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Tackling taboos around women’s health

Aimee Marks, Founder The TOM Co (1)If you think Aimee Marks is just here to make a quick buck, think again. The founder of TOM Organic and Tooshies by TOM is building a movement; one that encapsulates women’s health, empowerment and wellbeing. A community of women that come together to learn from each other and have “uncomfortable conversations in a comfortable way”.

Marks is committed to closing the loop on a woman’s entire lifecycle of products with safe, chemical-free options from periods, to pregnancy, to birth, to baby. But it starts with education.

Here Marks shares her thoughts on tackling taboos, conscious consumerism and harnessing the power of education.

INSIDE FMCG: Do you think generally consumers are aware of harmful chemicals when it comes to standard sanitary products and nappies?

AM: I think the momentum behind wellness and organic products is building quicker than ever before. There’s a huge awareness now compared to 10 years ago when we started. Consumers are savvier now and looking at ingredients lists, but it’s a huge education undertaking. We’re only 3 per cent of the total market share, so there’s lots of education to be done. But what’s incredible is that when women are aware of the differences there’s a huge amount of loyalty and they don’t ever switch back.

INSIDE FMCG: Do you think the majority of the FMCG industry is still thinking organic only in terms of food?

AM: It’s definitely transcending through to personal care products. Even five years ago when we were first ranged in Woolworths, we were discussing whether or not they would put our products in the organic section because there was only a very small handful of products in that section. But now you see organic products competing alongside conventional brands in nearly every category. I think it’s definitely caught up but we’re a long way behind global trends.


INSIDE FMCG: How have supermarkets helped to bring the brand mainstream?

AM: That’s the number one challenge, to have a niche product fall into the hands of the mainstream, and that’s why I come back to the power of education and word of mouth, which is so perfect for these types of products, because it is still very much a taboo conversation as much as we like to think it’s not. We see success in growing the business through growing our community, through social media and harnessing the power of education through every single touchpoint of the brand. And that that flows through at shelf level, and it really works.

INSIDE FMCG: Why do you think subjects like breastfeeding, periods etc. are still considered taboo?

AM: I think that things are definitely moving forward. We’ve come so much further than we have in a long time, but I think it’s just a default and a habit that surrounds the product. That’s on our list of goals, to break down those uncomfortable conversations. Women should be able to walk to the bathroom, through a restaurant, through an airplane with their tampon pack in their hand and not feel like they have to hide it in their handbag. It’s all about new life and being empowered around what a period actually means and it’s not a dirty, uncomfortable thing; it’s a very normal, beautiful thing that happens to a healthy woman’s body. That’s why we’ve created such a beautiful brand around TOM so that the packaging in itself is inspiring and empowering and really encourages women to lean into that space and be proud.

INSIDE FMCG: TOM Organic acts as so much more than an e-commerce site, with podcasts and blogs about everything from health and nutrition to pregnancy and parenting. Why did you decide to take that approach?

AM: The vision was to create a movement that encapsulates women’s health, women’s empowerment and wellbeing. It comes back to education and community and having uncomfortable conversations in a comfortable way. And we happen to sell products but it’s not all about that. We like to see our product as the tipping point to start thinking more mindfully and consciously about other products. We want to be the beacon of conscious consumerism, particularly in the FMCG space.

Campaign shot

INSIDE FMCG: The marketing campaigns for both the organic tampons and the nappies range stirred up quite a bit of attention despite being very normal and natural images. What were you trying to achieve with these campaigns?

AM: Visual storytelling has always been really important to us. It’s stripping a woman’s body back to its skin and its bare necessity, just as we do with our product. So it’s really about the notion of being mindful of what you put in your body. We have gone to the ends of the earth to ensure that only good is going inside your body when you use our product. One hundred per cent of other tampon companies that sell alongside us in the grocery space do not use organic cotton. The majority of the time there’s no cotton at all in those products; they’re made from a combination of synthetics and plastics. If the cotton is in there, it’s sprayed with pesticides, and cotton is the world’s most heavily sprayed crop, so we’re absorbing that directly into our bloodstream. We want consumers to know that they have a choice and can be a part of the movement and the community to normalising that.

INSIDE FMCG: How has the Tooshies by TOM range been received by mums?

AM: Brilliantly well! We are now ranged in the majority of mainstream grocers and independent stores in the country. Our wipes are our number one hero product in our whole portfolio and they’ve been around the least amount of time. We’ve got the highest percentage of renewable materials in our nappies and our wipes to ensure that performance is not compromised. A leaking nappy that’s 100 per cent biodegradable doesn’t work for anyone. We use over 45 per cent plant-derived materials in our nappy, but the product works. Our wipes are 100 per cent biodegradable and super high-performing. I think a product that is good for the body, good for the baby, good for the planet is kind of what our matrix is and that’s what the market was craving. There’s a lot of sameness in that category.

INSIDE FMCG: What’s in store for 2019? Are there any new products in the pipeline?

AM: There will be some new product iterations and launches in the coming two years. We’re looking to global markets in the next year but never forgetting our roots, so very much doubling down more than ever in our local communities and local markets to increase our local share – we’ve been very focused on that from the beginning. Sometimes the simplest growth strategies are the best and that’s very much our path.

This interview first appeared in the January issue of Inside FMCG magazine. Subscribe to the digital and print magazine here


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