When Colgate was developing its new low-waste Keep toothbrush, which has a reusable aluminum handle and replaceable heads (a starter pack costs $9.99; additional heads are $4.99 for two), the company wanted to come up with a plastic-free way to package it before it hit stores in early 2021. That’s where Jadalia Britto, then a senior global brand design lead in Colgate-Palmolive’s oral care division (she’s now a senior experience & innovation global brand design manager at Hill’s), stepped in. Instead of the usual clear plastic “blister” affixed to a piece of cardboard, Britto created a tray—comparable to the cost of existing plastic solutions—made from biodegradable sugarcane and wood fiber that’s heat sealed to a piece of recycled cardboard, which is printed with a picture of the product inside.
What was the most difficult aspect of creating Keep’s packaging?
We used an existing way of packaging our toothbrushes [in a blister-style pack], but did it in a paper form. Then we had to showcase the product inside. That was where my job got really hard because you no longer get to see the brush through a clear plastic window. We needed to nail what the toothbrush looks like [in the printed image of it]. It needed to almost feel like, when you touch it, you go, Wait, I thought that was a window.
How did Colgate land on the final combination of an aluminum handle with a replaceable plastic head for the Keep toothbrush?
We knew that we could guarantee the toothbrush’s performance [by using a plastic head]. You can’t do that on, say, a bamboo brush. It was a question of meeting people where they are. Not everybody is that invested in sustainability; not many people are going to sacrifice quality. So that’s the trade-off: defining the final factors of what you keep and what you change. We need to offer value and quality to customers so they don’t feel like they’re losing out or sacrificing because they can’t afford something.
Colgate recently announced plans to eliminate one-third of new plastic by 2025. How do you begin to make that a reality?
We’re trying to figure it out [not just for] one project or product. We’re trying to understand sustainable design through the life cycle of all of our offerings. When we first started the journey of sustainability, we just thought about bamboo. Sustainability has now morphed into so many things. We’re getting creative with what we can do. It’s such a fascinating time of experimentation with different raw materials.
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