LDC Top 50 2021
Chris Forbes and Julie Chen
The Cheeky Panda
Chris Forbes and Julie Chen were both running their own businesses when they met in 2014. They fell in love and, in 2015, Julie had the idea to create a sustainable bamboo brand to replace everyday paper products. They launched The Cheeky Panda, which sells everything from loo roll to baby wipes.
“We’ve doubled the business every year since we started,” says Chris. The Cheeky Panda, which sources its bamboo from China, is now selling its products back to the affluent Chinese market. “We have so much ambition,” adds Julie. “We innovate and disrupt, and we want to IPO in 2022.”
The green sector needs to see success stories like ours. We want to inspire a whole generation of entrepreneurs to do a Cheeky Panda.”Chris Forbes
Founder, Cheeky Panda
How are you helping to minimise environmental impact?
Chris: Bamboo is the world’s fastest growing plant so it’s much more sustainable for toilet tissue. When we visited the bamboo fields in Central China, we drove for six hours and all we saw was bamboo so we won’t run out in a hurry.
Julie: Bamboo creates more oxygen and draws more carbon out of the atmosphere than trees do so, as a material, it has a better carbon footprint. Cradle to grave, bamboo creates 65pc less carbon than regular toilet tissue. Since inception, we have saved 252,000 trees that would have been cut for toilet roll, produced 32,000 tonnes less Co2, and saved 10 tonnes of plastic. We became carbon neutral in 2017 and a B Corp in 2019.
How will you grow the business?
Chris: Our category is gigantic. It’s worth an estimated £200bn. We’re already in toilet tissue, nappies, kitchen roll, facial tissues, and beauty wipes and if we even capture 0.01pc of the market, we’ll be a £200m-turnover company. I think getting to 1pc is achievable for us. The only thing standing in our way is brand awareness. People have to see you five to seven times before they buy and that takes time.
Julie: We want to innovate and disrupt across other areas within hygiene. We’re in over 25 countries now and our vision is to become a £2bn turnover company.
What are your ambitions for The Cheeky Panda?
Chris: We want to IPO. We believe the green sector needs to see success stories like ours. I haven’t seen one other pure-play green company go to market. We want to inspire a whole generation of entrepreneurs to do a Cheeky Panda. That’s how we want to make our mark in the world.