Brand founder Q&A: Australian skin care brand to enter US market

By Cassandra Stern

- Last updated on GMT

"What makes our product so effective and utterly different from conventional bug repellents is Vanilla Mozi’s unique blend of botanical scents that sends a distinct message to bugs in a ‘language’ they all very clearly understand – botanicals," said Vanilla Mozi founder Lea-Anne Crawford. © Renaud Visage Getty Images
"What makes our product so effective and utterly different from conventional bug repellents is Vanilla Mozi’s unique blend of botanical scents that sends a distinct message to bugs in a ‘language’ they all very clearly understand – botanicals," said Vanilla Mozi founder Lea-Anne Crawford. © Renaud Visage Getty Images

Related tags Insect repellent Australia botanicals

Launching in the U.S. market with its innovative, natural insect repellent products that combine clean beauty with effective outdoor protection, Vanilla Mozi will offer US consumers a sustainable and chemical-free alternative to conventional options.

Vanilla Mozi, an Australian brand renowned for its innovative approach to outdoor protection, is set to debut in the US market this summer. Founded by Lea-Anne Crawford in 2006, Vanilla Mozi stands out in the crowded personal care industry by offering a unique blend of clean beauty and effective insect-repellent solutions.

Inspired by her background in Applied Science and a passion for creating safe, chemical-free products for her family, Crawford has developed a line that combines natural ingredients with scientific principles to protect against mosquitoes and other pests. CosmeticsDesign interviewed Crawford and brand Co-Owner Krista Fergusson for their insights into Vanilla Mozi's product development process, the brand's sustainability efforts, and their plans for successful entry into the US market space. 

CDU: What inspired Lea-Anne Crawford to create Vanilla Mozi, and what sets it apart from conventional outdoor protection products?

Krista Fergusson (KF)​: Lea-Anne Crawford has a degree in Applied Science in Human Movement, and combining this with her love of cooking and passion for the outdoors meant the creation of Vanilla Mozi was a very natural process. The first seed was planted when she started making bespoke beauty formulations and soaps.

She was inspired to develop clean beauty products for her family of six that didn’t expose them to the conventional chemicals many household products contained. She made many valuable products for the family. Still, when they relocated to a southern coastal area in Australia where the mosquitoes were particularly ferocious, her unique skillset was truly realized.

She had to protect her four children, and their ages ranged from eight years old down to six months, so the formula needed to be gentle enough to use on her baby. And it needed to be effective against the Aussie mozzies [mosquitoes] that attacked them every afternoon!

There was a watershed moment when her baby daughter had a giant mosquito bite on her forehead, which set her on her path to come up with a solution. Not only were the conventional insect protection products full of chemicals like DEET, but Lea-Anne tried all the natural alternatives and felt these were too strong for children, particularly babies.

Typical natural products contained Citronella, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree oil, and Lemongrass essential oils. One night, she accidentally spilled lemongrass oil on her bench top, which burnt a hole in the varnish. She wasn’t keen to regularly apply that to her baby’s face.

She was determined to create a product that didn’t expose her children to chemicals and safely protected them, including their precious little faces. But having a love for clean beauty products, she was very passionate about developing a natural bug protection alternative that had the feel and fragrance of a beauty product you would love to use every day and would completely revolutionize the bug protection category.  

CDU: Can you elaborate on the unique formula of Vanilla Mozi's Bite-Proof Body Cream and how it works to protect users from insects? 

Lea-Anne Crawford (LAC)​: Vanilla Mozi utilizes an innovative formula containing Spearmint and Vanilla, which sends a clear signal to bugs and has a delightful fragrance. The Vanilla Mozi concept is based on Biomimicry, miming Mother Nature’s processes—using the scent of flowers to communicate with bugs and effectively hide from them rather than go to war with them.

We believe the way to live in harmony with the bug world is to blend into their environment and speak their language rather than simply repelling them with toxic chemicals. The latest scientific research reinforces the methodology behind Vanilla Mozi’s Bite-Proof Body Cream, which states that bugs and mosquitoes are particularly attracted to us because of our scent.

Studies show mosquitoes are attracted explicitly to carboxylic acids, a crucial part of our skin’s natural moisturizer layer and help make up our human odor profile. Humans release carboxylic acids at much higher levels than most animals, which explains why mosquitos are attracted to us. Some of us produce more than others, so some are mosquito magnets.

Vanilla Mozi is unique because it’s the only bug protection product designed to function within this moisturizing layer of our skin and mask our human odor profile into a botanical scent that mosquitoes are familiar with and instinctively avoid. But the best part is this does not occur via a synthetic chemical process; Vanilla Mozi harnesses a beautifully wholesome process by utilizing organic waxes and butter that Mother Nature has created naturally and are healthy and nourishing for our skin.

CDU: How does Vanilla Mozi ensure the safety and efficacy of its products, particularly for families and young children? 

KF​: We have extensively tested the product's preservative and stability to ensure safety. Our manufacturer is an international standard certified ISO 22716 GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) quality licensed and modern manufacturing facility. We have 15+ years of Aussie families using and loving Vanilla Mozi without one adverse reaction.  

CDU: Could you discuss the process behind Vanilla Mozi's expansion into the US market and what consumers can expect from its debut? 

KF​: We already have an extensive US customer base through our online store, so we knew the country was ready to see Vanilla Mozi on its shelves! Vanilla Mozi is being launched through a national distribution network and will be available in natural health and wellbeing chain stores such as Natural Grocers, the Healthy Edge Retail Group, and many other local Health and Organic Supermarkets this Spring. We are super excited to share our fantastic product with American families.  

CDU: In what ways does Vanilla Mozi prioritize sustainability and ethical sourcing in its production and packaging? 

KF​: We are very proud to be a B-Corp-certified business. This means we have been officially recognized as leaders in our decisions to help create a more regenerative economy.

One aspect of this is our decision to use a combination of 50% recycled plastic and 50% sugarcane for our packaging. This lessens the environmental impact, which is highly important to us. We also use a high volume of organic ingredients in our cream. Manufacturing pesticides creates toxicity, and by not using these ingredients, we are contributing to a more sustainable future.  

CDU: How does Vanilla Mozi address concerns about the effectiveness of natural bug repellents compared to conventional options? 

LAC​: Vanilla Mozi has a proven track record and has been trusted by health-conscious customers for over 15 years. We believe the best protection for your skin is the one that’s the healthiest for your skin. We also believe in the joy of using products you love; that way, you’ll use them daily.

If you’re trying to avoid using insect repellent because you don’t like the smell or feel on your skin or you’ve had an adverse skin reaction, then there’s no way you’ll keep yourself protected over the long term. Just because it’s organic, safe for all skin types, and an absolute delight to use doesn’t mean it can’t offer adequate protection.

What makes our product so effective and utterly different from conventional bug repellents is Vanilla Mozi’s unique blend of botanical scents that sends a distinct message to bugs in a ‘language’ they all very clearly understand – botanicals. Conventional bug protection is focused on disrupting bugs’ senses chemically, whereas the Vanilla Mozi innovation is to hide you from them botanically.

Scientific studies have shown how finely tuned bugs are into extremely complex botanical scents because flower nectar is a primary food source. Some people attract bugs more than others because we all have a unique human scent that bugs may find more enticing. 

CDU: Can you share any plans or initiatives Vanilla Mozi has for future product development or expansion into new markets? 

KF​: We will launch our Bite-Proof Candles in the US market later this year. These candles provide a “bite-free” zone with the same Vanilla Mozi proprietary scent as our Body Cream.

They are based on the Vanilla Mozi innovation of creating a zone that smells like a flower that bugs instinctively avoid. These candles have been selling successfully in Australia for over a decade and are very popular as a combination with our Bite-Proof Body Cream.

We will also expand into Europe within the next 12 months.  

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