Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Question: How does Lush use fresh fruit in their products - part two!

In response to the post How does Lush use fresh fruit in their products? p writes: I just stumbled upon Lush's youtube channel, and I found a video you might find really interesting. It's on how they make their Avobath Bath Bomb (a citric acid - baking soda bath bomb with fresh avocado). The video shows them cutting up real fresh avocados, squishing them, and adding them to the mixer containing the other bath bomb ingredients! AND there are no preservatives listed on the label! 

Here are the ingredients for their Avobath Bath Bomb:
* Sodium Bicarbonate,
* Citric Acid,
* Fresh Avocado (Persea gratissima),
* Olive Oil (Olea europaea),
* Lemongrass Oil (Cymbopogan flexuosus),
* Bergamot Oil (Citrus bergamia),
* Rosewood Oil (Aniba rosaeordora),
* *Citral,
* *Geraniol,
* *Farnesol,
* *Limonene,
* *Linalool,
* Perfume,
* Gardenia Extract (Gardenia jasminoides),
* Green Lustre (Potassium Aluminum Silicate, Titanium Dioxide, FD&C Yellow No.5 and FD&C Blue No. 1).

You can see in the vid that there are only a few avocados in gallons of bath bomb, but still, no preservatives? As far as I understand, sodium bicarbonate, citric acid, olive oil, and the essential oil and essential oil fractions shouldn't have any hidden preservatives, as they're stable on their own. Maybe preservatives are hidden in their "perfume"? But still, would it really be enough to preserve those fresh avocados?

Hi p! Thanks for the comment and all the work that went into it.

The browning of the avocado is an oxidation reaction, so we need something to prevent that. Citric acid works well as an anti-oxidant, so this might be the key to the product. If we use put avocado into an environment with a lot of acid, maybe it won't go brown on us!

In this article, they preserve avocado paste with acidic ingredients - it made it taste bad, but it keeps it from browning. And in this article, it is noted: "The combination of reducing substances, organic acids, and sequestering agents in refrigerated products has shown to be effective in delaying guacamole and avocado paste browning." One of those organic acids and sequestering agents is - you guessed it - citric acid. (The other is EDTA, and that seems to work as well, according to this article, but we don't see EDTA listed.)

As a side note, a few cooking sites I googled have indicated that olive oil might work to prevent browning, which is supported by this patent

Having said this, none of these things will keep the avocado from going off - they just keep it from browning. I think there might be a preservative lurking in the "perfume" section of the ingredient list, although Lush claims they don't use preservatives. I don't believe they can make these products without preservatives, and I've seen rumours they are using things like honeysuckle extract, preservatives that can be called "natural".

As a quick aside, I don't think this is a self-preserving or a well-preserved product. I think it's a very poorly preserved product and the avocado probably goes off, but we don't notice it because there really is very little of the fresh product in the bath bomb. If you're familiar with my philosophy, I am a firm believer in preserving our products well! I'm just trying to figure out why the avocado might not go brown in this product! 

I think the key here is the relatively low level of avocado in the product. The green of the product is deceptive - the video shows the bath bomb mixture is green before the avocado enters the picture and we see the colourants on the ingredient list. That Hobart mixer is anywhere from 30 quarts to 140 quarts (about 30 litres to 140 litres) - it looks like it's at least the 80 quart mixer - and there's maybe 2 litres of avocado in there, so we're looking at a 1:40 ratio of avocado to bath bomb mix up to a 1:70 ratio. I think it would be easy to keep 1.4% to 2.5% avocado from going brown with at least 30% citric acid. I still think it will be a great environment for beasties and other yucky things, but it will remain green. (Or perhaps it goes brown, but we don't notice it for all those other colourants?)

Does anyone else lust after that mixer? (No? So it's just me then.) And did anyone notice olive oil is considered one of the essential oils in the blend? And does anyone find it slightly inappropriate that employees are using the industrial sinks for bathing?

Thanks for giving me something to research first thing in the morning, p!


Lavarie - Seifen und anderer Wahn said...

Thank you Susan for this interesting post! I read almost all your articles, as really most of them are interesting to me. But this one was particularly interesting, because I wondered from time to time how lush handles this problem.
My best whishes to you :-)

Nancy Liedel said...

I have several Lush prodcuts here that do use paraben based preservatives. Mostly in lotions. They do use them, just not in everything. I'm too lazy to get up and look, right now, but I have read the labels and I'm pretty sure Dreamwash contains parabens. Not that I have any issue with parabens. I've known companies to list Citric Acid as a preservative, but doubted highly that it was the only one.

Vic Cherikoff said...

Hmm. It certainly doesn't look like a recipe which is resistant to microbial growth. Having developed Herbal-Active, a natural antimicrobial mixture of essential oils I was amazed at how capable microbes can be at growing in almost any environment. My mixture took years to develop and is now getting out into industry. I even had to formulate a water scavenging formulation (YieldPlus) which works in many cosmetics beautifully.

However, I learned a lot about preservatives and if it's a high acid environment that is protective in this product then there needs to be lots of citric and probably some acetic acid in the mix to get the pH down enough to stop acid-loving fermenters from growing.

p said...

Yay, I love it when my questions get made into a post! :) Thanks for your answer, Susan! I love your analysis of the size of the Hobart mixer - you are a woman who knows her Hobarts! I also totally lust after those mixers... someday....

I think the fresh avocado is included for "label appeal" only... I mean, per 6.2 oz bath bomb, we're guessing there's what, 4 grams of avocado? It's annoying that customers probably think there's far more, given the way Lush markets and colors the product. :/

Re preservation, it just occurred to me, maybe the key is that the product is basically dry. The only water comes from the avocado, so the initial percentage of water in the bomb is really low - maybe it dries out further pretty rapidly, losing moisture to the environment? No water, no yuck. (Not saying it's a good risk to take... but maybe this is part of how their products don't end up looking visibly nasty, even if they actually are a bacteria party.)

Marnie said...

What a great post!

Christine E. said...

It does seem like there must be some hidden preservative somewhere in these, and that there might be some spoilage at a level that isn't obvious. I would love for someone to do microbial tests on these a couple of months after their date of manufacture.

Christine E. said...

P.S. I found this on their site and find it really aggravating:

"Preservatives are by nature poisonous, and have more to do with profit, supply chains and convenience than healthy hair and skin, or the environment.

Of the 300 products we make, about two thirds are unpreserved. To achieve this, we use fresh ingredients and minimal amounts of water. Liquid products containing water require some preservative due to the bacteria potential of the environment. Using preservatives gives products greater practicality, allowing for longer shelf life and room temperature storage."

I find this sort of propaganda really dishonest, so I wouldn't be surprised if they were hiding ingredients, too. I hate how the above basically says - when other companies use preservatives, it's because they hate the earth and hate people, but love money, but when we use them, it's because we havve to".

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi p. That's a good point - if they leave the bath bombs out, the water would evaporate and leave behind less potential for contamination!

Hi Christine. The reason for this post is that I think Lush is being dishonest. To say on the one hand that preservatives are poisonous and imply they have no use to the consumer, then to use it in a product like Dreamwash (as Nancy points out) is hypocrisy. I'm about to start a series on preservatives, and they aren't about supply and convenience! They're about protecting consumers from lots of horrible things that could contaminate our products and hurt us.

Companies like this drive me crazy. You see Arbonne touting their no preservatives products, then there's a massive recall of something that gets contaminated. You see Burt's Bees having trouble with mould and other companies with rancidity issues. But they are driven by consumers who don't want parabens or preservatives or alcohols or whatever the scare of the week might be to make these claims, and we get what we want, right? We get our preservative free products that go off or rancid or mouldy but at least they're all natural or "chemical free".

ARGH! I better stop ranting now - I might wake up the rest of the house with the gnashing of teeth!