It wasn’t long ago that people trusted big business. Bigger was seen as better, and trust was equated to size. The dawn of the internet saw information democratized, and when the smartphone became a mass market item, everyone suddenly had google at their finger tips to quickly solve questions that might have otherwise been quite hard to find.
Product ingredients and materials is one area where consumers have reaped the benefits of their newfound knowledge. It is now more obvious than ever when a brand is using an ingredient which does not measure up to increasingly high standards. A simple search of the word “phenoxyethanol”, a common preservative in baby wipes, reveals it is not the type of chemical most parents would want to have smeared all over their newborn baby’s skin every time it poops (alot). Indeed a quick check of the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic ingredient database shows they give this ingredient a rating of “4”, which is not great. A score between 3-6 is a “moderate hazard” to human health. Baby skin is very thin and absorbent, so any chemical without a rating of 1 or 2 is best avoided – that’s just common sense, and you don’t have to be a hippie new age type to see the logic.
Big business has been good at disguising their use of cheaper ingredients through clever packaging, usually with soothing words and images that evoke feelings of safety and good health. This is no longer cutting the mustard for the average consumer. Bloggers who take an interest in product ingredients are quick to reveal the truth, often to large audiences who go on to spread the word around their online communities. There are fewer secrets in the modern age, and transparency is the name of the game. Young brands are popping up left, right and centre to fill the gap in demand left by big business who are slow to respond to this well established trend.
Joonya is one such brand of baby wipe that was created exactly due to this gap, and consumers in both Australia and the USA have been quick to embrace it. Will the bigger brands ever be able to win back the consumer’s trust? Maybe, but it will take years of hard work. “Support small” appeals to those who are sick and tired of the destructive tendencies of multinationals who seek only to line the pockets of their senior management and shareholders.
The future of the planet and the health of our populations are at stake, and nothing less than a silent revolution is under way. Most people know of someone who has started their own business in recent years. Entrepreneurialism is alive and well – a response to the trends towards supporting small, transparency and listening hard to consumers. With large online communities, these brands are nibbling away at the market share of the multinationals. Their response so far has been to gobble up the younger, ethical brands as soon as they become worthy of being devoured. As long as these brands do not lose their true north after being acquired, there is nothing wrong with this outcome. Let’s hope the new era we find ourselves in has longer to go, as there’s never been a better time for both consumers and small business owners. Keep googling away consumers, your knowledge is your newfound power…