Soap may seem like an unusual subject for a column called Taste of Nelson and soap certainly isn’t something I would recommend eating but at Global Soap in Nile Street East they use local food products in their soaps so I figured that is enough of a link for me to write about them in this column.
Global Soap is owned by sisters-in-law Ing-Marie & Bronwyn Shallcrass and they have been soap makers since 1997, making 2017 the business’s 20th birthday.
When I met with them I asked the obvious question, why soap? Bronwyn told me “we wanted to make something natural and while I was living in Australia for several years I saw the evolution of natural soap industry with lots of small boutique producers making some lovely soaps.
“We also wanted to make a natural product people would come back and buy again, not just an item they only needed to purchase once.”
Ing-Marie told me they also wanted to work together again, “we had worked together making wooden tulips that we sold at the market in the early 1990’s, it was a good business but more a trend product people bought once not multiple times.”
When Bronwyn returned from Australia and just after Ing-Marie had her third baby they set about learning how to make soap in Ing-Marie’s lounge at home before moving the business to a converted granny flat at the back of the house and then making the move to the current old cottage on the corner of Nile St and Tasman St seven years later.
They began selling the soaps at the Saturday market when they first started and still have the same spot at the market they had 20 years ago, “same site and some of the same neighbours” says Bronwyn. “The market is an amazing place when you consider it is only open for about six hours once a week and many stall holders make a living there.”
So how do you make soap? Ing-Marie told me “large companies use fully mechanised processes with additives like sodium laureth sulphate to create a lather that we don’t use. Instead we simply use coconut oil and other beautiful ingredients that benefit people with sensitive skin.
“We use a cold process that involves warming the oils to melt them then add lye so the oils, water and other ingredients can blend together before adding everything individual recipes require.
The ingredients are constantly stirred by hand until the warmed blend has the correct consistency and has cooled enough to be able to be hand poured into(Taken tubular out) moulds where the soap sets. It is then removed and cut into individual soaps and cured on the shop shelves.
“We prefer hand-stirring so the soap sets naturally rather than using machines to speed up the process, it means we make a lot of small batches and we retain the artisan nature of our soaps as well as giving us absolute control over quality.”
At Global Soap the business has evolved and they are now using a lot of local ingredients; beer, honey, goats milk, olive oil, peony root, coffee, peanut butter and various flowers like lavender & calendula “we are always looking at ways of using local ingredients.”
Every bar is unique, “local producers have a real passion for their products and that means we have access to wonderful ingredients right here”, says Bronwyn
“There is a big movement using local products that is really noticeable at the market, more people are reading labels to see what is in products wanting to know if they are they good for the environment and skin and where they come from.”
When they set up the soap business one of their main objectives was for people to use their products everyday not just as a gift so the soaps needed to be affordable and this has resulted in them having regular buyers right from the beginning.
Bronwyn told me “We see the same people every week, for some it is the only soap they use in the house, and now we are seeing young adults coming in saying they have been using it at home all their lives and want to buy it themselves, we love that.
They leave home to go to university or a job out of Nelson and they need soap so come in and buy them from us to take away with them then re-order online.”
Right from the very beginning Golden Bay Artist Dean Raybould has been designing Global Soap’s labels and each one is a little work of art, “his first drawings were on little bits of paper, now we get them digital” Ing-Marie told me. “We are trying to work out the best way to have an exhibition of the labels he has created for us over the last 20 years as part of our birthday celebrations.”
The new product this year will be a celebration box. A selection of global soap representing different things in NZ. At this stage it will bars of manuka honey soap, berries & apple soap, gold & sunshine soap, mud & coal soap, milk soap and bush & volcanic rock. A small slice of New Zealand making it a perfect gift.
From making soap the business has also expanded to include other related products including bath products, lip balms, massage products, furniture polish and cleaning products and even have developed a shampoo bar “these get away from plastic bottles so are really environmentally friendly as well as being great to travel with” say Ing-Marie.
The dog shampoo bar is made with neem oil which is a fantastic natural flea treatment. “It is also really good on sensitive skins so a lot of our human customers use it too because it doesn’t strip the natural oils from your skin.”
They make a range of beer soaps using Bays Brewery beers and spent grain and “it is nice to have a product made for guys, it can be used for shaving, shower and shampooing”.
This little artisan soap business just keeps growing, they have started contract making soap for others including trialling an olive oil soap for Neudorf Olives, they produce soaps for Dove River Peony’s who featured on Country Calendar, “our web site crashed after that programme” says Bronwyn.
Global Soap also has a strong on-line presence with a fantastic website that gives this small business a global reach but as it has grown Ing-Marie and Bronwyn are acutely aware of how important local sales have been to their success so operate a loyalty scheme for locals and if you visit their shop you can buy unwrapped soaps at a discounted price.
Mother’s Days is this weekend and Global Soap has a range of individual soaps and gift baskets making it really easy to buy something beautiful and small yet useful.
Find out a lot more about this wonderful local business at www.globalsoap.co.nz and signup to their mailing list.