Each year I am introduced to a plethora of new eco-friendly brands by PR agents hoping that I’ll make the switch over to their client’s product or at the very least, that I’ll do an Instagram shout out.
Here’s what many PR reps fail to realise: that I make many household products myself and I am a fiercely loyal customer.
I don’t swap eco brands willy nilly just as I wasn’t the type to have a series of flings with random guys. There is no fear of commitment here. I’m extremely loyal.
So when Organic Choice reached out several months ago showering praises about their brand, I reacted in the way I often react when a new eco-friendly household label approaches me – dubious. Here’s what’s going on inside my head before I even reach the last line of any PR rep’s email:
The sustainable lifestyle market is increasingly getting crowded and unless you can solve a particular problem for a particular type of eco conscious customer, that hasn’t already been solved well by competitors, you’re really just wasting valuable resources and shelf space.
Sound harsh? Perhaps.
As a sustainably minded blogger, I dislike waste. In business, to create anything means using up valuable resources. There is the chance that anything you produce will go to waste, and particularly if customers show an unwillingness to buy your product, it means your entire offering is a failure, and a complete waste!
Anyway my skepticism of Organic Choice dissipated quickly when I realised that I had in fact seen the product before.
The first time we met.
My future father-in-law bought dishwashing detergent and as I saw it sitting near my kitchen sink in its stylish simple package I wondered, What is this brand? I’ve not seen it before. When I opened up the bottle of dishwashing liquid to inspect more closely, a beautiful fragrance hit me. I noted Lemongrass & Green Tea on the packaging. Nice smell, I thought.
Now it’s a commonly known fact that I rarely purchase household products because making cleaning products is easy and something I often recommend people try. Everything you need to make your own cleaning solution is in your kitchen: bicard soda, lemon, water and vinegar. But I am also aware that there are people who neither have the time nor the inclination to make their own products.
Organic Choice is obviously aiming their products to those people.
The good points.
It is clear that the brand is aiming to be eco-friendly. The product is:
- palm oil free
- SLES & SLS free
- greywater & septic friendly
- not tested on animals
- contains some certified organic ingredients such as essential oils
- paraffin free
Upon studying the Organic Choice product, price and packaging it is obvious that the brand is targeting people who are stylish with its modern packaging, who are time poor and are budget conscious. The brand is positioning itself against other household brands as an eco friendly, stylish and affordable alternative. I place the brand in the “affordable luxury” segment. The price for a beautiful smelling, beautifully packaged multi-purpose cleaner for example is $5.50 and dishwashing liquid at $5.
Now the brand is also Australian owned and made which gets another tick. It is developed by Aware Environmental who have other brands that are supported by Planet Ark so yet another tick. I am a big supporter of local businesses because the strength of the Australian economy lies in local demand for goods produced here. Demand for Australian products means that there is an opportunity for job creation, and jobs we know are vital to the health and well-being of our community.
Another plus for the brand is that it is stocked at Coles Supermarket which mean it’s convenient and accessible to the mainstream population.
My experience using Organic Choice.
I had a chance to try out the brand out on the weekend as Ben and I prepared the house for day two of filming (a 10-minute doco about Eco Warrior Princess produced by student film makers for their final year uni project). As I often do in preparation for doing something I don’t really enjoy such as cleaning, I light a candle. I chose the West Indian Lime & Coconut Pure Soy Candle and the aroma as I expected, absolutely delightful and made tidying my home a much more pleasant experience.
Instead of using my homemade cleaner to clean my fridge, benches and bathroom and laundry, I chose to use the Fridge, Dishwasher & Bin Cleaner in Vanilla Bean & Garden Mint. It doesn’t specifically state that it is multi-purpose but I figured that if the brand is as eco-friendly and natural as it claims, then there wouldn’t be any issues at all using it on a variety of surfaces, like I do with my homemade cleaner. The results were as I expected, it worked well and all the rooms smelled wonderful. So wonderful in fact that I had to let the film crew know that the smell of the house was not a result of my homemade cleaning products (as I rarely add essential oils to my products) but that of Organic Choice.
Now for the areas of improvement.
The brand name is a bit confusing. With a brand named Organic Choice you would think the ingredients would be made entirely of certified organic ingredients, or at the very least, a big portion of the product is derived from certified organic materials. But alas, the only certified organic thing in it from what I could see on the labels were the essential oils such as lemongrass oil, green tea extract and aloe vera leaf juice. I had a look on the website and couldn’t find anything else that wasn’t already stated in the Organic Choice media kit. So I pressed for some answers and I got this response:
We have just received all the individual certificates from the lab and can confirm that all of our Certified Organic Essential Oils and our Certified Organic Aloe Vera used in our Organic Choice range are certified by ACO.
Good to know. But still, let’s up the certified organic ante if you are to use the name Organic Choice.
Organic Choice were very sympathetic about my concerns around ‘greenwashing’. Here’s what they had to say about the ‘organic’ issue:
“Our development and manufacturing business works closely with ACO, OFC and Ecocert and we are audited by each of these Organic Accreditation bodies on an annual basis. The issue with Home care products is that currently there is no ACO Organic Certification that is applicable to them, and in fact if there was, the criteria to abide to certification may result in the products not meeting consumer expectations in regard to performance and/or cost. We are however currently assessing the viability of having our range ‘Certified Natural’ by either Ecocert or ACO. We will keep you posted on our progress.”
Don’t you like it when a company is at least forthcoming and has reasonable answers? I do. Kudos to Organic Choice for the detailed response. In my experience, when I ask questions, I tend to hear the sound of crickets. Not kidding, some businesses I just never hear back from.
Anyway moving on. The other concern I had about Organic Choice is that it is exclusively sold at Coles supermarket, as noted in their media kit. The problem is that I don’t shop at Coles because two years ago I decided that I no longer wanted to support the Australian duopoly – Coles and Woolworths – as I felt that they had too much power in the retail sector and this breeds anti-competitive and bullying behaviour as we’ve seen with the treatment of suppliers and farmers.
Then there’s the use of “fragrance” in the Multi-purpose and Vanity & Shower cleaners and “fragrance oil” in the Air Freshener. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the terminology and how it’s used in product labelling, “fragrance” refers to a variety of ingredients that can make a product smell more pleasant or is used to simply mask unpleasant scents of other ingredients. Fragrance can be a natural compound such as essential oil derived from plants or it can be synthetically made in a laboratory where it aims to mimic natural scents. As Annette Christy explained in her article:
So what is a typical fragrance actually made of? Some common offenders include: parabens, phthalates and synthetic musks. Many of us also have a chemical sensitivity to fragrance. Fragrance is found in many of your personal care products including haircare, body wash, mascara and lipstick. Fragrances oils are made from petrochemicals, benzene derivative and aldehydes. Fragrance oils also are unable to duplicate the benefits of real essential oils. Fragrance oils are in soaps, scented candles, reed diffusers and air fresheners.
Now Organic Choice did offer some explanations. Here’s what the brand had to say:
“Yes we do use fragrances in our Organic Choice cleaning & air range – although we are currently working on future product development (where possible and where appropriate) that will not include any additional fragrances and where we will be able to achieve the desired scents using only Certified organic essential oils to fragrance them.”
Fragrances currently used in Organic Choice do not contain Parabens, Synthetic Musks, Petrochemicals or Benzene Derivatives. But they did point out that the products do contain Aldehydes, but Aldehydes are found in all Essential Oils and Fragrances.
The company went on to further state:
“From further investigation we have identified that only 3 of the fragrances we currently use in the current 11 products do contain traces of phthalates, we have already worked with our supplier and re-formulated one and we are currently working on the other 2 to replace those with phthalate free versions. So all of our range will be phthalates free. We are committed to continuing to improve our range as we receive feedback and develop new variants.”
Last but not least there is also “preservative” found in the dishwashing liquid. Now we know that preservatives are used in products to keep it shelf stable and inhibit bacterial and fungal growth which is a good thing. The problem is that when products list preservatives in the ingredients we don’t know whether the preservative is harmful such as formaldehydes or triclosan which causes allergies and skin irritations.
Organic Choice clarified further for me:
“We do not use any preservatives that contain or form formaldehydes. We have an active policy in respect to never using Triclosan in our formulations.”
While Organic Choice is a nicely packaged product at a good price point, and hits a home run when it comes to targeting the modern budget conscious consumer who is aiming to buy better, I think the brand could do a lot more to substantiate their eco-friendly claims. I prefer to see ECO CERT labels or other accreditations if a brand is to claim green credentials otherwise it just smells of greenwashing. The products have many good points, but there are also areas of further development if it is to get the buy in of serious environmentalists, sustainability advocates and holistic health practitioners.
For more information about Organic Choice, visit http://www.awareenvironmental.com.au/products/organic-choice/
Now over to you: Have you tried Organic Choice? Would you recommend it to your friends and family? Or would you give it a miss? Feel free to leave a comment below!
Disclosure: This product review was sponsored by Aware Environmental. All opinions are held by that of the writer’s. Facts and other specific product information checked with the company. Whether reviews are sponsored or not, they are free from commercial influence or bias. For more information about our policies, click here.