Ahead of his presentation at PSFK's Future of Retail 2019 Conference next month, founder of hello oral care company, Craig Dubitsky, shares his insight on creating natural, cruelty-free daily-use products that are in synch with what consumers want—friendly, transparent and ethical

Oral care products aren't typically known for being exciting or aesthetic—at best, they're convenient and effective, and at worst, clinical or even chemical-ridden. This is something top organic and cruelty-free brand hello aims to change, bringing a new sensibility, engagement and transparency to the massive daily-use category, combining eye-catching design with natural and non-toxic ingredients to create a new generation of toothpaste, mouthwash, whitening products, kids items and more.

Ahead of taking the stage at PSFK's Future of Retail 2019 Conference on January 16, hello's CEO and founder, Craig Dubitsky, caught up with PSFK to share how he works to elevate these everyday care products to create bright spots in people’s days, providing them with colorful, flavorful, vegan products that are as effective as they are enjoyable.

What are the industry as well as consumer trends and demands driving the work that you do with hello? What needs are you responding to?

People today are paying more attention to what they are putting in and on their bodies. This isn’t a trend as much as it is a mass awakening born of an obvious marriage of common sense and science. Beyond ingredients, people want to know more about the provenance of the products they engage with, and the purpose and mission of the company behind those products. They don’t just want the “what,” they want the “why” and the “who,” too. Along with efficacy, people also want brands with soul and personality.

With hello, we’re bringing a new sensibility and level of engagement and transparency to a massive, daily-use category, all with a few heavy dashes of deliciousness, personality, design sensibility and soul. And most importantly, our products work brilliantly, without nasty ingredients.

What inspired you to develop hello? What gap did you see in the personal and oral care market that you wanted to fill?

I’m a very visual person. I literally was walking in a drug store on 6th Avenue and 26th Street, and I noticed pictures of extracted teeth on the bright, shiny boxes in the oral care set. I thought to myself, “why on earth are they showing me pictures of extracted teeth, that’s the last thing I want to see!” I took a peek at some of the ingredients, and I googled them right in the aisle. I saw that triclosan—the active ingredient in a major toothpaste—had been banned from hand soap by the FDA, and it freaked me out.

I thought about the way oral care was typically positioned, and everything seemed to be about fear and shame—if you’re not whitening, you’re frightening, if your breath isn’t minty-fresh, you won’t get the job or the kiss. Every product seemed to be declaring an act of war—killing, eliminating and destroying things in your mouth. My initial thought was that modern, sensible people were more far more evolved than that, and didn’t need to be scared to be convinced to buy toothpaste. I knew there could be a better way, so I started with the friendliest word I could think of, and it was hello.

Next came creating thoughtful formulations that worked. Fast forward, hello is now the #2 natural player in oral care (larger than #3 through #8 combined), the #1 charcoal brand and we’re contributing the majority of growth to the fastest growing segment of the entire category. All of this blows my mind, especially when I think that we started with 4 people and a dog, and six years in, we’re a small but mighty team of 14.

How do you interact with your customers differently from other brands?

What makes us different: product, people, philosophy. In terms of the efficacy behind all of our products, our thinking is simple: if it goes in your mouth, it should taste amazing, and be as natural as we can make it.

We’re a very human brand, and I like to say we’re making personal care personal again. If someone writes or calls, I write or call them back. There’s even a skype button on our website, and skype calls come directly to me. You can’t call the company “hello” and talk about being naturally friendly, and then not be reachable. We also add something that I don’t think exists in the category, and that’s fun, joy, beauty and some personality. Folks today join brands, they don’t merely transact, and we like to think we’re join-worthy!

Who is the person in the picture with you?

That's Gabrielle! A fourth generation mint farmer inWillamette Valley in Oregon who grows the product for us. All of our products taste incredible, and we’re hyper-thoughtful about how, where and from whom we source our ingredients. There's more in a LinkedIn post here on my visit to her.

Your products emphasize more natural and organic ingredients, something often targeted towards millennial consumers. Who is your target demographic?

We’re more about a psychographic then a demographic—we think everyone deserves naturally friendly products. We like to say that hello was specifically created for the 100%, not the 1%—hello is friendly for all!

How do you retail your product?

We are in 40,000 doors across the US. There's definitely more interest in the natural offering in the oral care section. Green became the new black and now we're the new beige. Natural is normal in retail now.  Brands like ours used to be in the ‘hippy' corner of the store but now we're right beside Crest.

And what's the impact of online?

Sales were 99% offline but we've seen that pretty quickly shift to 95%. We have number one kids toothpaste on Amazon and we're growing like crazy and we're selling across all the channels you'd expect including Grow Collaborative and Jet.com.
This year, we said DTC with both an ecommerce and subscription model. This is growing like crazy too. And get this: when you order a tube via subscription you get a free quality toothbrush with every tube because no-one swaps out their toothbrush as often as they should. This approach connects with values, ethiscs and aesthetics. And the consumers like it too: the value of the free toothbrush offsets the cost of any shipping.
There's more interest in natural offering in the oral care section and we used to be in the corener of the store and now we're right beside Crest. Green is like the neww bacl and new beige – is so normal.
We know the people in the goop. It's Gabriele from Oregon. There's a blurb about her on this LinkedIn post here.

What will you be focusing on sharing with us at our Future of Retail conference?

We're excited to share our story—how we look at the power of thoughtfulness to help elevate everything from product to team and beyond.

What's in store for the future of hello? What will you be focusing on for the next 12-18 months?

We are expanding like crazy—we are doubling the number of retail doors in 2019, opening new channels and classes of trade, offering some exciting new products, adding to our team, and lots of other super-cool things we can’t share just yet…but trust me, they’ll be super-thoughtful, and super-tasty.


Craig is one of many inspiring retail pioneers sharing insights at PSFK's upcoming Future of Retail conference on January 16—tickets available now!