Customer Feedback Inspired Native’s New Plastic-Free Paper Packaging for Its Deodorant

The all-natural product is available online in paper-based applicators in 5 different scents

The sustainably packaged version comes in five different scents and is available online. Native

Native, a direct-to-consumer personal care brand known for its simple, safe and effective ingredients just added another dimension to its portfolio: sustainable packaging.

Starting with its paper-based deodorant applicator, the brand has committed to offering every one of its soaps, deodorants and toothpastes in sustainable packages by 2023.

While there’s certainly a trend toward more environmentally conscious packaging in the consumer packaged goods industry, Native said the impetus to shift to sustainability came from its consumers. In late 2018, customers started voicing concerns about plastic-free packaging to Native. The company’s tracking of those requests on its social channels, customer service calls and surveys found that over the past year, requests for sustainable packaging increased by more than 900%.

Last summer, Native hit a tipping point, according to senior marketing manager and head of sustainability, Katie Weltz. As questions from consumers about plastic-free packaging skyrocketed, other brands were increasingly developing innovations to reduce waste. “We wanted to be on the forefront of this sustainable packaging evolution,” Weltz said.

In October, Native debuted a limited run of its most popular scent, coconut vanilla, in a paper-based tube that functions like a Push Pop. The initial 200 units sold out in less than 36 hours.

The brand listened closely to feedback from those early adopters and changed a few things about the packaging before the full rollout this summer. For example, oils from the deodorant stained the paper tube on the initial product, so the team developed a coating that would serve as a barrier.

With the help of creative agency Curiosity, Native is promoting the new packaging through paid social and influencer sponsorships. Native developed a natural presence in the popular clean beauty and low-waste community, sponsoring YouTubers like the Zero Waste Couple, Meghan Hughes and Itsblitzzz, and Instagram influencers like interior designer @helloimaubs.

Curiosity’s director of client services, Peyton Sutton, said Native’s cult-like following has made organic growth easier. “They have over 15,000 five-star reviews from consumers and are able to leverage that and let their consumers tell the story,” said Sutton.

As for the rest of Native’s products—shower gel, bar soap and toothpaste—the product innovation team is testing different solutions to meet its goal of shifting to 100% plastic-free packaging in the next three years. “Sustainability is so complex,” said Weltz. “It’s not just about putting something in a paper packaging; it’s about thinking about the whole supply chain and the whole ecosystem in which your product lives.”

Supply chains for such paper-based products are still rather young, Weltz noted, which is part of the reason that the new packaging costs $1 more per unit than the plastic packages. Weltz said that as the popularity of sustainable packaging grows, she expects to see economies of scale that’ll allow that price to drop.

Procter & Gamble acquired Native in 2017 for $100 million—just two years after it was founded in 2015. Now, it’s available in Target stores as well as online. The paper-based packaging will hit Target shelves this fall, in time for Native’s next big campaign launch, which will focus on a broader swath of consumers, too, moving beyond the clean, natural beauty category to target a more mainstream consumer.

@klundster Kathryn Lundstrom is Adweek's breaking news reporter based in Austin.