5 Minutes… Arne Taegen from wasserneutral
It is something that one does every day, but can become complacent about the tools used to accomplish one’s mission. Yes, brushing one’s teeth. Momentum has been growing to switch from fossil fuel-based toothbrushes to bio-based ones. Germany-based wasserneutral has produced two million bamboo brushes for consumers who are becoming more aware of sustainability issues.
Here, Bio Market Insight’s Liz Gyekye, caught up with Arne Taegen (@arnetaegen), Deputy General Manager Marketing & Sales at wasserneutral.
Liz Gyekye (LG): What’s the story behind wasserneutral (@wasserneutral)?
Arne Taegen (AT): Wasserneutral was founded 2014 by the three friends Christoph Laudon, Sebastian Bensmann and Wanja Weskott. They got to know each other by working for the water-related NGO Viva con Agua. They built the business on the desire to create products that are water-neutral, vegan and fairly produced. They formed the brand HYDROPHIL and were the first to bring bamboo toothbrushes to the German market. Today, wasserneutral sells a range of more than 30 sustainable products in the W.A.S.H sector through HYDROPHIL. In addition, the company cooperates with the young brand TIO which designs oral hygiene products made from plant-based biopolymers.
LG: Can your bamboo toothbrushes be composted? How do you recycle them?
AT: The handles of the HYDROPHIL toothbrushes are completely made of bamboo and can be composted. For the manufacture of our toothbrush bristles, we use castor oil. Thereby, the carbon content of our bristles is thus verifiably bio-based, petroleum and BPA-free. Unfortunately – at least in Germany – the bristles can’t be composted under regular household conditions yet. We recommend snapping the head off the handle and throwing it into the regular bin.
LG: What were you doing before you took up this role?
AT: Before I started working at wasserneutral, I had a major role in establishing and developing the German organic cosmetics brand “STOP THE WATER WHILE USING ME!” where I spent five years building the brand in all sectors, mainly sales, marketing and sustainability. Since 2017, I have been part of wasserneutral where I focused on setting up our sales team.
LG: What’s your biggest challenge?
AT: Obviously, there are plenty of challenges for a growing company which is still relatively young despite already being established on the market. One of our main challenges in the near future will be to continue growing into more conventional markets and environments to spread our message even further into the so-called mainstream.
LG: What are you doing next?
AT: As we consider ourselves pioneers in bringing sustainability to the W.A.S.H sector, we’ll continue developing new sustainable solutions and products for everyday life and to become more sustainable as a company as well. Both our brands plan to release several new products this year.
LG: What advice would you give to somebody looking to get involved in this sector?
AT: To be certain and clear of what you’re trying to achieve from the get-go. To aim high while staying true to your values and beliefs. And, to be brave enough to dare and try new ideas and methods while having the stamina and patience that is needed to be long-term successful in our sector.
LG: What’s your favourite sustainable product, apart from your own?
AT: There is no specific one, I tend to like all products and brands that follow a visible holistic approach along the whole lifecycle of a product. Generally, I believe in high-quality alternatives to everyday products that allow a large number of people to take a step in the right direction in their established daily routines.
LG: What are you going to be discussing at WBM?
AT: At WBM we will be talking about “how to constantly reinvent a brand while staying true to its values and standards?” We hold our values and standards very high and are certain that they are a key to the success of wasserneutral. We’ll give some insights on how they help us to manage the challenges and opportunities we’re facing regarding product innovation and market penetration. We will also be debating about why we believe that it long-term can be better to wait with a launch of a certain new product, if it doesn’t reach our standards of sustainability yet.