We hear from Mark Rushmore and Gyve Safavi from Suri – the new electric toothbrush aiming to become the most sustainable way to effectively brush your teeth.
Can you give us a background on yourselves and what got you into dentistry?
Mark Rushmore (MR): I started my career at Procter and Gamble, working in a variety of sales and strategy roles.
After that, I left to set up my own experiential marketing agency where we won Oral-B’s business to hep run their dental trade shows across Europe.
It was during that time I met Gyve and we discovered by coincidence that we had both started our careers at Procter and Gamble.
Gyve Safavi (GS): I also started at Procter and Gamble, but I was based in Geneva, Switzerland, and worked on the Gillette business
After that I went to work directly for Sir Martin Sorrell at WPP and it was then that I met Mark at an industry event.
MR: It was at that very first meeting we started discussing how difficult it was for large companies to bring sustainable innovation at scale to the market.
We agreed when you look at oral care, especially the electric toothbrush, there’s a huge problem.
Over four billion toothbrushes, including electric ones, are thrown away every year.
And for the most part, electric brushes are welded shut, you can’t replace the battery when they die or break.
We just thought there has to be a solution to that problem.
We wanted to do something really meaningful in terms of trying to address, even in a small way, some of the problems created by the wastage of electric toothbrushes.
That’s where Suri came in, which stands for sustainable rituals.
You’ve outlined the problem pretty well for us there. So that brings us on to Suri. What is Suri?
MR: Our first product is a slimline electrical toothbrush.
We wanted to create a brand that champions a few key pillars: performance, design and sustainability.
Our brush heads are made out of plant-based materials, such as corn starch. We’re also using an innovative type of bristle made out of castor oil, so we’re not as dependent on fossil fuels.
We also offer free recycling with prepaid return mailer bags. At the same time, the body is made from aluminium, which is really nice to hold.
It’s slim and we’ve added a screw to the base. That sounds like it might not be a very big deal, but this screw means that we can take apart our toothbrush and replace the battery to ensure that the brush continues to work instead of having to buy a whole new one.
And then we’ve added some other features that people will discover, such as a stainless-steel plate at the top of the handle, our magnetic mirror mount, and extended battery life.
Believe it or not, one of the biggest pain points for consumers, we found in our research, was the leftover toothpaste ‘gunk’ or debris that builds up on their toothbrush and charger.
So we introduced a simple mirror mount, which allows you to store the brush on your mirror.
All that gunk that normally builds up will drip down to the counter and is easily wipeable, and the steel plate on the handle means a quick rinse will keep the brush clean too.
Interestingly, one of the reasons people get so much gunk build up is because people are constantly charging their brush. Many electric brushes’ battery life are not that long.
On a single charge, our toothbrush lasts at least 30 days.
You don’t have to be constantly charging your brush, which means the gunk doesn’t accumulate. Also, people enjoy reducing the clutter chargers create on their bathroom surfaces.
GS: A lot of people don’t recycle their brush heads properly and that’s partly behaviour change, so we wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to take part in this behaviour.
With our product, we provide a prepaid envelope so that when you’re done with your brush head, you can simply pop it in, send it back for free and we can recycle it responsibly and actually turn it into another product.
MR: And lastly, we also have a travel case, which comes with a UV LED light. What that means is it kills 99.9% of bacteria on the bristles and it’s still charged with USB C. So it’s very convenient for people who are travelling.
Is it a subscription-based model in that you subscribe and get the toothbrush heads and then you send the old ones back?
MR: At the moment, you can buy it directly from us without subscription.
But we will also be offering a subscription. Subscriptions aren’t for everyone, but for some people, it’s really convenient.
Whether you subscribe or not, we believe recycling is really important. So, we’ll make it possible for anyone to recycle their brush heads directly with us and we pay for that.
GS: Over time, we’d love to make the head completely biodegradable.
You need materials that last a certain amount of time and will not degrade in the mouth.
Ultimately, we hope to get to a place where we would have something that is fully biodegradable, all the way through.
The product will obviously live and die by its performance. So how does it compare to other electric toothbrushes?
GS: That is the $1,000,000 question, isn’t it? Does it clean?
For us it was really important to create a product that lived on design, performance and sustainability.
We started with tests with around 100 dentists in the UK. We shared our prototype and got really helpful feedback from them and continued to iterate until the product you see today.
The next thing we did was undertake robot lab tests to really see the efficacy of our brush.
The good news is the results that came out of that show it’s very good in hard-to-reach areas.
We are currently conducting clinical trials with a research lab based in the USA. Hopefully we look forward to sharing those details with the dental professional community as soon as possible – at which point we can compare performance!
MR: We’ve just launched www.suriprofessional.com.
This will be our area for dental professionals who want to know more about sustainability – certainly within dentistry, but also specifically about Suri.
From when we launched, we’ve had a lot of inbound requests from dental professionals. They’ve said their patients have been asking for this sort of product for a long time.
We want to support dental professionals in their recommendations to patients with a product that is both effective and genuinely more sustainable. We offer a trial brush at a vastly discounted price so they can try it for themselves via our website.
Is this toothbrush going to be competing in stores or is the model to go through dental practices?
MR: We’re exploring all options. Right now, anyone can purchase our brush from our website www.trysuri.com and in Selfridges.
However we have had so much inbound interest from dental professionals in the USA and the UK and actually beyond in Germany as well asking if they can stock the brush in their practice. So we’re very keen to do that.
One of the barriers I think to dental professionals selling brushes in practice is that they’re often much cheaper to buy on the high street or online.
That’s something we’d love to address. We’d love our brush to be at its most affordable from a dental professional – that seems like a logical choice.
When it comes to the sustainability of the toothbrush, how realistic do you think it is that the only way to recycle it is to send it back to yourselves?
MR: Integrity is really key to what we do.
There’s a lot of greenwashing that goes on. There are some companies that may claim they’re fully biodegradable or compostable. From our research – that is just not possible.
Castor oil bristles are not fully biodegradable. You have certain periods that are required by law. So we’re very keen to not claim something that’s not 100% accurate.
We want to make the most sustainable brush and as innovation keeps coming, we will keep improving.
We also measure all of our carbon emissions from all the materials that we use through the full life cycle and offset those. Through our partnership with an organisation called Climatepartner, we are officially carbon neutral.
GS: For the brush heads, they are made out of plant-based materials.
One of the things we don’t say is compostable – you need an industrial composter and it can take some time.
If it’s thrown away, because it’s plant-based, it’ll degrade much faster than plastic.
GS: In terms of the materials, they aren’t fossil fuel based.
It’s a similar look and feel to plastic, but it isn’t petroleum based.
This means it’ll biodegrade faster in natural settings and when it does biodegrade, it won’t be into micro toxic particles.
We know that there’s still quite a way to go to make our brush head fully biodegradable.
But in terms of the recyclability, providing people with very easy, convenient ways to send it back to us for free, should get a lot more heads recycled.
How can readers find more information?
MR: If anyone reading this is interested, we would absolutely love to meet you!
Dental professionals are going to be at the heart of our focus in the coming years.
If people want to learn more about us from a professional perspective, www.suriprofessional.com is the location to go to. That will provide you with more information. Alternatively, please email us with any questions, (genuinely any!) and we aim to respond within a few hours.
Our email is: [email protected].
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