Q&A with Chemberry, the innovative personal care ingredient search platform
You launched at in-cosmetics Asia last year in 2018. Can you re-cap what Chemberry is and the story behind the development of the platform?
Chemberry was created after identifying challenges faced by chemical buyers and suppliers in the ingredient sourcing and marketing process – particularly in the fragmented personal care industry where new ingredients are being launched regularly and new products are being formulated all the time. Having conducted over 50 stakeholder interviews we were able to identify several pain-points and unmet needs in this aspect, particularly the lack of online tools that could help make this process more efficient.
One of the main issues identified was that chemical buyers, such as formulators and R&D teams working for beauty brands, spend up to five hours per week searching for new chemical ingredients for their formulations, with over 80% claiming they started their search with Google which would not always yield ingredient specific results.
Suppliers, on the other hand, are overwhelmed by the increasing number of marketplaces available and are unsure of how to best market their products and gain visibility across the growing number of online and offline channels.
Based on these insights Chemberry was launched in the fall of 2018 and has since become one of the most comprehensive personal care platforms with over 27,000 products.
Why do you think there is still a gap in the search for sustainable ingredients?
Sustainability is often made up of three pillars: people, planet and profits. Where profits have traditionally been at the forefront of companies’ interests, people and planet have become increasingly important due to changing consumer concerns. To bridge this gap a flood of sustainability certifications have become available, but these are not all well understood nor do they always offer transparency and guidance on all aspects from sourcing to the end-product. There are, however, certifications such as COSMOS, RSPO, Natrue, and Leaping Bunny, which are comprised of separate governing bodies that offer transparent and strict guidelines along with the auditing of suppliers to ensure adherence.
An ever-increasing amount of ingredient suppliers do offer certified materials, but this is not always displayed in the best ways on their marketing materials. Sometimes certification information is hidden behind log-ins on their website, not shown next to the appropriate product or not shown at all. This makes it much more difficult for buyers to find the right ingredients for their formulations, especially those who cater towards the environmentally- and socially-conscious consumer.
What features have you launched or are you looking into to address this issue?
These sustainability issues are at the heart of what we at Chemberry care about and look to overcome. Therefore, we have built this into the core of our platform in two different ways: through sustainability filters and through smart and explorative search functions. First, the sustainability filters are a separate facet that allow users to filter for specific sustainability certifications. Currently we offer COSMOS and Natrue certification filters, but we are avidly working on expanding our sustainability umbrella to include additional ones!
Second, the explorative search allows users to type “paraben-free” or “palm oil-free” straight into our search bar to find relevant results. With these two approaches we aim to not only provide the appropriate tools for users to find the sustainable ingredients they want, but also to encourage suppliers to more efficiently market their certified products.
What has the response been thus far when you ask brands to define what sustainability means to them?
Sustainability seems to be a double-edged sword — on one hand it’s great that brands (and consumers) are increasingly passionate about the topic, but on the other hand there is no unified way in which all brands are tackling this. Some brands have very strict guidelines in place in terms of what certification the ingredients they buy require, whereas others do not know where to start.
Furthermore, in addition to their own products, brands are trying to keep track of new technologies and materials that address sustainability concerns both on an ingredient level and packaging aspect. They are also interested in the market demand as well as how their competitors are implementing sustainable changes into their product lines.
Getting to know beauty brands is sometimes like peeling an orange. First you have the skin, which is what makes them attractive to their customers and what they want to market to them. The three most common terms we hear here are “natural”, “organic” and “vegan”.
But these terms do not mean anything, especially in today’s world of green-washing, without the appropriate certification and definition of what is meant behind these claims. These certifications are the orange flesh underneath the skin. The most common sustainability certificates that brands mention to us are COSMOS, Ecocert, Cruelty-Free and increasingly RSPO, so we are trying to make ingredients with these certifications more visible on Chemberry.
Why do you think Chemberry is an important industry initiative and what do you think lies ahead for the chemical ingredient industry in terms of digitalization?
Digitalization is relatively new in the chemical industry, yet it is being adopted at a respectable rate. We believe Chemberry is an important digital industry initiative because it was born out of the chemical industry (it was developed as part of a Clariant digital transformation project) and it also aims to modernize the chemical industry collectively. Chemberry can only grow through collaboration with its partners and contributors.
We want those involved in the industry to feel empowered to influence this digitalization journey in the chemical industry. If an outsider such as Amazon or Alibaba were to grow in this field, the main stakeholders of the industry would likely have little say and will also potentially face huge business losses.
Digital initiatives created by the chemical industry are also important because we see a change in customer behaviors. Customer experience was and is the success criteria of so many great products today like Apple with the iPhone or Uber. People are now accustomed to these seamless experiences and also have these high expectations across all touchpoints including chemical sourcing. If we don’t act now and bring other chemical industry partners up to speed through an ecosystem approach, we risk being disrupted by external players while losing direct contact to our customer base.
Looking to find the right personal care ingredients or to more efficiently market your personal care ingredients?