When a mutual friend introduced Love Ocean founder Gabi Jennings to chat to beauty consultant Lorna Mitchell about ‘the nugget of an idea’ she had for a line of children’s bath products, neither of them imagined where that would lead.
‘I was intrigued,’ says Lorna of that first meeting. With over 20 years’ experience working with founder-led brands – including the likes of Liz Earle and Elemis – Lorna had long been drawn to ‘that spirit of agility and innovation and entrepreneurship’ that typify such brands. The pair got on well and over the course of the next three and a half years, as Gabi evolved her idea from ‘nugget’ into fully-formed vision, stayed in touch. The two of them finally made it official when Lorna came on board as consulting product development director to help bring that vision to life. ‘All the values of Gabi’s brand just really resonated for me,’ she says of the process.
Turning ‘values’ into physical product is no mean feat – and finding a manufacturer who would understand that was key. ‘It became apparent early on that natural was going to be really important to the brand,’ Lorna says. Through her contacts, she was able to introduce Gabi to a family-run team based near the Norfolk coast (it was important for Gabi was that the brand be British-made) who specialise in bespoke natural formulations. ‘When I introduced them to Gabi, they of course absolutely loved the story and her as an individual,’ Lorna says. ‘So that was great and has been a phenomenal part of the journey to get us to where we are.’
Where they are, of course, is very close to launch, with two products – a bubble bath and body wash, both for kids – that, at 98% and 99% natural respectively have come in even higher than the target of 97% they initially set for themselves. A similarly stringent policy was applied to the rest of the formulation to ensure it meets the criteria for the certifications – from the likes of Vegan Society and Cruelty Free International’s Leaping Bunny, which Lorna says is the ‘gold standard’ in its class – the brand will apply for further down the line.
All of which are vital – not only to Love Ocean, but to the increasing number of consumers who really do care about the provenance of the products they buy and the impact they have on that planet. Family products, especially, require extra care. How do you achieve the balance between ‘fun for children’ while staying true to the values of a cause-led brand such as Love Ocean? Because that was hugely important to Gabi – that the products delivered on all counts.
That meant bubbles and lots of them – something that ‘Gabi had felt was really missing’ from a lot of natural kid’s bath products, says Lorna. (Parents and children alike will be delighted to discover they’ve delivered on this most holy of children’s bath-time holy grails – in spades.)
Fragrance was a similar story. How to create one that was, as Lorna says, ‘unique and very child-friendly and also was really inspired by the ocean – because that was the whole concept of the brand’? The answer was a lot of testing and trialling, complete with questionnaires and samples sent out to various friends and family and mums with kids, eventually whittling the options down ‘to one specific fragrance we wanted to be key to the range’.
That appeal is in every aspect of the product experience and the wider story around it. A QR code on the back of the bottle, for example, ‘will eventually give customers a direct link to that story around plastic in the ocean that’s going to be kid-friendly and child-relevant’ without, she says ‘dumbing down the experience or patronising it in any way.’
Because, of course, that’s what it all comes back to – the wellbeing and care for the ocean and the creatures that inhabit it. Love Ocean is on a mission to put ocean conservation front and centre of every family bathroom. Bubbles most definitely included.