A native of Australia, tech entrepreneur Alexandra Keating is deeply protective of the oceans, which she explains are being ravaged not only by plastic pollution, but also by the toxic ingredients found in traditional beauty care products, including sunscreen—a product used daily by Australians. Shares Keating, a former venture advisor, after trying a number of green products in the body care market, she found them to be lacking in functionality and performance, as well as in design.
Therefore, it was at the intersection of sustainable packaging, exceptionally designed, and ethically sourced and efficacious formulations safe for the environment where she planted her flag. In February, the company Keating founded and now leads as CEO launched Uni, a high-performance body-care line made from reef-safe ingredients, in a design-forward, refillable, reusable packaging system.
“Uni was designed to eradicate future production of toxins and plastic waste that enter the ocean through our products,” says Keating. “That meant looking at every aspect, from upcycled ingredients to a new, innovative system of reuse. But for Uni to make an impact, we had to make a product that people wanted, and it was clear to me that the opportunity was in performance-based products and innovative design.”
|Listen to this UnPACKed podcast, "10 Billion Reasons to Embrace Reusable Packaging"|
Five unisex products make up the Uni line: a hand wash, body serum, body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. Formulations feature Uni’s proprietary Marine Complex, a combination of marine actives and ingredients, combined with super plants. According to the company, all marine extracts are sourced ethically from environmentally sustainable resources, formulated exclusively with skin- and planet-safe ingredients.
For the packaging, Keating relied exclusively on the creativity and expertise of Marc Atlan, an internationally renowned creative director known for his visionary work with luxury products such as Prada, Dior, and Tom Ford. Keating says while she gave Atlan full control of the design, the two-and-a-half year project was a collaborative one. A guiding principle was to make the packaging as easy as possible for the consumer to use.
For the refillable system, Atlan devised a modular, two-component solution, comprising an outer reusable-shell dispenser and a 12.75-oz, 100% recycled aluminum refill bottle with screw cap that holds the product. First-time consumers purchase both (online only), removing the cap on the refill bottle and twisting it onto the reusable dispenser for use. When the refill bottle is empty, the consumer ships it back to Uni, using a prepaid label. Subsequently, the consumer only need purchase the standalone refill.
The packaging system is modern, elegant, and minimalist. The dispenser is white, with the only copy being the Uni Refill System moniker in small copy near the bottom of the shell. The dispensing element is boldly rectangular and is embossed with the Uni logo. The aluminum refill bottles are likewise simple, with minimal copy in white, against solid-color backgrounds inspired by the colors of coral reefs. A QR code allows consumers to access the Uni Instagram page.
“Uni’s design is sustainable but doesn’t compromise on elegance,” says Atlan. “It’s unique, minimal, and timeless.”
In mid-February, Uni got a significant financial boost, announcing that it had received $4 million in seed funding from SOUNDWaves, an ESG investment vehicle led by Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary. Says Kutcher, “The hospitality industry is far too reliant on single-use packaging. The shift to reusable, refillable, and ocean-safe solutions should be adopted by every player in the industry. Uni has created a sustainable offering that’s better for you and the environment.”
|Read about another reusable body-wash packaging system, this one from Unilever's Dove brand.|
Uni products are available on the company’s website as a one-time purchase or on a subscription basis. Prices for individual products sold with a dispenser range from $31 to $43, depending on product, less if part of a subscription. Refills cost from $25.20 to $40. A Starter Kit, with all five products and five dispensers, is available for $143.99.