The Cat’s Meow
You may know Meow Meow Tweet by their whimsical name, or maybe you know of their Hero product — deodorant —a favorite of many clean deodorant converts. This quirky brand from upstate New York has absolutely mastered great deodorants, Meow Meow Tweet is about so much more. I met Tara Pelletier, Co-Founder of Meow Meow Tweet, once in a café in NYC, and there were two things that struck me. First of all, her commitment to creating the highest quality products devoted to living lighter on the planet, while staying natural, nourished and protected. Second thing that struck me: her humility, willingness to help and tolerance for all things. When we were together, we talked the benefits of deodorant in cardboard tubes and the value of having compostable packing for a product that we replenish many times a year. Tara was quick to volunteer all the details about how they do it — build a sustainable brand — and she was happy to share with anyone…something brands don’t typically share as packaging partners are usually kept exclusive.
Tara was open about the challenges of formulating products that met her quality standards while maintaining affordability and accessibility to everyone, values that are important to her and her Co-Founder Jeff Kurosaki. And what made me like her even more, was the emphasis she placed on bringing products to market that use as minimal packaging as possible. Tara admitted she’s had to forego releasing products because they felt they couldn’t be packaged in a way that aligned with their brand values. Don’t let the minimalistic packaging, whimsical designs, and quirky name fool you; when it comes to the quality of the product, it’s all there. Meow Meow Tweet is a brand I admire deeply for staying true to their creative spirit while maintaining a commitment to the environment, their customer (that’s us!) and quality. Not an easy feat!
As you know, Project Blue Beauty is a movement that highlights brands that are going the extra step (further than just being green) to give back to the environment. I asked Tara to give us a little insight into how she and Jeff do it all. I hope you enjoy getting to know this Blue Beauty brand just as much as I did!
1) Can you briefly walk us through your original launch of Meow Meow Tweet — the products, packaging, and vision for the company? How has it evolved?
Meow Meow Tweet was first inspired and grew out from our interest in urban homesteading. We taught ourselves how to make bar soap, had a small window garden and a worm compost in our Brooklyn apartment. At first, we thought that we could start a business where we grew the herbs and botanicals that we used in our soap. We wanted to share our foodie inspired scents with others. Tara had been a chef in Southern California during the early days of the slow food movement and we wondered if we could take those same principles and apply them to body care products.
Our standards were simple. Products made with ingredients that are vegan, “whole”, sustainable and understandable with minimal and fun packaging. As we’ve grown, it’s allowed us to expand our line and invest in packaging that isn’t just recyclable, but biodegradable as well.
In the early days, stores didn’t get our packaging. There were quite a few times that we wondered if we were on the right track. Despite this, we stuck with our vision and now it seems like people are finally “getting” it.
2) Were you one of the first brands to deliver deodorant in a glass jar? How was that received by customers? What about the cardboard tubes?
I don’t know if we were one of the first brands to make a cream deodorant in a glass jar, but it certainly felt like it at the time! We would get a lot of questions about how to apply it. People just didn’t want to touch their armpit. For a short time we considered including a cosmetic spatula but instead took the approach of encouraging people to get comfortable with their pits. It seems like finger application for deodorant is hitting the mainstream now, which is fantastic!
For the paper tubes, people were really psyched about the zero-waste aspect of it. As with anything new, our customers had to get used to the idea of a deodorant tube that didn’t retract. It was like those plastic, twist up tubes were the incumbent and the paper tubes are the new person on the ticket. It’s still like this, but more and more people are getting comfortable with it and there are even other brands now using this paper tube technology! It’s solidified for us that we also need to educate and help folks to change their habits if we are truly going to get these other options to take hold.
3) What are your pain points when it comes to product formulation and packaging? Are there things you want to do, but can’t for one reason or another?
With new formulations and packaging, we have to take into consideration the expectations set by the convenience-based, throw-away, mass-produced consumer culture. It’s a lost battle from the start if you expect a product made from 100% plants to have the same shelf life as something formulated with synthetics and stabilizers. We also formulate completely palm-free which seems like a small detail but takes a lot of creativity and ingenuity when it comes to emulsions, soap making, and sourcing. We have products that we’d love to make, but we just can’t find ingredients that check all of our ethical and quality boxes while also creating a product that feels great to use.
Shipping itself can be problematic because of the sheer amount of material required to ship glass bottles safely. A little over a year ago, we begrudgingly added boxes to our glass bottled packaging. It seemed counter to our goals, but our field testing showed that we could ship items more safely and with less packing material. For shipping, we only use paper tape, newsprint and biodegradable peanuts made from corn, but we wish there was a way to magically “beam” products to their destination.
4) How have you created a culture of care for the environment in Meow Meow Tweet’s team? Is there something specific you do as a team, or something you do when you hire people for the team that is unique to you?
Team lunch is something that we love about the culture in our studio. We all sit down together every day. It’s the perfect way to slow down and catch up. You can’t nurture a work-family without putting in some quality time with each other. We also make it a point to celebrate everyone’s birthdays with sweet treats… because nothing helps with team building like a chocolate cake.
We also tend to hire artists, farmers, and cooks. This makes the environment one in which everyone has a reverence for material and process which works well for our little factory.
5) What would you most like to see happen in the beauty, personal care space? Are there any innovations you are excited about?
We think that it’s time for green beauty brands to start giving the same attention to their packaging and the life cycle of their products that they do to their formulations. Green beauty is setting the standard for the beauty and personal care space and we have a responsibility with that.
It’s cool that a bunch of brands are coming out with beautiful, effective natural deodorants, but come on… another plastic tube?
6) What can we expect to see from Meow Meow Tweet in the future?
This year we’re excited to go local again. We’re opening a retail space in the Hudson Valley where we’ll offer our products alongside some of our favorites from other brands. The space will be focused on community, with workshops and events that can bring people together.
We also have a VERY exciting skin care item coming out for the summer. It’s been a long time in the making.