With products underpinned by prebiotic ingredients to improve the scalp microbiome, an Australian startup challenging the global haircare industry has garnered $2 million in a pre-seed investment from the venture arm of Europe's Unilever, a consumer goods multinational that owns major incumbent brands including Dove and Sunsilk.
Melbourne-headquartered STRAAND was founded last year in response to limited chemical mass market products to treat scalp concerns, bringing in the health & beauty, e-commerce and global business experience of its five founders to address the problem.
Co-founder and general manager Meagan Pate, who comes from a media background and has consulted for businesses such as organic self-tan brand Three Warriors and TBH Skincare, tells Business News Australia the group only started working on the brand two years ago.
"The product R&D was conducted by our formulating chemist and founding team using numerous data points. The science behind our hero ingredients was provided by the ingredient supplier," says Pate, who co-founded the business with Sarah Hamilton, Jeremy Hunt, Tim Brown and Nick Morris.
The chief prebiotic ingredient in STRAAND's range is the trademarked Defenscalp, which balances the biome and helps combat dry, itchy skin and common conditions including dandruff. Owned by Lucas Meyer Cosmetics, Defenscalp is extracted from rosebay, a common plant that has traditional uses in soothing skin irritation and is found across temperate parts of the northern hemisphere .
"Defenscalp comes with significant clinical research. When used within the formulation as a particular percentage, this substantiates product efficacy," Pate adds.
In just over three months from launch STRAAND had released four prebiotic scalp balancing products, along with a premium range it is preparing for the US market through direct channels and Amazon. Closer to home, the stratup had a coup in October by securing a strategic partnership with online beauty retailer Adore Beauty (ASX: ABY).
Backing from Unilever Ventures will pave the way for the Australian-made, vegan and cruelty-free STRAAND to expand into the US, UK, Europe and China.
"Dandruff and broader scalp concerns are a significant and much maligned condition globally," says Unilever Ventures partner Rachel Harris.
"There has been limited innovation in the scalp health category for many years and it is ripe for disruption," she says.
"STRAAND stood out with its microbiome-focused formulations, bold branding, youthful appeal and affordable positioning."
Another co-founder, Jeremy Hunt, helped pioneer the cross-border e-commerce and daigou trade from Australia to China as co-founder and COO of Health More, and was previously marketing and business manager at Swisse Wellness and Myer.
"Listening to consumers, gleaning insights from global category data, and working with an experienced team has landed us with an exceptional brand with products delivering to trends and consumer demand," Hunt explains.
"Partnering with UV was wishful thinking - ultimately we aligned on values, opportunity and execution - we are grateful to be partnered with a global leader."
Other founders include Sarah Hamilton, the co-founder of Australian skincare brand Sand & Sky, who has a proven track record in taking brands to a global stage through the power of social media. Other co-founders Tim Brown and Nick Morris have strong international experience in China cross-border e-commerce, personal care and global brand development between them.
While all product imagery on its webpage targets female consumers, co-founder Meagan Pate clarifies the products are open to all and the brand has engaged in social media marketing with influencer Justin Hill.
"STRAAND products are designed to assist anyone with scalp concerns, they're not gender specific," Pate said.
"When formulating the shampoo we were mindful men typically like to use a 2-1, therefore we made it super hydrating, so it When formulating the shampoo we were mindful men typically like to use a 2-1, therefore we made it super hydrating."
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