How We Choose and Source Our Products
Jul 20, 2015
I'm often asked how we choose our products here at Hello Charlie. I find products in lots of different way:
- customers recommend something they've been using
- I start looking for something to use on myself or my family
- a customer or a friend will ask me for a recommendation on something
- I'll spot something while I'm cruising the interweb or a shop
- I'll come across something new at a trade show or an industry function
Firstly, I have a think about whether it's necessary. You won't find baby wipes warmers around here, because I've lived in some cold places with my babies, and I really do not believe that anyone needs a baby wipes warmer! Sometimes, it's not about necessary. Makeup is not a necessary item, not in the same way that nappies are, but it's something that many of us use everyday, and it's worth finding a better alternative for. Once I've found a product, or a line of products, I start asking questions.
Where are the products made?
This isn't me being racist. There's utter crap being made in Germany, just like there's some awesome quality organics being made in China. But Germany is in Europe, which has the strictest chemical laws in the world, so generally I'd trust something coming out of Germany more than I would something coming out of China. However, if something is coming out of China, I'd check for ISO quality certifications, independent testing and organic certifications, and I'd do further searches on the company's reputation. Obviously, we choose Aussie and Kiwi products whenever we can. We're a small Australian business, and we choose to shop at small Australian businesses ourselves. And the Kiwis are like cousins, so of course we're going to support them, too.
Does the company have a good reputation?
If the company has been rapped over the knuckles by the ACCC or the TGA for not declaring ingredients, or misleading consumers, that can be a big warning flag (not always, it depends what the issue was). If their products look good, but they use slave labour, that's not okay. Sometimes it's easier to find out this kind of information about larger companies. With smaller companies, I talk to them and ask questions to see where they're coming from, what their philosophies are, where they're making their products and how much they know about what they're doing.
Does the company have independent certifications?
Anyone can say that something is natural, that it's organic, or that it's pure. That could be true, or it could be greenwash. So I go and check for organic certifications, trade certifications, awards, and anything else that might tell me that what the company is saying about their products is true.
Checking the individual products
Once we've decided to stock a brand, I then start looking at the individual products. Just because a brand is good, it doesn't mean that all their products are going to be suitable for Hello Charlie. As an example, we stock Redmond Earthpaste toothpastes. Now, I use and like this brand of toothpastes, but I won't stock the wintergreen flavour. Why? I know that many of our customers are pregnant, or in between having children, or are looking for products that they can share with their children. Wintergreen is an essential oil, so it's natural, but it's not suitable for children or pregnant women in the amounts that are in this toothpaste. I know that mothers are busy people, so if I don't stock it, they can't make the mistake of buying it.
Other stuff that I look for
- Not tested on animals. I'm not vegan, or even vegetarian, but I love animals and I don't think it's fair that we test cosmetics and skincare products on them. I do stock products that have animal ingredients in them, like beeswax, but I also try to make sure that we have a good range of vegan products, too.
- BPA free, lead free, phthalate free and PVC free. I believe that we should be limiting our exposure to these chemicals as much as possible, so I won't stock anything with them.
- Dirty Thirty Free. We won't stock any products that contain any of these toxic nasties, which includes petrochemicals, SLS, propylene glycol and parabens, to name a few.
- Good preservatives. While it is possible to find preservative free products, especially oil based ones, the reality is that many everyday products like baby wipes and moisturisers are water based need preservatives. So I make sure that we're stocking products with the best possible preservatives that are still safe and effective.
- Non toxic finishes. I always look for non toxic finishes, especially on baby products. That means non toxic paints and laquers, nickel free, natural rubber (and safe alternatives for anyone who has problems with latex), and organic fibres wherever possible.
- Reasonably priced. While there may be people who are willing to pay $97 for a small bottle of baby lotion, I'm not one of them. I don't believe that you need to spend a fortune to buy a better product. So you'll find stuff on our website that may not be certified organic, but it's made with good natural ingredients, and it's a reasonably priced alternative to mainstream brands. On the other hand, I'm a big believer in buying quality over quantity. I'd rather have one great thing, than three not so great things. So you'll also find quality products that are natural, and certified organic. You choose what's important for you, but know that whatever we've got on Hello Charlie is a safer alternative to the mainstream choices.
- Free from synthetic perfumes. This is a big one for me, because I seem to have a low tolerance for synthetic perfumes. Fragrances made with essential oils don't seem to have the same effect on me, even though essential oils can still be irritants for some people. So I won't stock anything with synthetic fragrances, and I do my best to have a good range of fragrance free products available.
- How well does the product work? This is so important. The ingredients can be the best in the world, and the organic certifications second to none, but if it doesn't work, what's the point? All the team at Hello Charlie try out products at home, on themselves and on their kids. Everyone has different preferences, of course, but a crap product is a crap product and we won't stock it if it is.
I make mistakes
I'm a working mother (read: trying to do at least four things at once and insanely busy most of the time). I'm human, and I make mistakes. Occasionally, a product will slip by me. Maybe I'm tired, maybe I've fallen for the sales person's pitch, sometimes we've just ordered the wrong product and it's ended up on the website. A customer might point out an ingredient, one of the wonderful team at Hello Charlie might bring my attention to it. Sometimes, it's me, and I say what's going on? Why are we stocking this? So far, we've got a pretty good track record. I can only think of three occasions when this has happened, and each time, we've pulled them off the shelves. So if you see something, and you're wondering about it, ask me. I'll check it out and get back to you.
The boring stuff. Even though I've learnt plenty along the way, I'm not a chemist, or a health professional. All the research that I do is based on stuff that anyone can find on the web and combined with a lot of thinking and a big helping of common sense. But if you have a particular health concern, please be sensible and go and see your health care professional.