Cyprus, a once thriving industry of quality grapefruit growers are now beginning to abandon their crops as consumer tastes change. For us, we use the essential oil for perfume which occurs as a by-product of juicing – basically the oil is squeezed from the skin along with the juice and is separated out later, (a process known as expression). As suppliers declined we were forced to explore new sources for ourselves. As such Agnes, our hardened essential oil buyer, hit upon working with local Cypriot landowners to buy fruit directly instead of waiting for the oil as a by-product.
Last week, 500 tonnes of fruit were pressed specifically for our essential oil needs. The juice will be sold off locally and, as is always the case with these explorations, one thing leads to another...
We know for instance through TV presenter and conservationist Chris Packham’s work uncovering the illegal killing of birds, that Cyprus is a hotspot for the hunting of migratory birds. By working with landowners there, we hope to establish No Hunt Zones as we have already done elsewhere. We also have the opportunity to explore innovations in agricultural techniques to reduce harmful practices, for example pesticide use, and replace it with agro-ecological practices with the hope of boosting biodiversity.
So, the next time you think Lush may be acting smutty, it really is more the case that we have a genuine love affair with fresh, natural ingredients that goes a lot further than it may at first appear.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Simon Constantine is head of ethical buying and a perfumier at Lush.