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This M’sian bath & beauty brand found its niche making refillable, plant-based products

Challenges can give rise to opportunity. Over the past few years, we’ve covered many businesses that popped up amid the pandemic, leveraging stay-at-home and health-conscious trends.

One such business is Hanky Planty, which started in 2021. I was surprised to find out how new the brand is, given its establishment in grocery stores such as Qra and Groove Grocer.

But there’s an explanation for that. Hanky Planty is actually a brand under MC Essentials Sdn Bhd, which holds brands including Mon Chéri, B’ieune, and MEECO.

The founder of all these brands, Caroline Oi, started Hanky Planty, noticing the opportunity to produce a range of anti-bacterial body care, household care, and sanitiser products in the company’s GMP, ISO 9001:2015, and halal-certified facility.

Hand wash and hand sanitisers from Hanky Planty / Image Credit: Hanky Planty

“We jumped onto the anti-bac bandwagon when we saw that the market’s appetite for natural antibacterial products and sanitisers was increasing,” the team said to Vulcan Post.

And so, MC Essentials started developing products in its lab in Penang, and Hanky Planty was launched.

Making scents

The brand started off with just body wash and soap bars. Then came the lotions, sanitisers, and other antibacterial household products.

“Our decision to grow our offerings was based mainly on our capacity to produce, and also suggestions given by customers and Qra,” the team said. “This boosted our confidence in trying and testing more varieties of scents.”

And that variety includes aromas such as English Pear & Freesia, Rose & White Musk, Watermelon & Apple, and Raspberry & Macadamia, just to name a handful.  

Some of Hanky Planty’s products / Image Credit: Hanky Planty

The soap bars are particularly interesting, with fragrances such as Charcoal & Clay, Mangosteen with Bilberry Extract, as well as Oat & Yogurt.

These bars retail for RM18.90 on the Hanky Planty website. Antibacterial body wash goes for RM28 for 500ml, but the “regular” type of body wash is RM49.90.

The household items at Hanky Planty are not lacking either. Releasing products such as floor and air cleaners, dishwashing liquid, and laundry detergent, Hanky Planty is capturing the market segment of informed consumers who want to stay away from harmful chemicals.

Although, we did notice that one of the ingredients listed on some Hanky Planty products is denatured alcohol, which is often said to be drying to the skin.

When we brought this up to the team, they replied that based on their R&D, a small amount (according to the permitted levels by regulatory bodies) is safe, and that denatured alcohol is a better grade of alcohol compared to isopropyl.

They added, “The FDA has classified the product as a Category 1 active ingredient (for effective killing of germs), which means it is safe and effective when use as directed.”

Sustainable soaps

While Hanky Planty arose out of a consumer trend, there were already other similar players in the bath and body care industry. Setting aside big names like The Body Shop and Bath & Body Works, we also have many local brands such as Claire and Lave Republic, which also focus on natural ingredients.  

From my perspective, the extra feature that Hanky Planty brings to the table is its refill stations.

One of Hanky Planty’s refill stations / Image Credit: Hanky Planty

“We were inspired by a particular refillery concept from Vietnam,” the team shared. “Being Hanky Planty, the idea of a refillery, which is an environment-friendly concept, goes hand in hand with our plant-based products.”

The team also shared that they want to encourage Malaysians to go green. However, I noticed that Hanky Planty uses plastic bottles instead of more sustainable materials such as glass.

But the reason for that is because glass is heavier and also more expensive. So, the brand opted for recyclable plastic on top of reducing the use of single-use plastic with its refill stations.

While there are only three locations thus far (Qra at The Five, Groove Grocer at Taman Tun Dr Ismail, and Full Mart at Sungai Long), it’s a good start to the team’s strategy.

Existing Hanky Planty customers can bring their original containers and continue to purchase their favourite products more affordably through a weigh-and-pay model. Meanwhile, those who have never bought a Hanky Planty product can buy plastic bottles at these locations or bring their own bottles.

Hanky Planty’s refill stations consist of large dispensers of its products / Image Credit: Hanky Planty

Introducing such a concept to neighbourhood grocery stores extends Hanky Planty’s potential pool of customers to those beyond the zero-waste community too, and could encourage more of the mass public to adopt the practice.

Bubbly future

Although Hanky Planty is only a year old, the team is already planning to bring it abroad, once again leveraging the experience from sister brands.

“We are looking at introducing Hanky Planty to the Australian market as we already have a company registered there,” the team said.

In fact, it seems like the brand has already made some headway in Australia. While I was writing this piece, the team mentioned that Hanky Planty would be joining a one-day market around Sydney Harbour.

On top of expanding overseas, the team is also expanding its product catalogue to include hair care, sharing with Vulcan Post that shampoos and conditioners are already in the pipeline.

With unique scents and an eco-friendly edge, Hanky Planty has been able to quickly establish itself within a competitive market. MC Essentials saw an opening and dove right in, proving that opportunities come to those who are prepared.

  • Learn more about Hanky Planty here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Hanky Planty

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