Baby care is booming in the U.S. thanks to surging consumer demand for both nontoxic, eco-friendly products and items that mimic trends in prestige skin care. In October, French pharmaceutical business Laboratoires Expanscience acquired U.S.-based Babo Botanicals, which carries an expansive line for babies with sensitive skin, while its French baby brand Mustela launched micellar water for babies. Also last year, luxe brand Dr. Barbara Sturm introduced a line for babies and kids — $65 for a face cream, $45 for a bathing milk — and Karolina Kurkova unveiled Gryph & IvyRose, her children’s wellness line she has dubbed “Goop for kids.” Meanwhile, Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company rolls out seasonal diapers in limited-edition prints.
The latest entrant into the category is Hello Bello, a mostly organic, plant-ingredient-based baby-care line that counts husband and wife Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell as founding partners and The Honest Company’s Sean Kane, along with television producer — and son of Dr. Phil McGraw — Jay McGraw as co-chief executive officers.
Hello Bello was designed to be a premium quality brand at an affordable price, with products derived mostly from organic, plant-based ingredients and with a friendly, inclusive ethos that Shepard and Bell say mimics their relatable, “imperfect” parenting style. It is set to roll out exclusively to the majority of Walmart doors and wal-mart.com this week.
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The line is the first to be introduced under Kane and McGraw’s new consumer goods platform called Launched.LA. The pair intend to release up to five new CPG brands in the mass market by 2020, each one backed by a celebrity influencer or industry icon, formulated with clean ingredients and designed as a premium-quality, affordable-price offering.
“It became clear as we started looking at the mass retail landscape that buyers don’t really have options,” said Kane. “Rather than an incubator, we’ve set out to find the white space in the market and fill that void.”
Launched.LA will partner with mass retailers to bring brands to life quickly, cost-effectively and at scale. Walmart, for instance, committed early on as the exclusive retail partner for Hello Bello. The retailer has ramped up its baby category recently, unveiling last year a remodeled baby department in over 2,000 stores and stocking a wider assortment of premiumized brands.
“We’ve ordered dozens of new brands over the last year,” said Melody Richard, vice president of baby at Walmart, who said the retailer has tracked the shift in consumer demand for natural, nontoxic baby products, calling it “similar to what we’ve seen in beauty.”
Kane, a founder and former president of The Honest Company — he left in 2017 — saw a white space in the mass market for an upscale baby-care brand made with natural materials and ingredients and offering a luxe experience at an affordable price. Hello Bello’s Walmart-friendly pricing structure is lower than some of the premium options in the mass market. The Honest Company’s shampoo and body wash, for instance, is priced at $9.95, while Hello Bello’s retails for $5.98. The 13 stockkeeping units assortment includes diapers, wipes, bubble bath, shampoo and body wash, bug spray, diaper rash cream, laundry detergent, baby lotion, hand sanitizer and mineral sunscreens, ranging in price from $7.97 to $23.94.
Shepard and Bell wanted to design a brand for babies that was both approachable and luxe-feeling, containing the organic ingredients they were accustomed to purchasing at high-end retailers.
“It occurred to us that it’s really unfair that most of the organic, plant-based products that are good to the planet aren’t cheap and they’re not available for everyone all around the country,” said Shepard.
“People go to Walmart,” echoed Bell. “It is the accessibility center — we grew up in Detroit and have family in Ohio and Oregon. It’s a one-stop-shop. As a working parent, you don’t have time to seek out the fun boutiques in your area to shop for your children.”
Shepard and Bell talk frequently about their humble Midwestern roots, and they took a sensible, unfussy approach to product development. Both were heavily involved from the brand’s inception, with Bell chiming in on formulations and ingredients and Shepard displaying a knack for copy.
Bell has been a proponent of organic ingredients in home, food and personal-care products for over a decade — at least the 11.5 years Shepard has known her, he said. “It makes me feel better when I know what is going into my body and what is used to clean my household and what’s going into contact with my skin,” said Shepard. “It makes me feel confident and smart — it really comes down to that.”
However, the duo was pragmatic in formulating product — for instance, they both insisted on a tear-free baby shampoo formula, despite not being able to make the product 100 percent organic.
“Our guide was looking at what we would use on our kids,” said Bell, referring to her and Shepard’s two daughters, Lincoln, 5, and Delta, 4. “The reality is that tear-free is not organic, but we would choose to use tear-free. It’s not possible for us to deal with a bath time where we’re burning our kids eyes.”
“That’s one where you have to dial the lever as far towards organic as possible without having your kids eyes burn,” said Shepard.
The hero item in the line is the diapers, which were designed with a proprietary spherical absorbent technology that is said to absorb over 50 times its weight in fluid, allowing for less material to be thrown out — aka, making the product more sustainable — and providing more leakage protection. The diapers are available in 13 printed designs — choosing the patterns was Shepard’s favorite part of the design process, he said.
Shepard and Bell like to talk a lot about the diapers — and what happens in them — especially in the marketing materials, much of which Shepard himself wrote. “It’s playful,” he said. Added Bell, “We talk about poop and butt cheeks and disgusting stuff.”
Giving the brand voice a relatable tone was important to the couple.
“I find the current marketing and messaging [around baby care] to suggest that you need to do [parenting] perfectly and that the experience [of having a baby] is angelic and cloudlike,” said Shepard. “Kristen and I have always been really vocal about embracing what a challenge it is for us to be married and how much work goes into that — [we’re] owning the messiness.”
They also wanted to take some of the fear-mongering out of the natural baby-care market. “I hate being told I’m a bad person or I don’t care about the planet if I’m not purchasing organic,” said Shepard. “Can’t we phrase this in a way that is inviting, not shaming?”
Shepard and Bell will star in video and social content promoting the brand. For Shepard, it was important as a dad to be involved both behind-the-scenes and in a consumer-facing role. “If you look at the baby section [of a store], it’s really targeted for women almost exclusively,” said Shepard. “I really encourage dads to be super involved, and I believe more fathers are embracing fatherhood openly. They’re choosing the diapers and shampoos, [too].”