Plus Locks Down the Dieline Editor's Choice Award AND Lands in Target
by Bill McCool on 05/25/2022 | 5 Minute Read
When waste-free body wash brand Plus launched last year, you just knew that it was something special, the kind of plastic-free product that many in the packaging design industry regard as a unicorn. Not only is it plastic-free, but the packaging dissolves in the water as you bather yourself. Better still, it’s a brand using less water in manufacturing the product itself while also reducing CO2 emissions (because you're not shipping around all that water in a plastic bottle).
It's a total win-win for eco-conscious consumers and a no-brainer for this year's Dieline Editor’s Choice Award.
We’ve previously written about Plus before (we're fans), and we’ve also spoken with Daniel Lowe, founder and creative director of the design agency Someone & Others, about the revolutionary packaging and visual identity they developed for the brand (and you should absolutely check out those pieces about the ins and outs of developing the brand and its here-today-gone-once-it-hits-water packaging). But it felt a lot like a miracle product because it was answering a very clear call from consumers, particularly of the millennial and Gen Z variety, that desired a lot less plastic drowning in landfills or turning into microplastics in the ocean.
But we wanted to hear from Daniel Lowe about what has happened with the DTC brand in the past year as they’ve gone from design world darling to even making an appearance on Drew Barrymore’s talk show.
For starters, Plus is no longer just a DTC brand—shoppers can now find it in Target, albeit in a much different form. The initial offering from Plus netted you 16 foaming pads that came in the dissolvable sachet. In retail, however, they’ve instead opted for a refillable dispenser comprised of 50% post-consumer plastic that can hold 30 of the dehydrated foaming pads that you only need to add water to, and voila—sud city.
Of course, if seeing the word “plastic” there makes you feel a slight tinge of disappointment, you’re not alone. While Daniel wishes the brand had opted for something like Sulapac (a plastic alternative made from wood and plant-based binders) or aluminum, he views it as a necessary step to weaning consumers off plastic. Sulapac, unfortunately, increased its production costs, while aluminum was something that could easily rust in a shower. While it goes against the zero-waste attributes of the brand, the idea is that the case lasts for the rest of your life and becomes the last body wash brand you ever use (incidentally, the refills come in an FSC-certified box).
And maybe you have to replace that plastic dispenser in the next five years, but ultimately, how many pieces of plastic will you personally save from a landfill by not purchasing traditional body wash in a plastic bottle?
“We thought this would be a breath of fresh air,” Daniel says. “But I think it's five to ten years out to where something like Plus becomes the norm. There's still an adoption period.”
Of course, you can still purchase Plus directly from them without the plastic dispenser, but Target is a significant step for the brand. Though they have only carried it for two months, making the jump to a major retailer is much different from a targeted Instagram ad for a DTC company, and it will be interesting how an expanded pool of consumers will react to the product.
“The ability to refill is very important,” Daniel says. “Target doesn't have many refills; it’s the next step for a consumer to understand the path to being more sustainable. There are so few products there that currently have refills, and while I work in an industry where we're looking at a lot of refills when we're designing, that doesn't mean that the normal consumer uses a lot of them.”
And that’s part of the problem for folks that don’t eat, sleep, and breathe sustainable packaging initiatives all day. And the one true thing Someone & Others found in designing Plus was that plastic-free is still a relatively new proposition for consumers. They essentially need to be retrained and acquainted with refills instead of purchasing a bottle of soap once a month.
“I think the customer is not 100% ready for this type of world yet,” Daniel says. “I think they want to be, but I don't think they are. I think that's in general—not just on Plus—but across brands. I don't think they understand the need for sustainability yet, and I don't think they understand it as a whole.”
Still, Daniel believes that consumers will get there one day, whether it's products like Plus that dissolve into the water system or something that biodegrades in a landfill.
Regardless, Plus changed how the agency approaches any project. “When you launch something like this, you have to adapt your mission. For every brand that we work on, we think about sustainability. And we have to push as much sustainability as possible,” says Daniel.
“We have to have that in our mission. So, we're looking at how to do that across the board because it's important to the world. Plus helped us say, ‘Okay, how do we get every brand to this point in like five to ten years?’ Then you start working with all of your other brands and clients to get them thinking that way and coming up with real solutions.”
Upending business as usual for any organization is hard work; equally hard is acclimating consumers to newer products that require a complete behavior change. And while the plastic-free movement for some is full steam ahead, it still needs to meet consumers where they are. It's still too early to say what Plus making its way to Target means right now, but it could be a step to more plastic-free, refillable, and sustainable products gaining mass acceptance and adoption among shoppers.
And who knows, the next five to ten years could be huge.
Images courtesy of Plus.
Olberding Brand Family
Technical Color Manager