A Canadian energy executive for most of his career, Bruce Mullen’s life took an unexpected detour into wellness products and become part of the natural and organic personal care industry - tipped to be worth $25 million by 2025 - when he founded the Vancouver, British Columbia-based Jusu Wellness and Jusu Juice Bars. While his business instincts were good, that new venture came on the heels of personal tragedy.
In 2011, Mullen’s wife, at age 48, was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer and died just 10 months later. While Mullen says he recognizes there’s no way of knowing why some people get cancer and others don’t, it took his wife’s death to get himself and his family to take a close look at their health and diet - a big wake-up call for his family, as he tells the story on Jusu’s website.
One thing, he said, became very clear: chemically processed food and beverages damages immune systems, and many common household cleaning products and beauty products are laden with chemicals - with very little regulation.
“We started going through our home, the pantry, the bathrooms, and noticed that everything we were eating, using to clean and putting on our bodies was just laden with chemicals that we couldn’t even pronounce,” Mullen told TriplePundit. “We decided to get rid of them and seek out products that are natural. My wife ultimately lost her battle with cancer, and on the one-year anniversary of her funeral, I myself was diagnosed with cancer. Eventually my son, who was studying business, approached me, telling me to get off the couch and together we founded Jusu.”
The aim of Jusu, which Mullen founded in 2014, is to provide 100 percent naturally sourced and plant-based household cleaning and beauty products for people “to protect themselves and their families by providing completely natural products for consumption, home and body,” explained Mullen.
Before founding Jusu, he spent his career with the Mullen Group, one of the largest transportation, logistics and energy serving businesses in Canada. These days, he says, he’s in the “human energy” business.
While the link between human health and household and beauty products containing chemicals is a subject of intense debate, Mullen says he believes that people underestimate the impact of chemicals on their health. “It has become so normalized to pick up a bottle of something to clean or eat or use on your body and ignore the mile-long list of ingredients on the back. I was once a part of this group and purchased these products without a second thought.”
While anecdotal, Mullen says several customers have said they experienced major health improvements after exchanging traditional products with his company’s wellness products.
Backing that view are groups such as EWG, a health advocacy group that has helped spearhead the clean beauty movement along with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. In written testimony to Congress in 2019, EWG’s Scott Faber said that 617 cosmetics makers have reported using 93 chemicals that have been linked to cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm in more than 81,000 products. He cited data from the California Safe Cosmetics Program, which is part of the state’s Department of Public Health.
Over years, researchers at academic institutions such as Harvard University, as well as the National Institutes of Health, have shared the connection of chemicals in personal and food products and risks to human health.
The demand for natural, “clean” or wellness products is part of the rise of the broader wellness movement. In other parts of the world, products come under far greater scrutiny. The European Union, for instance, has banned approximately 1,300 chemicals in cosmetics, a category that covers makeup, lotions, hair dyes, deodorant, nail polish, shaving cream and other beauty products, according to the Washington Post.
By contrast, the United States - where the average woman uses 12 such products containing 168 chemicals on her body each day - bans and restricts only 11.
Mullen predicts there will only be more companies producing wellness products like his: “I absolutely believe that the demand for natural products like ours is increasing. Before the pandemic hit, there was no big deal to go to the clinic, the doctor or the hospital, but people don’t want to go to the hospital now. People want to do whatever is necessary to protect their family.”
Indeed, global consulting and research firm Kline & Company has called the "natural" trend is the most important trend in the personal care industry.
“I am encouraged by the fact that we are seeing a lot of the major companies that use chemicals in their products are either changing their manufacturing practices or acquiring all-natural companies. There is a movement slowly happening,” Mullen says. “I think that this has also started to accelerate because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is making people become increasingly aware of their immune health, and people are beginning to demand cleaner, healthier choices.
“People are realizing that we have the technology to develop product lines that are natural, without chemicals and actually add value to the product experience - we have moved far beyond just putting vinegar in a pail and spreading dirt around.”
Image credit: Viktor Forgacs/Unsplash
Based in southwest Florida, Amy has written about sustainability and the Triple Bottom Line for over 20 years, specializing in sustainability reporting, policy papers and research reports for multinational clients in pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, ICT, tourism and other sectors. She also writes for Ethical Corporation and is a contributor to Creating a Culture of Integrity: Business Ethics for the 21st Century. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.