Who Gives A Crap
- Food, beverage & FMCG
- 2021 - Active
- Verlinvest contact
- Raphael Thiolon, Ben Black
Read on to see what Verlinvest’s Ben Black and Raphael Thiolon, who led our investment in Who Gives A Crap, had to say about what first attracted them to the company and why they’re excited about its future:
What led you to look at toilet paper, and why Who Gives A Crap?
BB: Firstly, we’re interested in purpose-driven brands that are tackling a fundamental scale problem (in this case, 27,000 trees are chopped down every day to serve the toilet paper industry, while 2.4 billion people don’t have access to a toilet), that are in a huge category (in this case, the $80 billion toilet paper industry) and who can drive a change in consumer behavior for the better. Toilet paper has been dominated by typically 2-3 traditional incumbents in each country for years and looked ripe for a disruptive player that could offer a superior and sustainable product at scale. Enter Who Gives A Crap, offering a zero deforestation solution, with an engaging brand and high quality paper products.
RT: There’s also a digital migration element here. Unsurprisingly, toilet paper wasn’t top of our list in terms of finding a cool new consumer product! But we saw that it’s an item that people everywhere on the planet use every day. It’s big, bulky and our consumer research tells us that people don’t like buying it in supermarkets, so Who Gives A Crap’s online direct-to-consumer solution just makes sense. We’re trying to drive three concomitant changes in consumer behavior here: sustainable alternatives, continued digitization of the category, and a lasting shift to more meaningful, purpose-led brands.
What convinced you that Simon Griffiths and his team were the right partners for Verlinvest?
BB: We proactively approached Who Gives A Crap – in part, due to the impressive makeup of their senior team and sophisticated approach to the customer. The quality of thinking there, and the way they’re laser focused on optimizing consumer experience – I’d never heard anyone talk about toilet paper like that. This is a category where there’s very little innovation and it’s consolidated among a small number of brands who are largely competing on price. Simon and his team were able to rethink this and add value and excitement back into the category.
The fact that the team is mission-led is crucially important – not only because it aligns with Verlinvest’s values and our ambition to back purpose-driven brands that will define the future of the consumer space, but also because it drives a winning company culture and attracts excellent people. Finally, it was clear that Who Gives A Crap had a complimentary founding team from day one. It was well thought through, with everyone bringing something different to the table. This has cultivated a diversity of thought that we would typically only expect to see in companies at much later stages of growth.
RT: What I like about the team, and what I think consumers like about the brand, is the ambition and restlessness to catalyze major change – without taking themselves too seriously. They’re a cool and fun brand with a very serious mission. That resonates well with who we are at Verlinvest and what we do. The second thing is that they really look to the long-term – as evergreen investment partners, we are totally aligned on building something that lasts.
There may be some assumptions out there that toilet paper is simply booming because of pandemic panic-buying… is that true?
RT: It’s true that we’ve recently seen unusual stockpiling. However, the long-term trend is a permanent one. We’re seeing a structural shift away from transactional offline shopping and towards more flexible ecommerce subscription models like Who Gives A Crap’s, in the right categories. Consumers have been paying a premium for convenience for several years now – and the pandemic has only accelerated that behavior.
It’s also made consumers more conscious of how they spend their money, and its impact on the world, given the uncertainty of the macro-economic environment today. That’s why it’s important that Who Gives A Crap is price competitive with mainstream brands – they’re offering a superior product and a premium experience in terms of packaging and feel – but won’t become a luxury brand that’s only available to a segment of the population. This is a mainstream proposition in a large market.
What are you most excited about in terms of Who Gives A Crap’s future?
RT: Right now, the company is focused on household paper products – toilet paper, facial tissues, kitchen roll. But the team has the ambition and skills to develop a bigger business, which can serve an enormous market for household goods, in an ethical and plastic-free way. We believe in the potential of their platform to disrupt other categories in the future: they’re now rightly focused on scaling their core products, but that’s just the beginning of the story.
And it’s the same with their impact mission: Who Gives A Crap is creating eco-friendly products that are good for both the planet and also for people, as the company donates 50% of all profits to build toilets for communities without proper sanitation. They have already donated over $10M AUD, and we hope to exponentially grow this number in the years to come!
BB: It is inspiring to hear Simon talk about ‘reinventing capitalism’, where scaling businesses that do good is a self-fulfilling loop – more sales equals more impact. You can’t have companies that focus on ‘impact’ but don’t have a sustainable business model. Nor can you have businesses that do not take people and the planet into account – as they won’t be sustainable over the long-term (in the literal sense of the word). This mission drives everything Who Gives A Crap does, which is exciting because, as they create new brands and sell more products, that growth will have an even bigger positive impact on the world
What are some of the company’s challenges, going into 2022 and beyond?
RT: We’ve found that the brand resonates most with consumers when they truly understand Gives A Crap’s unique story and mission – as they currently do in the company’s home market of Australia for example. If we can get that story across in our newer markets of US and Europe, then growth is almost unconstrained.
BB: Yes, I think a large part of the company’s growth this year will come from deeper expansion in the markets they’re already in. We’ve seen proof-of-concept and Who Gives A Crap has already come a long way – so I’m confident that the current strategy will continue to serve them well.
And finally, how do you see Verlinvest’s partnership with Who Gives A Crap fitting into our wider investment thesis and focus areas?
BB: We identified the business a long time ago because it aligns with both our purpose-led brands thesis and our digital strategy. There’s an opportunity to recreate how the FMCG sector has been built in the past, where brands were forced to compromise on quality or price or scalability if they wanted to do good in the world. This is about us bringing together an ecosystem of companies that are rethinking their role in the world. We’re really excited to bring Who Gives A Crap into our family of mission-led brands alongside Oatly, Tony’s Chocolonely, Vita Coco et al, which are catering to a new generation of consumers who are seeking brands that have a positive impact. As has always been the case at Verlinvest, we’re closely tracking shifting consumer trends so that we can partner with brands like Who Gives A Crap that are at the forefront of these shifts.