Julie Chen and Chris Forbes are the founders of The Cheeky Panda, the multi-award winning UK based and global supplying sustainable bamboo tissue manufacturer. Here, Chris discusses their own retail references that convinced them to launch the business.
TWM/1: How did the idea for The Cheeky Pandas come about?
“The Cheeky Panda was an idea in 2015 by my wife Julie. She had been involved in the early stages of LED lights and she understood the gap and need for more sustainable tissue. I was the owner and MD of a global executive recruitment business and I liked the concept so I decided to back it. The key thing for me was the quality of the tissue had to be as good or better than the leading brands otherwise it would just be another alternative to recycled tissue. Using the world’s fastest growing plant and turning it to high quality tissue was a bit of a no-brainer but we had to spend a lot of time and money on R&D before launching. The first thing we did was market test it with the crowd. We overachieved out targets so we knew we had a product in demand and a brand that was liked by the general public. The last three years have gone very fast and we have won numerous awards and recognition by retail and B2B, cementing The Cheeky Pandas position as one of the leading innovators in tissue. Our products are much softer and a kinder substance on the skin and won’t cost consumers more than the other big brands toilet paper. For every pack of tissue bought, some money goes back to protecting the rainforest in Vietnam and the offset means cradle-to-grave our tissue has no carbon footprint.”
TWM/2: What tissue products do you use?
“We have lots of products from toilet rolls of all sizes, handtowels, kitchen rolls, facial tissue. We have our first child coming so we will shortly be launching wipes and nappies so we can give them the best. It’s important for us to know how things are made and it’s a great message to our fans.”
TWM/3: Do you use branded products or do you prefer private label?
“I have never been a fan of own-labels, they are easy to copy and they don’t have any attributable values. With brands you can see the people and the ethics behind the company and that sense of accountability gives people the assurance that the products they use hold high values. It’s not always the case with all brands but these are our value pillars.”
TWM/4: As a consumer, what characteristics are most important for you when buying tissue products?
“Give me quality over price any day, after all it’s only tissue and it only costs a few pence per day per person. I think people get too caught up in the race to the bottom and price being a driver, if that was always the case no one would ever buy an iPhone. For me, the lack of innovation in the sector has made tissue too focused on price and I want to disrupt that.”
TWM/5: Why is it important that the products are environmentally-friendly?
“The whole ethos of the company is built on sustainability. I was running a very profitable business and we wouldn’t have created this brand if it was about the money. This is all about trying to make the world a better place by using more sustainable products. It’s a great thing to tell the children and grandchildren that we made a difference. We have also introduction biodegradable plastic to all Cheeky Panda packaging. The new Cheeky Panda Biodegradable plastic is made with recyclable LDPE (low-density polyethylene) material with a small percentage of additive called D2W, which has been created by Symphony, Environmental Technologies PLC. The inclusion of the D2W additive allows the manufacturer to create a life span for the plastic and the new packaging can also be recycled through normal recycling streams. If the packaging happens to become litter, it still biodegrades and breaks down after 18 months.”
TWM/6: What have you noticed about tissue habits when you’ve travelled abroad, or compared to where you grew up?
“I grew up in England in the 80s which was a time when tissue products were very low quality. When I used to go to France it was a hole in the ground at service stations. So I am thankful for the development and level of comfort we have now compared to the 80s.”
TWM/7: How do you buy your tissue products?
“I am fortunate that I will never need to buy tissue again! Before we launched this business, back in 2014 I was using subscription services to buy tissue products as it’s more convenient. We are launching our own subscription service so watch this space…”