Spurred by the toxicity of the daily sanitizing lifestyle, N&E Innovations Founder Didi Gan decided to take action.
Her idea was simple; food waste will be used to create antibacterial reusable face masks, as well as non-toxic, alcohol-free sanitizers. Gan says her concerns for the well being of future generations and the environment has pushed her to pursue this sustainable idea, leading to the innovation of the outfit.
SME & ENTREPRENEURSHIP MAGAZINE Asia had the chance to speak to Didi Gan recently in finding out more about N&E Innovations.
To begin with, what inspired you to start N&E Innovations?
In the midst of the pandemic back in 2020, I chanced upon an opportunity to revalorize nut waste. It made me recall a childhood memory where I watched my aunt roast nuts for her melon seed shop for years and the waste produced by that mini factory.
Armed with my biomedical science degree, I formed a team of researchers and staff to innovate new ideas together. My team and I continued our research on nut waste and discovered that it not only has antibacterial properties but is also a great way to make use of food waste from the landfills. We then used these waste materials and revalorized them into a powerful antimicrobial compound.
I was completely frustrated with how toxic our daily sanitizing lifestyle is and realised that it is time to take action. The idea was to use the food waste to create antibacterial reusable face masks, as well as non-toxic, alcohol-free sanitizers.. Not only did I have children that have eczema-prone skin which was aggravated with the use of the usual alcohol-based sanitizers, my concerns for the well being of future generations and the environment pushed me to pursue this sustainable idea. With that, N&E Innovations was born.
What were the greatest challenges in starting the business?
The main challenge was to scale the process of revalorizing the food waste into the antimicrobial compound we required, as the composition of food waste is not the same for each batch. Hence, it was an uphill task to find a stable, long-term solution that would allow our proprietary technology to last on surfaces for 180 days.
Another challenge we faced when starting the business was that our team took months to trial our closed-loop manufacturing which reuses material waste created during the food waste production process for additional products. It took us a few hundred thousand trail runs before we arrived at our goal of harnessing the food waste and turning it into a powerful organic ingredient for our sanitizers.
‘All-natural’ is a term that is perhaps overused by many brands. How does N&E Innovations assure its customers that it’s truly 100%?
Indeed the term ‘all-natural’ gets tossed around a lot since sustainability movements have become popular in recent years. While we are thrilled that saving our planet has become a mainstream agenda, it also comes with its own challenges. The biggest one is greenwashing, described as an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly.
In our research, we found that other brands’ sanitization products contain harsh chemicals, artificial fragrance and fake colorants.
N&E Innovations is certain that our users are not being greenwashed. Our products are made without harmful chemicals and irritants.
We use 100% food grade ingredients and 0% alcohol in the formula for all our sanitization products. Every ingredient is chosen based on a low toxicity score and our formula is fully biodegradable, which means it is absolutely safe for plants too! The formula will not lurk in the environment and cause damage to the air, water and soil. This is also backed by thorough research our team has done.
We’ll be honest too. Brands are getting better at greenwashing, making it even more challenging for consumers to detect when they are being tricked. We recommend reading the fine print, to fully understand what a company means when they claim they are ‘sustainable’.
What trends do you see developing in the future in the natural and sustainable space?
As there is a growing awareness among our population to protect Mother Earth, I envision that in the next decade or so, we would observe the global community shifting towards a low-carbon economy.
People will start to see 100% recycled and sustainable products being produced and used in their daily lives. Based on the concept of a circular economy, the impact that reusing food waste has is huge as half of the waste produced on earth is food waste. In the future, we may even build our houses with recycled waste.