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BlogSustainabilityTravel Essentials

Introduction by: Peter Marshall

As you will read, David Sternlight is a man on a mission. He believes that Cabeau’s travel essentials range brings a breath of fresh air to a stagnant market. In this first interview with trunblocked.com, we deep dive into the company’s ethos, its success story, the evolving product range, the importance of sustainability and Cabeau’s future business strategy. Cabeau is a game-changing company in travel retail accessories and the interview is a very good read indeed.

Peter Marshall (PM):  David, I think it’s fair to say that Cabeau is a remarkable, pioneering and innovative business when it comes to the travel accessories market. How would you define your USP?

David Sternlight: We’d consider ourselves an innovative brand who is always looking to create better product. We took a very stagnant, unsupportive design of a product and continually made iterations based on research studies and consumer feedback that are better, stronger and more supportive throughout the years.

PM: So you would argue that no one else is doing what you are doing?

DS: Yes, 100%. We don’t think there is another brand out there looking to balance innovation, comfort and support science alongside sustainability into something as simple as a travel pillow.

PM: 2023 has been a  very productive year for you when it comes to introducing new products. Can you briefly walk us through what you’ve launched to date?

DS: We have come back from the pandemic with a punch to the chin! We launched three products this year, all with our new, globally patented chinstrap technology that guarantees to keep your head up and mouth closed during sleep.

The Neck’s Evolution S3 was launched in March. The TNE, for short, is our update to the global best seller, the Evolution S3. True to our inventive brand, we created a super soft jacquard chinstrap that customizes the fit of your neck pillow and allows for a much more comfortable sleeping position during seated rest.

Our Evolution Earth was launched on Earth Day this year. It is our first fully sustainable pillow with the softest RPET fabric. It feels just like sleeping on a cloud! RPET is, of course, a fabric made from recycled plastics like water bottles.

Lastly, we updated our popular inflatable pillow, called the AirTNE with the chinstrap, so people who prefer to travel extremely light have an option as well. The AirTNE updates our Air Evolution and is a great option if you want a customizable cushion support.

These three pillows have changed the game as to how we are able to support a customer’s head in a fully adjustable way to fit all neck sizes in a 360-degree manner. This is something no other pillow in the market has ever done. These pillows provide a way where seated sleep is ergonomically correct AND the most comfortable.

PM: Just how much growth as a business have you achieved so far this year, and what do you see as the key travel trends that are affecting your business?

DS: The pandemic and getting travel back to normal levels was hard on everyone in the travel retail industry, as we all know. So we have been very pleased to have seen travel retail come back alive and grow year on year, especially in summer of this year.

Additionally, by expanding more into digital selling platforms and a health and wellness product line, we were able to diversify our business in a way that helped the brand awareness in travel retail grow even larger than pre-pandemic levels.

PM: TFWA Cannes is only a month away. What’s new from Cabeau’s increasing consumer travel products range that you will be introducing to the global TR market?

DS: In addition to showcasing our three new travel pillows, we will be getting valuable feedback from our customer base on a few new product options that aren’t ready to be discussed publicly just now – but you’ll be the first to know when they are!

PM: Travel accessories is an evolving TR market. It is also one that is highly competitive, with a number of well-established players as well as other players emerging who see the opportunity that Travel Retail provides. But is it approaching a degree of stagnation and me-tooism? I think you would say that you are bringing a breath of fresh air to the market with your products, reimagining the category – not just in the functionality, but in the overall design, too. What do you consider to be the biggest challenges you face?

DS: Yes, we would agree that we are a breath of fresh air in the world of stagnant travel accessories. This is because of our unwillingness to just sit back and relax with a good product. We want to keep improving on that good product and make it great. As we build these great products, we also make sure that we protect the product. One of the biggest challenges all manufacturers have is the ability to ‘knock off’ or copy a product. We take great pains to ensure our products are patent protected where necessary to avoid copycats and knock offs. So far, for our Evolution and S3 products, we’ve successfully defended our Intellectual Property and will continue to do so.

PM: Moving on, sustainability is on the lips of everyone in the business, as it should be. Yet there remains a lot of greenwashing. However, I understand that, for Cabeau, sustainability has been a core part of your business ethic and practice from day one. Can you elaborate?

DS: Yes, there is a heavy buzz currently around sustainability lately, and we saw it heavily featured during last year’s TFWA.

We have been committed to reducing our carbon footprint for the last several years by changing over to 100% recyclable poly bags and reducing our packaging by 43% in 2020, which is also saving thousands of trees per year.

In 2022, we joined forces with CleanHub, a company that enables brands to act on the global plastic crisis. We have officially been plastic neutral because of our combined efforts last year and will continue to stay plastic neutral going forward.

PM: So, CleanHub is clearly an important project that Cabeau has committed to. How does that project actually work and why have you chosen it above others?

DS: CleanHub works on preventing ocean-bound plastic from ever reaching the ocean. They do this by bringing waste collection systems to coastal regions where none exist and stop waste from leaking into the environment or burnt off. CleanHub works to collect it on a large scale disposal of the waste properly. CleanHub also typically brings jobs and revenue streams to lower socio-economic regions, allowing for not only growth in communities but continued ownership and investment in their own people.

We feel this is such a great, unique cause that we want our fellow businesses in the TR world to work with CleanHub as well. This is something that we can all make a huge impact on, and we’re happy to give anyone more information on the partnership.

PM: We know that Cabeau is enjoying exponential growth as a business. It’s a TR success story. What, then, are your key strategic targets and markets for Travel Retail for next year?

DS: Our secret sauce is our employees, and we’ve continued to build a world class team who are selfless and amazing to work with. As we look to 2024, we will continue to grow our Asian business markets. We also see potential in Africa and Latam coming in the near future as the collective world begins stretching their travel legs again more comfortably. We have big goals and we’re looking forward to upward momentum.

PM: One last question, David. If there are three things you wanted to say to the industry right now, what would they be?

DS: Wow, that’s a great question. First, please talk to me at TFWA about CleanHub. We feel so passionate about our partnership, we’d be happy to help other brands become plastic neutral as well. Unlike many sustainability initiatives that feel like pomp and circumstance, CleanHub offers complete transparency in making an enormous difference in the world.

Secondly, we must make sure we are blending our innovation with authenticity. Customers have more choices than ever. At Cabeau we want to make sure they know we’re thinking of them through the entire process – from creation to sale – so that they feel they can sleep well on their trip, knowing they have the best travel accessory on the market.

Finally, we are a fiercely adaptable industry. Many of us have been subjected to various external factors and yet, we’re still here and thriving – which deserves a huge round of applause for everyone involved. We have great partners and we look forward to making 2024 even better than 2023.

 

Peter Marshall

Founder: trunblocked.com/Marshall Arts

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