A Melbourne-based hair care brand using the caffeinated leaves of yerba maté to help people restore damaged locks has secured a distribution agreement with Woolworths (ASX: WOW) to roll out in 800-plus stores across Australia from next week.
It comes shortly after Growth Bomb launched in UK retailer Boots – the fifth addition to a stockist portfolio that includes pharmacy chains SuperDrug, Terry White Chemist, Priceline and Chemist Warehouse.
Founded in 2020, Growth Bomb is run by Mr. Bright founder Hamish Buckley and Bondi Sands co-founder Blair James, who put their heads together in the thick of the pandemic to launch a shampoo, conditioner, serum and spray designed to strengthen and nourish hair.
Since then, the product range has expanded to include hair masks, scalp exfoliants, toners and more to reach a total of 16 items – 10 of which Woolworths has agreed to stock in 889 stores across the country.
Speaking with Business News Australia, Buckley explains how the idea to start the business was prompted by the discovery of one special ingredient – a unique plant called yerba maté.
“Yerba maté has been around for centuries, it's a native extract from the Amazon jungle. It's packed with high potency caffeine, and within that leaf it has numerous other compounds called kaempferol, quercetin, procyanidin, and other vitamins and nutrients that are great for providing antioxidants and cell activity,” Buckley claims.
The words ‘yerba maté’ come from two languages – Spanish and Ketchua – and translate to ‘herbs from calabash’ as its leaves are brewed in special vessels made of dried calabash fruit.
The trees are located exclusively in South America, where it can be found in northern Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil – the latter being where Growth Bomb sources Australian Certified Organic (ACO) yerba maté.
“It supports growth and increased diameter of hair over time,” Buckley claims.
“But you have to have a healthy scalp to support healthy growth, length, and shine in your hair. The brand has definitely taken a bit of a shift towards scalp health over the last six or so months.”
The launch into Woolworths comes five months after Buckley sold his teeth whitening brand Mr. Bright to health and wellness company Wellnex Life (ASX: WNX) for $1.5 million.
According to data analytics company Information Resources Inc. (IRI), Growth Bomb is the number one-selling hair growth brand within Chemist Warehouse, with its shampoo being a top 10 best-seller out of the 711 hair care products available at the retailer.
Buckley notes that the wholesale division currently makes up 97 per cent of Growth Bomb’s revenue – a feat he credits to the relationships both he and James established while running their separate companies.
“We managed to turn this around really quickly and that comes from having experience on how to go about it. It wasn't just looking at a drawing board saying: Hey, how do we how get this going? We relied on experience and relationships to really hit the ground running at a really fast pace,” he says.
“That's been a big part of our success to date - we've worked with these retailers in the past through our brands.
“We’ve found that supporting a retailer is the secret to success - pushing all of our consumers into their stores [and] supporting our marketing creates a really good alignment and synergy with them.”
Buckley claims the haircare brand, which he hopes to launch in the US next year, is forecast to turn over $13 million in sales over the next 12 months.
“We launched in Chemist Warehouse in New Zealand in 2021. We're about to launch into their Countdown stores, which is the sister company of Woolworths. That's got 170 locations,” Buckley says.
“We're also exploring the US for next year. We're about to start having conversations with some of the big players over there.”
In an effort to be green, the packaging of Growth Bomb’s products is made from post-consumer plastic – a type of plastic that is reprocessed from other products that have been used and thrown away by consumers – and does not include any metal springs.
The entire packaging process is sourced through Australian manufacturers, which Buckley says has presented its own set of challenges.
“It's definitely been difficult at times…especially with logistics, freight costs and being dealt the ongoing costs increases that are involved with working with strong suppliers because they handle raw ingredients brought in from all parts of the world,” Buckley says.
“We get passed on those increases, unfortunately. That's the only downside to working with really reputable groups here in Australia. We don't intend on changing that anytime soon.”
For him, the journey to reach this stage with Growth Bomb has been incredibly rewarding.
“It's humbling for sure…and I guess a bit of a stamp of approval that myself and Blair have created a product that's appealing for both pharmacy and grocery channels,” Buckley says.
“It's really nice to see that we're actually helping people with problematic issues. It's good to say that we've got a product that ticks a lot of boxes.”
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