How a Natural Alternative to the Bandaid has Become a Business Success Story

Jul 24, 2020

A brand that was born from personal experience is not only making life better for others, it’s doing good things for the planet, too. Meet PATCH, the natural adhesive bandages that are giving traditional wound coverings a run for their money.

Image: Patch Strips

When something that’s meant to aid health actually hinders recovery , it’s not only frustrating, for some people it can be a call to action.

James Dutton is one of them. When he noticed that his son’s skin reacted badly to a common wound covering such as a bandaid, so much so that it was making the wound worse rather than better, he was driven to find out why – and to see if there was a solution. “And when I found out that more than 25 per cent of the population had the same reaction as Charlie, I knew we were on to a winner,” says James.

Enter PATCH, a wound covering crafted with 100 per cent organic bamboo fibre and free from irritating chemicals, making it suitable for even the most sensitive skin types.

After the initial idea for PATCH landed in 2015, James, who lives in Melbourne, dedicated the next 18 months to extensively researching ingredients, suppliers, materials and retailers. His mission was to make sure every party involved was aligned with his vision before launching the product in 2016.

Three years on and not only has the PATCH product range expanded to include natural adhesive bandages infused with coconut oil, aloe vera and activated charcoal, it’s now stocked in pharmacies, health-food stores, IGA Supermarkets and Woolworths stores Australia-wide, and is sold in more than 32 countries.

Patch bandaid

Image: Patch Strips

 More than Skin Deep

The driving force behind PATCH was to create a natural, skin-friendly alternative to the traditional bandaid, but ensuring the product was sustainable and environmentally mindful was vital, too. As well as being cruelty free and vegan friendly, PATCH is 100 per cent plastic free, and all materials – even those used for packaging – are completely compostable.

“From the very beginning, I wanted sustainability to be prioritised in every business decision relating to PATCH,” says James. “It’s incredibly important to me to do what we can to protect our environment in every way possible for my children and generations to come.”

He’s not the only one who feels that way – 87 per cent of Australians say they would be likely to switch to a natural and environmentally focused wound-care brand, according to Pureprofile research commissioned by PATCH.

“The topic of environmental conservation is a hot conversation at the moment and is having a big impact on consumerism,” he says. “Large corporations are finally making some changes, albeit slowly, but smaller start-up companies can be agile in their approach, and act much more swiftly.

“With PATCH, we’ve been able to offer a solution in a healthcare space that has traditionally been one of the most wasteful industries in the world. I’m extremely proud of that.”

The lessons learned

While James had more than a bit of experience under his belt when he decided to launch PATCH, having developed and built several businesses over the past 20 years, the healthcare fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) space dished up some unique challenges.

“The hardest part was resourcing the right team. Through developing PATCH, I’ve learnt that it takes a very particular skill set to break into a specific market, and in the early days, there was quite a bit of trial and error and even staff turnover, which could have been easily avoided if I’d resourced the team with industry knowledge from the beginning.

“So my top tip for anyone wanting to bring a new product to market would be to invest in the right people early on. You’ll need to lean on as many resources as possible, so take advice from mentors, leaders and most importantly, people who have specialised experience in your industry.

“Building your team to be aligned with the company ethos and working towards a common goal will definitely determine your level of growth and success.”

Patch bandaid

Image: Patch Strips

Revelling in Recognition

That success includes achieving remarkable distribution cut-through in just three years. “In terms of growing the business, I’ve learnt over the years that marketing is king. Social media has definitely been an impactful way for us to get our message out there, but a big part of our marketing activities has always been around national and international trade shows. The opportunity to have face-to-face time with buyers, connect with consumers and communicate the PATCH vision is invaluable.”

The brand has also won a string of awards, including being named the Best New Eco Living Product at 2019’s Natural & Organic Awards – Europe; Product Excellence Winner, Eco Innovation Winner and Product Innovation Winner in the 2019 Australian Business Awards; and receiving the Best New Natural Living Product award at 2019’s Nexty Awards in the US.

“We don’t do it for the recognition,” says James, “but it’s extremely rewarding when industry leaders acknowledge and appreciate your vision. And it provides us with further motivation to push boundaries with natural wound care as we strive to create innovations that offer quality, organic and sustainable alternatives.”

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