Interview | The Cheeky Panda founders, Julie Chen and Chris Forbes
What was the main inspiration behind The Cheeky Panda and how did you start the company?
The idea was simple; take bamboo (the world’s fastest growing plant) and make it into toilet tissue. Creating the company was a lot harder, we spent a lot of time in research and development of the products to make sure they were flushable and high quality. Once we were happy with the product we then had to create a supply chain and test the market. In 2016 we used Crowdfunder to test consumers appetite for bamboo tissue. Once we overfunded we knew we had something that had a chance and 4 years later we are sold in over 25 countries.
What do you believe the future will look like if we don't reduce our plastic waste?
Bleak. I would joke it’s the dinosaurs revenge if it wasn’t such a serious issue. We’ve literally become addicted to plastic, in particular over the last 30 years. 90% of all baby wipes contain plastic, but there is absolutely no reason for this. We created a baby wipe in 2019 that is 100% biodegradable with no plastics in it. This addiction is a recent one and with all addictions it can be reversed. There are some horrifying stats out there, like every week we consume a credit cards weight in plastic via the food chain. It’s got into every part of our life and it's damaging to our health and our environment, so we need to cut it out at the same pace we adopted it.
How much plastic are we saving each month by using The Cheeky Panda products?
We have launched several new plastic free products, packs of 4 toilet tissue, pocket tissue, napkins as well as subscribe and save boxes available from Amazon and our website www.thecheekypanda.co.uk Each pack of tissue would contain roughly 20grams of plastic so a case of 5 is 100grams. An average family uses a case a 1.2kg a year. We have 10,000 users on our subscription so that works out as 12tons of plastic we have saved by switching people over. As we grow this number will get a lot bigger so can really feel the impact we are making.
Briefly talk us through the process of creating your best-selling The Cheeky Panda product.
Generally, it's our customers who give us the ideas for our new products, they ask “can you make this” and if enough people ask for it we start researching it. Once we have established we can make a product that we feel is the same high quality as our other products, we check the production and delivery costs against the prices in the market. If after all this it makes sense then we start production. New products are capital intensive and launching new products that consumers haven’t used before is a bit risky, but after 4 years we are getting pretty good at managing the risk.
What plans do you have for the future of The Cheeky Panda?
The Cheeky Panda is an innovator brand. The Cheeky Panda Baby Wipes were rated the best-selling new product by the Grocer last year. We see ourselves as an impact brand, who can look at products that have been the same for decades and we go “yes we can make that more sustainable”. As well as a comprehensive retail range we also sell to businesses and we are launching new products in throughout 2020, so watch this space and follow us on social media @thecheekypanda_uk