Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) A company that manufactures natural soap and skin-care products in Missoula plans to grow its workforce in the coming year, and it's doing so on the heels of a large contract to produce a run of shampoo bars.

Tim Iudicello, president of Botanie Soap, said interest in the company's range of products has grown in recent years as consumers and companies look for ethical alternatives to plastic containers.

“In the post-Covid area, there's been a shift in sustainability against plastics,” Iudicello said. “One of the products that came out of that is that what goes into a shampoo bottle is now available in solid form. We took the time to make solid products, like a solid shampoo bar.”

Iudicello said one bar equals about two bottles of shampoo, but minus the plastic waste.

Using a state job-creation grant, Botanie Soap created a research and development wing and committed all of 2022 to develop solid shampoo bars, which Iudicello said are superior to what's currently available on the market, according to feedback.

“At this point in time, we're really poised to be one of these primary manufacturers for shampoo bars,” he said, saying Botanie recently secured an order for 30,000 bars. “It's a good start, and we're going to start producing for them in two weeks.”

But with an increase in orders comes the need to find employees and, in a labor market where competition for workers is strong, it can be a daunting challenge. That single order of shampoo bars includes six different blends.

With 4,000 bars per blend, Iudicello said the process can't be quickly automated, hence the need for more workers.

“At the end of the day, we're always relying on good people to do the work. We can do semi-automation, we can use tools and we can use equipment, but ultimately we need people to fix what we have in our facility, and we're interested in expanding that.”

Botanie began as a home-based business that grew from a garage into a 20,000 square foot manufacturing facility. Shortly after its founding, Botanie became a private-label manufacturer as brands began asking them to make their soap.

In an industry crowded with products that cut corners, Iudicello said his company's commitment to natural ingredients “quickly marked us as the right partner for growing brands committed to offering the best.”

The company's soap products only use certified organic oils, and it uses those oils – not plant extracts – to scent its products. The effort to reduce the use of plastics has also won the company clients.

Iudicello said Botanie is currently working to develop a solid conditioner to go with the solid shampoo bar.

“We're almost through the development of that,” he said.