In recognition of April becoming a month focused on environmental protection, I’m looking into the latest Gen-Z sustainable packaging brand Sk*p, founded by Farmacy co-founder Mark Veeder.

A new brand called Sk*p is trying to bring the sustainable beauty conversation to Gen Z.

Mark Veeder, the co-founder of clean beauty brand Farmacy, will launch Sk*p, which stands for “Simply be Kind to the Planet,” on April 22, coinciding with Earth Day. Veeder co-founded Farmacy in 2015, just as clean beauty began to gain industry attention — he departed in 2018. Since then, he has worked on developing Sk*p as a sustainable DTC brand for consumers under 21. Sk*p launched with five products, including a shampoo, conditioner and deodorant, all packaged in a proprietary recyclable carton box trademarked as Beauty Carton. Individual products retail for $15-$18.

“The main mission with Sk*p is to begin to break the beauty industry’s addiction to plastic,” said Veeder. He said he was attracted to paper cartons compared to other materials because they rely on forests, a renewable energy source; they’re less environmentally taxing to produce and ship; and their design is aesthetically appealing.

The cartons are designed to hold up in the shower using a foil liner. They’re composed of 81% paper and use 95% less plastic than typical beauty packaging. Veeder said a second-generation carton will debut in the second half of 2021. It will feature a new flip-style cap and will eliminate foil. No secondary packaging will be included.

Veeder said that, in the development of Sk*p, he called leading food packaging manufacturers who produce paper carton packaging like Tetra Pak and Elopak to form a partnership, but they all declined to work with him due to Sk*p’s small order volumes. As a result, Veeder set up his own manufacturing shop with a lab in New Jersey, with the hope that his company will eventually license its technology and proprietary packaging to other brands.

“The design concept for a carton is genius for a myriad of reasons,” said Sara Miltenberger, sustainability expert and founder of Restore Media & Strategy consultancy. She pointed out the customer familiarity with carton packaging, which could lead to more reliable recycling and more consistent refilling. Sk*p’s design shares similarities with popular water carton brands like Boxed Water is Better and Just Water, both of which aim to reduce plastic usage.

“I’ll be curious to see if packaging in cartons is also more efficient for the supply chain, in terms of shape and size,” she said. “Carton recycling is in high demand due to the push for post-consumer recycled paper for packaging of all consumer goods.” 

Slowly but surely, paper packaging has gained momentum as a primary packaging option in the beauty industry. Indie brands like Meow Meow Tweet earned attention for their sustainable packaging and cartoon drawing designs, while L’Oréal’s Seed Phytonutrients made a big splash when it launched in 2018. The packaging design for Seed Phytonutrients was created by eco-friendly manufacturer Ecologic Brands. Mega-manufacturer Jabil acquired that company in January with plans to expand the paper bottle technology. That bottle design is also fully recyclable, but it does feature a plastic liner, according to Seed Phytonutrient’s website. It is being incorporated into other L’Oréal brands like Kiehl’s and Redken. 

“While it is certainly a good thing to see brands thinking beyond single-use plastics, we need them to embrace reuse [more],” said Kate Melges, Greenpeace USA plastic projects leader. “Unfortunately, just because something is recyclable, that does not mean it will be recycled. And continuing to rely on single-use materials often shifts the burden to another part of our environment. Ending our reliance on single-use plastics is the first step, which should be followed by urgently scaling up reuse and package-free approaches.”

As part of its Gen-Z focus, Sk*p is creating an all-youth board that will assist with key decisions such as product design and philanthropy initiatives. Veeder said he wanted to teach teens about entrepreneurialism and that participants will hold equity in the brand. People can apply on its website or be recommended following the brand’s launch, and Veeder has personally invited some people.

“This demographic is really passionate. They’re the ones doing climate strikes and caring about saving their planet,” Veeder said. “Starting another brand for kids that was clean was not enough.”

According to Piper Jaffrey’s semi-annual teen survey, the environment ranked as the top social cause among Gen Z in spring 2020. This shifted to No. 2 in fall 2020, behind racial equality which rocked the U.S. over the course of the summer, after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. And a 2019 study on Gen Z spending by retail consultancy First Insight found that younger consumers were willing to spend 10% more for sustainable products and are the most likely (alongside millennials) to make purchase decisions based on values.

Sk*p has a partnership with the Earth Day Network to support an initiative called Sk*p for Schools. The focus is climate literacy and sustainable teaching tools for secondary schools. Veeder added that Sk*p is also in conversation with several colleges like Purdue University and the University of Michigan for its second phase.

Sk*p is sending out thousands of full-carton shampoo and conditioner sets to micro- and nano-influencers, focusing on youth activists and sustainable influencers first. Veeder and his husband also own a café and store called Foundry42 in Port Jervis, New York and Austin, Texas, which will serve as a hub for Sk*p events and will sell products. The brand will also host pop-ups in the Hamptons, Los Angeles and New Jersey this summer.

“I want to look down a big box store’s personal care aisle and see all cartons and no more plastic,” said Veeder. “We want Sk*p to be the first to get the concept out and develop the platform and community to support it. That way, as it grows, other companies can use the Beauty Carton to reduce plastics.”

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