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900.care sells waterless personal care products and lets you add tap water at home

Here’s the harsh truth behind personal care products: you’re mostly buying water and plastics. The main ingredient in a bottle of shampoo or shower gel is water, and by far. It is mixed with a bunch of active ingredients. And because it’s a “pre-mixed” product, companies spend a lot of money on plastic bottles to transport those products to your bathroom.

French startup 900.care wants to try something new. Instead of buying a new bottle of shower gel every time you need some shower gel, the startup focuses on the active ingredients.

On your first order, you receive an empty, reusable plastic bottle with a pump. You put a tiny stick of compacted powder in the bottle, add some water and wait a few hours. It’s then ready to use. The next time you need more shower gel or shampoo, you only need a new stick (and some tap water).

“You keep all the benefits of using shower gel, for example. Our shower gel lathers, it has the same texture, it smells good, etc. But you didn’t buy any plastic and you didn’t carry any water,” co-founder and CEO Aymeric Grange told me.

And 900.care raised a €21 million funding round a couple of months ago ($23 million at today’s exchange rate) as its products have been working pretty well in its home country. Lombard Odier Investment Managers is leading the funding round with existing investors White Star Capital, Swen Blue Ocean and Founders Future also participating.

900.care followed the direct-to-consumer playbook as customers can only buy products on its website. As you always need new personal care products, the company also decided to sell its products as subscriptions exclusively.

In 2023 alone, 900.care generated €10 million in revenue ($10.8 million). The startup has 90,000 clients with 235,000 active subscriptions — each client can have multiple subscriptions.

In addition to shampoo and shower gel, 900.care also sells foaming hand soap, dish soap, laundry and dishwasher tablets, as well as a few other products. The company estimates that it prevented the equivalent of 3.5 million plastic bottles of waste.

The small prints

900.care’s products also represent a good business opportunity. Every few weeks, customers receive an envelope with new sticks for their hygiene and home products. Because those compacted powder sticks are quite small, they fit in a normal envelope and can be sent as normal mail. 900.care saves money on shipping fees.

Similarly, factories and production lines are quite small as they don’t need huge basins to mix water with active ingredients. They only need to mix up different powders and compact the mix to turn it into tiny sticks.

“For the compacting and industrialization stage, the big challenge was that there was no one who knew how to do that. Initially, we started working with people who were involved in cosmetics,” Grange said. “But we soon realized that this wasn’t going to work. They couldn’t keep up with the pace, and the factories weren’t designed for it. So during the second quarter of 2023, we opened a factory in Saint-Etienne, dedicated to compacted powder.”

This new factory will work exclusively for 900.care but is still operated by a partner. But the fact that everything has been specifically designed for 900.care’s has greatly improved the company’s margins.

The startup thinks it can reach €100 million in revenue within three years as it is about to expand to other European countries beyond France, Belgium and Switzerland. But the company still expects to turn a profit this year.

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