(Bryan and Alex Du Toit | Photos courtesy of Earthie Mama)
Chance Encounter Sees Product Fast Tracked to Major Grocery Chain Shelves
As we navigate tentatively through these turbulent times, it is something of a welcome boost to see a local Bend company raise spirits with a timely success story, with fortune playing a hand in rocketing its organic sanitizing spray to the attention of a major retail chain.
Globe-trotting couple Alexandra and Bryan Du Toit settled in Bend several years ago after Alex melded her wide-ranging knowledge and geographic experiences into creating a line of all-natural health and wellness supplements.
Combining many earth-friendly elements, products include a cleansing ‘Master Tonic’, immune support tincture and non-toxic bug spray, sunscreen and hand sanitizer — marketed and previously sold primarily online under the Earthie Mama moniker.
But a recent chance encounter launched one particular item into the shelf spotlight stratosphere.
Bryan Du Toit explained, “We have been based in Bend in since 2017 and produce very high-quality organic products including immune boosting tonics, bug away spray, sunscreen and hand sanitizer.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, we operated our relatively small ‘mom and pop’ owned company out of our commercial kitchen on Second Street in Bend, and were ‘financially’ doing fine, selling primarily via our online store.
“Due to the high costs of our premium ingredients though, our revenues did not look great on our tax returns. Then COVID-19 hit…!
“Around March 10th this year, I walked into my local Albertsons on NE Third Street and asked the cashier where all their hand sanitizers were? She replied they did not have any and wouldn’t be getting any for quite some time due to the new huge demand in the wake of the virus outbreak exhausting existing supplies.
“I happened to have my own sanitizer that we produce on me and said to her ‘well, lucky for you guys, we are a company here in Bend that produces it!’ and showed her our bottle.
“She looked at me, wide-eyed, and picked up her register phone and said to her manager ‘you gotta come down here now’ and hung up the phone.
“Within minutes, the store director, Mike Conner, came down and asked to see my product. I showed him, and he liked the packaging and product, and said ‘usually it can take anywhere from three months to a year to get a new product on our shelves, but let me make some calls and I’ll get back to you’.
“Well, two hours later I got an email from the PNW Safeway/Albertsons corporate office! And to make a long story short, within a few days (which they termed unprecedented) they had a vendor number for us and had placed two purchase orders for 1,000 cases (24 bottles) each!
“We immediately scaled up at break-neck speed and through a friend made contact with local builder and developer Kevin Spencer, who has been amazing and gave us an incredible deal within days to occupy part of a 13,000-square-foot facility he owns.
“We also found four new employees, at a time when many people were being let go, and began mass-producing our sanitizer at a phenomenal pace, and within a week had delivered our first 312 cases to the local stores in Bend, with 750 cases up to Portland the following week.
“The two PO’s in two weeks alone amounted to more revenues for us than we had made in the combined two years prior — hand sanitizer sales have gone from about one percent to something like 95 percent of our sales! — and there’s no stopping us now.
“We are scaling up even more and are building a fully automated line, with the invaluable assistance of Eli Stabler — who runs Project Management & Implementation for Humm Kombucha — that will allow us to produce up to 14,000 cases per month, and look to have the line operational by mid/end of July.
“We didn’t expect any of this to happen. This has been quite a whirlwind and we are delighted to help in these times — as Mike said, it is like we are ‘supplying bullets to the front line!’”
Earthie Mama’s products are now being sold through the Alberston’s/Safeway network locally, and Du Toit says the company is looking to develop discussions with other potential store outlets.
He added that the Earthie Mama sanitizer has an approximate 63 percent alcohol content, which is higher than CDC recommendations, but with natural ingredients like witch hazel, the spray softened the impact on hands compared to many of the higher alcohol-weighted conventional products that can cause cracking and dryness.
He said the Certified Organic Witch Hazel base provides an excellent astringent for the skin while combining with the potent essential oils to kill germs, and many consumers given the choice would opt for their product over many others.
Bryan Du Toit hails from South Africa originally, but his family moved to southern California when he was 14. He developed a career in the film industry, and after meeting Alex — who had a good friend from high school who lived in Bend — and journeying to, among other places, Costa Rica, the couple and their three daughters ended up “getting out of the rat race” and moving to Central Oregon, in part due to the area’s enviable “healthy environment and supportive community.”
Of the Earthie Mama line, he observed, “Alex really is the formulation genius behind the products. She conducts copious amounts of research and has a very well-rounded background in environmental studies and other disciplines.
“She actually started just making products for our own family as she didn’t want to put toxic chemicals on the kids which are often associated with things like bug spray and sunscreens.
“She started a recipe blog, but people were clamoring for her to start supplying the products herself. We started from there and the growth of the company has really been organic, as well as the products!”
About Earthie Mama
Earthie Mama was founded by Alexandra Du Toit, who is a prolific author and published journalist writing for many of the web’s largest news sources like Natural News, Wake Up World, Yahoo, New Dawn Magazine, Sivana East and Vivid Life. She has a bachelor of arts in environmental studies, master of arts in psychology and is a registered yoga instructor, environmentalist and healthy lifestyle expert. As a holistic lifestyle advocate, Alex is a “(R)evolutionary speaker,” learning and spreading her messages from Africa to North and South America. Her own Earthie Mama product line is all “made from the highest-quality ingredients from the earth”and her “ultimate mission and purpose is to educate and help others learn their own way to a healthy holistic lifestyle where they have reached balance and on a path to thrive.”