A cosmetics company that started life from a Highland kitchen and now supplies over 200 hotels has revealed that its sustainable ethos is playing a continued part in its success.
Emma Parton founded the Highland Soap Co in the 90s from her Fort William home, after struggling to find cosmetics that were not only organically made but packaged sustainably. Now almost three decades on, the firm has a factory open to visitors, six shops and a café in Scotland – with a ‘dream’ of opening a seventh store on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.
The company specialises in bath, body and home fragrance products that are designed, formulated, and produced in the Highlands. Natural and local ingredients are used throughout, with properties such as microplastic beads – commonly used as scrub agents – being shunned in favour of natural exfoliants such as Hebridean seaweed, organic oats, raspberry leaves, and other compostable botanicals.
The launch of the firm’s bodywash, shampoo and conditioner ranges in sugarcane biopolymer bottles is the latest instalment in the company’s sustainability endeavours, which Archie MacDonald, director of the Highland Soap Co, told Packaging Scotland has been a priority since day one.
“It’s absolutely key (to use sustainable packaging),” he said. “We supply around 200 hotels in the UK. Despite this, we never made any guest bottles because of the environmental impact. So, from the very beginning we’ve used recyclables or refills in full sized bottles.
“We have also phased out plastic from a number of our products – for example, our traditional handmade soaps are in a cardboard matchbox which is quite innovative, and the only one in the UK I know of.”
Archie describes the move to sugarcane bottles as ‘perhaps the most innovative’ thing the firm has done, with it acting as a solution to the reluctance for glass to be used for the 250ml bottles due to customer fears over dropping the heavy containers on bathroom tiles.
“One of the biggest benefits for us is that the sugarcane bottle looks and feels exactly the same as the previous plastic bottle; so, the customer knows no different, except if we tell them – because it’s not actually written on the packaging,” Archie said.
It’s not just the sustainability aspect of the packaging which has been a driver in the company’s success. Archie believes being a Scottish firm is a big selling point in itself. The company has local designer, Ewan Leckie, on board to aid Emma in the design of the packaging which features different nods to the country through the use of imagery of Scottish plants and also the colours of the organic Scottish ingredients within the products.
Currently, the Highland Soap Co’s products are stocked in over 350 stores across Europe and North America. A new ruling in China, which allows beauty brands to sell their products without having tested them on animals, has also allowed the company to begin laying the foundations for entering the Asian market – with an agreement already in place with Chinese retailers.
“We’re going to really continue pushing our brand overseas,” Archie said. “Scotland is such a brand in itself – people already consider Scotland to be synonymous with quality; when people think of Scotland they think of whisky, purity, and just quality in general so that helps us when we’re trying to export abroad.”
Keen to continue on the sustainability drive, Archie said that the company is looking to stay on top of emerging packaging technologies and advancements – with the goal of being at the front of the pack in terms of British skincare companies.
“We’ve really thought about it, and we’re really looking forward to the trend continuing and we’re going to continue making improvements where we can,” he said. “It was never really a choice for us; we were always going to be sustainable from the start and so we were very confident everything was going to follow.”