From an early age, agricultural business senior Allison Jensen was exposed to the professional world of agriculture. Growing up with a family that works in the almond and walnut industry, Jensen recognized that almond shells were routinely wasted.
“I’d heard that it [shells] was a huge byproduct that gets wasted,” Jensen said. “As a girl, I felt like cosmetics could mold those two together.”
During their first week of Agribusiness Marketing Planning (AGB 406), Jensen and four classmates — Kaylee Earnshaw, Sarah Schulman, Carsen Beckwith and Maxine Meckfessel — turned that idea into Blossom Cosmetics, the company they pitched at the Cal Poly internal National Agri-Marketing competition.
The Blossom Cosmetics team will now move on to present their marketing strategy for their “Essential Nudes” eyeshadow palette at the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) competition in Kansas City, Missouri on April 6-8.
The all-female team blossomed from their combined goal of utilizing agricultural byproducts to create a sustainable, inclusive and affordable eyeshadow palette for consumers.
In 2021 alone, California produced a record 3.2 billion pounds of almonds. However, shells account for 19% of an almond’s total weight, meaning that California produced an excess of approximately 608 million pounds of almond shells in 2021.
There is currently no sustainable or profitable outlet for almond farmers to reuse or dispose of these shells. The Blossom Cosmetics team recognized this issue and made a plan for their company to utilize almond shells at a consistency of 0-50 microns as a replacement for talc in many cosmetic applications.
Although this is not a real company or product, Jensen, Blossom’s director of agricultural relations said that the market research done is all based on real numbers and issues.
“I think that’s a unique thing to understand about the competition,” Jensen said. “Although it is a marketing competition and not manufacturing, we do have to think about all the financial and manufacturing aspects of it to sell it as a product to the retailer.”
The Blossom Cosmetics team was selected to represent Cal Poly after preparing a 10-minute pitch for the internal competition. During the internal competition, they presented portions of what will eventually be utilized for the 20-minute NAMA presentation.
AGB 406 professor Ricky Volpe said that the internal competition was made to provide insight into each group’s product, the benefits of the product on the food supply chain, how it will be marketed and what the financials would look like for a retailer that might carry it.
The teams presented their slides and pitches during a recorded Zoom class that was then shared to Volpe’s department colleagues, alumni who have also competed in the NAMA competition and the College of Agriculture & Environmental Design advisory council. They then chose who would move on by way of popular vote.
“One of the main purposes of this competition, in addition to providing a really exciting opportunity for students, is to help generate and brainstorm great ideas that effectively use agricultural commodities or byproducts within the food supply chain,” Volpe said. “So helping to correct what we call externalities, basically just making the food supply chain run better, reducing waste and increasing benefits for producers.”
While the Cal Poly team is on its way to compete nationally amongst over 15 other universities, their path to Kansas is the result of hours of planning and market research.
Their research found that in 2020, the American beauty and personal care market was valued at $93.1 billion dollars and of that $93.1 billion, the natural and organic cosmetics market stood at $9.8 billion dollars.
The Blossom Cosmetics team recognized the demand for natural and organic cosmetics, citing that the Statista Consumer Market Outlook estimates the market will rise to $15.7 billion dollars by 2025.
The team has made it their goal to reduce waste to benefit the environment and their “Essential Nudes” eyeshadow palette takes into account the demand for natural cosmetics by utilizing almond shells in place of talc in cosmetic products.
“Talc is mined in open pit mines worldwide,” Meckfessel, Blossom’s chief marketing liaison, said.
In addition to talc being found in asbestos and causing health problems, she said, the open pit mines that talc is mined from are detrimental to the environment due to emissions and water pollution.
“We really wanted to use something that was all natural,” Meckfessel said. “Something that we don’t have to go out and deplete a natural resource for. Almonds are projected, from our market research, only to continue to be demanded, so this byproduct will also be.”