"We're not made to take chemicals. So why do we take them to get better?"
Founded in Lisbon in 1977, with the mission of making chemicals redundant, Biocol Labs is the post-chemical pharmacy, creating health essentials and supplements to support the modern day way of life.
The Biocol Labs philosophy shares many parallels with our own Lab. Just like Botanic Lab, they have placed their trust firmly in nature and believe 'that healthy and provocative choices are not an alternative, but the norm'.
We caught up with Biocol Labs founder, Christine Pausewang to hear more about their philosophy, vision and plans for the future.
Who are Biocol Labs?
Biocol is a 40-year-old, family-owned and family-operated, natural pharmacy founded with the ambition of making chemical remedies redundant through nature and science. Christian (my partner and the grandson of the founders) and I are running the spin-off Biocol Labs venture dedicated to a more direct-to-consumer approach, whilst the “mother” business is focused on a natural prescription approach amongst doctors and pharmacies.
How did it all begin?
The family business was founded in 1977. At that time Chris’s grandparents saw food was not as nutritious as it used to be. They also saw the need to create preventives and remedies that were non-chemical, but 100% natural and made from plant extracts only. Their first range of products was a range of minerals and trace elements, which they developed in cooperation with a team of Swiss doctors. When Chris’ parents came into the business, they further extended the range with products that target specific health problems for all life stages from childhood to seniority such as IBS, liver conditions, anxiety, depression and hyperactivity, amongst others - made for, and with, doctors and pharmacists.
Your product and website design has a very modern retro feel. What is the inspiration behind this and who is responsible for this?
In Biocol Lab we are combining nature and science with art, so all you see is produced in-house by a team of scientists and creatives working together. When we came into the business we galvanized the whole company around its founding vision: to create a post-chemical society. This society would be a place where healthy and provocative choices are the norm and not the alternative; a place where medicine is grown in gardens and cooked with love; a place where the truth, passion and knowledge has more value than trends, marketing and celebrities. Everything you see on the website is a manifestation of these beliefs. When you have such strong convictions and 40 years of knowledge, you don´t need to find inspiration elsewhere. That´s why we´re responsible for all the process, from R&D, to production, to packaging design and creativity. You cannot outsource your vision.
We love that the business is a family affair. You must be the healthiest family in Portugal!
Haha, we definitely all have our plant-based pill cabinet at home. Milk thistle, probiotics, digestion relief, you name it - and the Portuguese lifestyle is a plus, for sure. Achieving “good health” is much easier here than in big cities: the sea, the sun, a lot of vegetables and fish. Quality of life is much higher and that definitely makes a huge impact on our health.
How do you manage the challenges of running a business and any internal disagreements that arise when the whole family is involved?
It was definitely not easy at the beginning, but we have found a great way to work together. Of course, sometimes there is the risk of becoming too informal or too intense. We try to keep it professional, with fixed roles, clear responsibilities and awareness that in the office we’re co-workers, and at home we are family.
What were you doing before you became involved in the family business?
I was working in retail operations for Hugo Boss, Adidas and Karen Millen.
Biocol Labs have always been well ahead of their time, championing the super powers of nature for over forty years. What demand was there for the products when it first launched in the seventies?
Back then, the pharmaceutical industry was growing steadily and was in high demand. The only information you could get, was the information the prescriber would give you. So it was much more difficult compared to today to educate and show people why natural solutions work harmoniously with our organism and many chemicals don’t.
How has the brand evolved over the decades?
At its core the company has changed little, we still follow the same principle: to create the most effective natural products. Most of the products have been in the market for more than 10 years and we have not changed much in our formulations or ingredients. Turmeric, mushrooms, milk thistle, adaptogens, etc and we have been using these ingredients for decades now. A big change was our packaging: from a very pharmaceutical look (all black and white with words a non professional wouldn’t understand) to a packaging that says all you need to know in words you and I understand. And with that came a change in places we sell. Our products are sold in places where we like to spend time: hotels, cafes, concept stores and festivals.
Have you noticed a change in consumer demand over the years? For example, what is your most popular product now compared to ten years ago?
Yes for sure. People are so much more educated. They still have their excesses, but they've learned how to balance it out. For example, before, people celebrated hangovers, today they know about the damage it does to your body – so people are willing to prevent and take the time to protect and restore their organism before and after they drink. Something® for a mini rehab, does just that, so it has become our best seller. Ten years ago, it would have flopped.
Where are your products in most demand?
Biocol Labs is a community brand, we sell in cities where our community is based: London, Berlin, and soon it will be in Los Angeles and New York.
Where do you source your ingredients and produce your products?
We source our ingredients from all over the world. Our portfolio contains a variety of plant extracts. Many come from Spain, others like Ginseng come from South Korea, wherever we can find the best quality. We work with producers who have pharmaceutical grade plantations and certification and also do their own extractions. The remaining process is undertaken by us in our production facility, based in Cascais, 10 minutes away from the sea. We control the entire process in our laboratory: product development, formulation and production.
Can you name any individuals or companies that you admire?
- Parsley Health is a great example of a next generation of doctors acknowledging the importance of nutrition and health.
- New World Native. A community for holistic health.
What are your plans for the future of Biolcal Labs?
Creating the post-chemical society. This means building the next generation pharmacy, which includes nutrition, preventing and curing and a holistic approach to health.