Understanding our build process for a certain product, starts with how we identify potential products to launch. For Think, it starts with our background in understanding material and ingredient safety. We ask the question of whether we can make a product safer, more functional and more sustainable than what is currently on the market. There is a fourth aspect that we also endeavor to embrace, which is being able to offer the item competitive to conventional products. Just because something is “green” or potentially better for you, doesn’t mean that it has to be more expensive. In fact, we’ve found in most cases, we can offer very high end materials or clean materials at relatively similar pricing.
Once we have identified a product that fits our focus, we begin the deeper dive in looking for ingredients or materials to align to our functional and sustainable goals. This does also require us to delve into relevant and recent science. We always use the Precautionary Principle in everything we build. We don’t jump onto a material just because it is free of a buzz word. Also, we are only interested in peer-reviewed science.
Once we have determined the materials, we begin the next stage which is building the prototypes. The process is quite similar no matter if we’re building a sports bottle or body care item. The prototype then undergoes specific testing for chemical safety and functionality. The tests performed are quite a bit more specific to the industry. Each industry and country also largely employees their standards. People often make the mistake believing that foreign countries don’t make quality products. What we found during the research at the National Institutes of Health lab, was that it didn’t matter where a product was made : US, Canada, Switzerland or China, they were all leaching harmful chemicals. But at the same token all countries had manufacturers that were willing to follow chemical policies.
Once the prototypes pass testing, we go through the process of doing a “short run”. This is where we have a small number of the items produced. This is where functional issues can be uncovered. Perhaps we didn’t anticipate that a lid would be used so harshly or that a seal would benefit from having a tab for easy removal. Short run products are mostly shared with friends, family and a small group of our Thinkers.
PACKAGING + PRODUCTION
The next phase of the process of building is packaging. Here we start with a very basic principle, which is “minimal packaging”. Since our companies inception, we have been strongly advocating against the use of plastic covers and plastic packaging, as most of the packaging contains PVC and phthalates. These are both category of chemicals that we classify as harmful and have the potential to off gas onto a product.
There are claims made on products that are all over the place. We actually poke fun at this in our body care line packaging. The reality is that there is very little actual oversight into claims being made on products. We back our statements with third-party testing and relevant scientific studies. We also don’t have the attitude that if the science changes on something that we wouldn’t change. We follow science, we don’t bend it to suit our needs. The science is what drives us to continually target products on the market and constantly focus on elevating our product development.
How we launch a product really depends on the specific marketplace. In some cases, it is an add on to a category we are already in, like adding diaper rash to baby body care. In other cases, it may be launching a whole separate category. These different scenarios do require a wildly different approach. We first connect with our Thinkers (followers of our products), then expand to include bloggers and general media. Over the last 10+ years, we have also amassed a rather large assortment of retail partners. While the online marketplace has grown tremendously, we remain very loyal to our retailer partners. This is largely because of their ability to tell our story. We seek partners that are equally motivated to provide safe solutions to their customers. We actually believe that all retailers have a fiduciary responsibility to offer safe solutions. We cannot tell you how many times, we’ve heard retailers push back, because they want to continue to promote conventional brands because of their general popularity.
Luckily this is becoming less and less the case, as retailers are reacting to the demand from their customers for “Better For You” products. To this end, we tell folks, that every thing you buy is like a little “Vote”. It absolutely, 100% changes the course of what is sitting on the shelf. And there can be very dramatic changes in a very short timespan, when people start thinking about what they put in them, on them and around them.