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Personal care products

Interview with David Bronner, president of all-natural, authentically organic Dr. Bronner's Soaps

Wednesday, February 01, 2006
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of NaturalNews.com (See all articles...)
Tags: personal care products, business ethics, health products


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Mike: I'm here with David Bronner, the president of Dr. Bronner's Soaps. You were just talking to me about the issues of honesty in organics, in terms of personal care products.

Bronner: Or lack thereof.

Mike: Or lack thereof. Can you tell the readers what this is all about?

Bronner: Basically in the food world, a company that is making organic products, or putting organic into the brand name -- for instance, Maggie's Organics or Albert's Organics, which is the largest organic produce distributor in the U.S. -- actually makes, produces and sells organic products. In personal care, companies think there is a loophole, such that they can put "organic" or "organics" into the brand name even if it's not an entirely organic product. So instead of doing the hard work of working with the manufacturers to build the real ingredients from organic material and certified organic farms, they just have just the same old formulations as always, add a little organic water and extract of this or that and then slap "organics" into the brand name.

Mike: So some of these products are 90 percent or even 95 percent of the same old process -- chemical ingredients with a little bit of organic water -- and then they call it organic shampoo or organic soap.

Bronner: Yes. The word "nature" or "organic" appears huge on the label. With a truly organic personal hair product, there's no distinction on the label to a consumer. The consumer doesn't know. It's just ruining the organic labeling program for personal care.

Mike: So what you are hoping to see, then, is an organic labeling law or regulation in the personal care products industry that's similar to the food industry?

Bronner: Exactly. Superficially, everyone says that's what they want, but in practice they're saying, "Here, we'll just do this branding. We don't really care what the ultimate personal care standard works out to be. We're just going to work around it and brand 'organic' on the products we're going to make."

Mike: If it deceives the consumer, the consumer buys it and the manufacturer profits.

Bronner: Exactly. They keep their costs down and don't pay any organic premiums.

Mike: I'm reminded of some of the shampoos that you can find at Wal-Mart, like Herbal Essences Shampoo. You look at it, and where are the herbs?

Bronner: Exactly, and it's almost worse (than) what's happening in the natural channel because at least at Wal-Mart, the consumer doesn't necessarily care whether there are herbs. But at health food stores, consumers are motivated to support organics. They want organics. It's that much worse, then, to see this deceit, deception or fraud going on. A lot of people complain about the Clairol "Organic and Orgasm" ad, and yes, that's not great. However, the ad is more about selling sex than organics to a particular demographic or mass market, whereas in the natural world, when a company like Jason puts "pure natural organic" on the label, people believe it. People trust that organic program, and these personal care companies are ripping off the integrity and rigor of the program, and ultimately they're going to compromise it and create lack of trust in the whole program for food as well as body care.

Mike: What are some of the ingredients that consumers should watch out for on the labels of these shampoos or soaps that kind of give away that they are not organic products?

Bronner: Well, definitely if you see anything that ends in "eth." The suffix "eth" means fatty alcohol is being ethoxylated with ethylene oxide, and that produces 1,4 dioxane as a trace contaminate. There's no way that belongs in a natural product, let alone an organic product.

Mike: So you should watch out for any chemical word that ends with "eth." Some companies like to list some ingredients and say they are from corn or something.

Bronner: Yes, and sometimes they're right. I mean there are better or worse surfactants. Some do come from corn sugar and coconut fatty acids, but these marketing editors don't know what's what; they don't care. They'll say it's all from corn, you know?

Mike: So to switch gears, Dr. Bonner's Soap Company has remained in the family. It has not sold out to the big business in this country that I'm sure has made offers for your company.

Bronner: Sure.

Mike: So why is that? What keeps the passion going in your company and in your family to keep this as a wholesome product?

Bronner: We're more of a charitable engine, almost a social progressive engine, than a business. Our big project right now is sustainability in personal care. This is our industry, and it's important because this is the first industry outside of food that's going to go organic. It needs to go organic in a way that sets a precedent for other industries. This is the precedent we need to set in this industry, but generally, you watch what happens at Body Shop or any of the progressive businesses that sell out, and they just lose social mission. That's what we care about. We're kind of a nonprofit. We don't need to go out and hassle people to give us money. We sell a really cool product; it's part of our mission.

Mike: It's a fantastic sustainable business model for social change. I haven't seen any really serious competition to your product from Proctor and Gamble, say, or the big makers. All their products, even if they tried to do something like yours, are so polluted with ingredients that natural people don't want that. It doesn't even compete.

Bronner: Right, that's the thing. Generally, they are so obsessed with detergents and this and that, that they won't use a pure Castile soap, partly because the cost of materials is quite high to make a really good Castile soap. For them, it's the cost of goods; it just doesn't work in their business model. In a way, they can't really offer it.

Mike: Because they're getting so much to go through the channel and so much to market.

Bronner: We're in a fortunate position. We put in 2 percent peppermint oil. No one spends that kind of money for that level of peppermint oil and 40 percent soap. Most soaps are around 15 percent concentrated. [Our soup] is very rare and they haven't produced anything that even comes close to it.

Mike: The only thing I've seen is a product at Trader Joe's.

Bronner: Yes, and that is some tallow oil; it's some inferior kind of cheap oil that they're using.

Mike: I just noticed it recently, in fact. I hadn't seen it before now.

Bronner: See, it may come to us private label, and we just don't private label.

Mike: I see.

Bronner: We use our own brand formula. It's our unique label, and we don't want it on other labels.

Mike: Well, thank you for taking time to talk with me, David.

Bronner: You're welcome!


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About the author:Mike Adams (aka the "Health Ranger") is a best selling author (#1 best selling science book on Amazon.com) and a globally recognized scientific researcher in clean foods. He serves as the founding editor of NaturalNews.com and the lab science director of an internationally accredited (ISO 17025) analytical laboratory known as CWC Labs. There, he was awarded a Certificate of Excellence for achieving extremely high accuracy in the analysis of toxic elements in unknown water samples using ICP-MS instrumentation. Adams is also highly proficient in running liquid chromatography, ion chromatography and mass spectrometry time-of-flight analytical instrumentation.

Adams is a person of color whose ancestors include Africans and Native American Indians. He's also of Native American heritage, which he credits as inspiring his "Health Ranger" passion for protecting life and nature against the destruction caused by chemicals, heavy metals and other forms of pollution.

Adams is the founder and publisher of the open source science journal Natural Science Journal, the author of numerous peer-reviewed science papers published by the journal, and the author of the world's first book that published ICP-MS heavy metals analysis results for foods, dietary supplements, pet food, spices and fast food. The book is entitled Food Forensics and is published by BenBella Books.

In his laboratory research, Adams has made numerous food safety breakthroughs such as revealing rice protein products imported from Asia to be contaminated with toxic heavy metals like lead, cadmium and tungsten. Adams was the first food science researcher to document high levels of tungsten in superfoods. He also discovered over 11 ppm lead in imported mangosteen powder, and led an industry-wide voluntary agreement to limit heavy metals in rice protein products.

In addition to his lab work, Adams is also the (non-paid) executive director of the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center (CWC), an organization that redirects 100% of its donations receipts to grant programs that teach children and women how to grow their own food or vastly improve their nutrition. Through the non-profit CWC, Adams also launched Nutrition Rescue, a program that donates essential vitamins to people in need. Click here to see some of the CWC success stories.

With a background in science and software technology, Adams is the original founder of the email newsletter technology company known as Arial Software. Using his technical experience combined with his love for natural health, Adams developed and deployed the content management system currently driving NaturalNews.com. He also engineered the high-level statistical algorithms that power SCIENCE.naturalnews.com, a massive research resource featuring over 10 million scientific studies.

Adams is well known for his incredibly popular consumer activism video blowing the lid on fake blueberries used throughout the food supply. He has also exposed "strange fibers" found in Chicken McNuggets, fake academic credentials of so-called health "gurus," dangerous "detox" products imported as battery acid and sold for oral consumption, fake acai berry scams, the California raw milk raids, the vaccine research fraud revealed by industry whistleblowers and many other topics.

Adams has also helped defend the rights of home gardeners and protect the medical freedom rights of parents. Adams is widely recognized to have made a remarkable global impact on issues like GMOs, vaccines, nutrition therapies, human consciousness.

In addition to his activism, Adams is an accomplished musician who has released over a dozen popular songs covering a variety of activism topics.

Click here to read a more detailed bio on Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, at HealthRanger.com.

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