Trailblazers in Green Chemistry: California Baby
Baby products maker California Baby enjoys enviable success as a small company in a market dominated by giants.
Credit a simple formula at the Culver City design and manufacturing firm: safer skin care products using principles of Green Chemistry. California Baby has tapped a growing market of mothers seeking alternatives to chemical unknowns in baby lotions and creams, and has shown a healthy 40 percent growth in its revenue.
Launched in the mid-1990s, the company has expanded its market from health food stores to Target, Whole Foods and Babies “R” Us. The firm created 10 jobs the past two years, signaling that safer products spur business opportunities and economic growth.
The key is founder Jessica Iclisoy’s “Green Screen,” a personal method of assessing alternatives to the synthetic chemicals used in most skin care products. She says California Baby rules out carcinogens, petroleum-based synthetics and animal fats. In is a wide variety of plant extracts and waxes. “We’re always looking for the natural version of something,” she says. Iclisoy’s assessment process weighs the sensitivity profiles of customers and gives the nod to organic cultivation. She considers the safety and sustainability of how an ingredient is processed. (Her own facilities run on solar power). And biodegradability wins.
Recently, the firm dropped a largely benign chemical ingredient after assessing the environmental impact of a customer pouring products down the drain. That consideration is a key component of California’s Green Chemistry Initiative: making products safer from the manufacturing process through disposal.
“The great thing is there are manufacturers coming out with new and improved ingredients. That’s kind of a new journey for me, to encourage our suppliers to create new greener sustainable ingredients,” she says.
Most California Baby ingredients come from European suppliers or European-owned U.S suppliers. Iclisoy says, “A lot of these ingredients that will work in this Green Chemistry movement will come from Europe.”
Reflecting on changing consumer sentiment, Iclisoy says, “I think there is awareness by consumers that the lotions and creams they slather on can have more than cosmetic effects. Many ingredients used today contain suspected or known carcinogens. Consumers are not happy about this, and they are ready to make a switch.”