Brentwood based company, The Cheeky Panda, has been supplying the market with eco-friendly bamboo-based toilet paper since January 2016. Founders, Chris Forbes and Julie Chen identified a gap in the market for a sustainable alternative to the tissue product on a trip to China to investigate bamboo. They spent the next eight months on research and development and their first products were sold in August 2016.
The Cheeky Panda’s toilet tissue doesn't contain the chemicals usually applied to traditional toilet paper or recycled paper. The Cheeky Panda’s products also have amazing sustainability credentials. The product is 100% biodegradable and bamboo is the world’s fastest growing plant. It grows 30 times faster than trees and does not require replanting after harvest due to it being a grass.
“It’s not just about creating something new, it’s also making a high quality product that on its own would sell well anyway. We wanted to show that you can have high quality low carbon eco product that doesn’t cost the earth.”
Julie Chen, Co-founder, The Cheeky Panda
How INVEST Essex have assisted The Cheeky Panda
The Cheeky Panda approached INVEST Essex at the start of their journey with a range of support needs for product distribution in the market place. They initially asked for help with logistics, risk and operational management for fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) products and retail and supermarket tendering guidance.
INVEST Essex have assisted The Cheeky Panda in setting up a global distribution network through introducing them to 3rd party shipping, warehouse and fulfilment suppliers. They also introduced them to the Essex Innovation Programme who allocated them a mentor with extensive experience in FMCG products and retail and also a PR and marketing expert. The mentoring and guidance resulted in some initial brand design changes and contributed to the numerous awards that the company have received. They also assisted with additional marketing support to the retail channel which helped aid them in stocking 100 stores with their toilet paper.
‘INVEST Essex gave us valuable advice on our supply chain and the contacts to negotiate a very good rate’
Chris Forbes, CEO, The Cheeky Panda
In the early stages, the company ran a successful crowdfunding campaign on Crowdfunder to test the market appetite and paid for their first container shipment from China to Essex with the money raised. Since then they have taken on private investment and ran a live equity campaign on Seedrs equity crowd funding platform at a £5 million valuation. After hitting their target in just a few days they decided to overfund by 135%. With this new investment they hired a managing director, an experienced data analyst and are recruiting salespeople.
How The Cheeky Panda have expanded
The company now sells a range of environmentally sustainable bamboo tissue products to an array of high street retailers and companies including Amazon, ethicalsuperstore.com and As Nature Intended. Additionally, since its inception, The Cheeky Panda has been the recipient of a whole host of awards. They have been named one of the Innovation50 companies in Essex and have won an award through the Big Business Boost competition which aims to identify the county’s most exciting business ideas and concepts.
The company plans to expand their product range which now includes paper towels and napkins. They aim to develop sensors for towel dispensers, together with a major facilities service provider, in order to reduce their carbon footprint and drive up overall efficiency. The company also has intentions of going global and is already available to purchase online in France, Germany, Spain and Netherlands.
See here for more information on The Cheeky Panda.