More and more people steer clear of animal products, and this trend has left its mark on the erotic market as well. Vegan lubricants and condoms have become a common sight on the shelves of adult retailers everywhere. But you can do more, says British online shop VeganToys. Not only are their products free of any animal-based materials, but the team also set great store by sustainability, environmental responsibility, and ethical principles. Jake Reynolds, founder of VeganToys, talks about the online shop and its guiding principles in our EAN interview.
When manufacturers in the erotic industry advertise their products as vegan, they are usually talking about lubes, condoms or similar products. How did you come up with the idea to create a whole shop centred around vegan sex toys? Jake Reynolds: My girlfriend at the time was very conscious about what she put into her body and the implications on her health, animal welfare and the planet. After using the lube for some time my girlfriend started to get some irritation. We checked the label to find an extensive list of ingredients we had not come across before; upon further research, we found they were cheap, unnatural ingredients, which were not good for our bodies.
Until then, we had been avoiding chemicals and preservatives in our diet on a daily basis, but we didn’t think to consider their implications in lube or sex toys. Recent studies on eating habits have generated numerous health warnings with regards to animal products. Despite the lack of extensive research detailing the effects of these chemicals in sex toys and lube, we wanted to work on the premise: if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it in or on your body. This conscientious vegan consideration is for both animal welfare and us.
After conducting further research, I realised that the sex toy industry is very unregulated; manufacturers get away with using cheap materials in their products to maximise profits at the expensive of peoples’ health and the environment. Hence the idea of VeganToys, a sex shop which provides you with the best healthy, guilt-free orgasms.
Could you describe the concept of your shop in more detail?
At VeganToys, we are on a mission to tackle the stigma associated with self-pleasure. Orgasms are good for your mind and body, and we want to encourage people to see it more openly as an integral part of people’s health and wellbeing. ‘An orgasm a day will keep the doctor away.’
In addition to our consideration for animal welfare and the planet, we want to extend the literal meaning of ‘vegan’, and its fundamental emphasis on ethical materials and health-conscious consumers, to the sex toy industry more broadly. VeganToys aims to bring quality sex toys and their health benefits to everyone.
We think many sex toys currently available are made to look very intimidating and therefore reinforce the stigma associated around self-pleasure. Through our light-hearted and fun designs, we want to emphasise that self-pleasure should be and is guilt-free and enjoyable.
What can you tell us about the team behind the shop? Did you have previous experiences in the erotic industry when you founded vegantoys.co.uk?
VeganToys was founded in London by Jake Reynolds, and, since then, has grown. In our previous work, we have always been conscious about our planet and of the short cuts business take in pursuit of profits.
Despite the fact that neither of us has explicit experience in the erotic industry, we were inspired by the sexual liberation movements of modern generations. The market is dominated by large firms with set ‘norms’ and procedures, which we believe do not consider the underpinning societal changes of the modern age. As newcomers in the industry, we are entering the market with a fresh customer perspective, standing out from your typical ‘sex shop’. Our ethos and culture are truly unique to the world of sex toys.
Sex toys are usually not considered products that have animal components in them. But is that really true? Which parts of a sex toy can be problematic?
Sex toys, in general, tend not to contain animal components beyond the obvious animal leather in some BDSM products. On a broader scope, condoms are not vegan, and the majority of lubricants do contain animal products. We are in the process of widening our product range into other sex accessories and will continue to respect the veganism of our culture.
Whilst many other toys may be vegan, they still contain harsh chemicals and materials that are harmful to the planet. We want to stop this, not just in our use of vegan materials but of those with the least negative implications on our planet’s wellbeing.
How do you make sure that none of the products in your range include animal components? Are there certain certificates you can go by, or do you have to rely on the data given by the manufacturers?
We have certification for all the materials that go into our products and make sure that they are of the highest quality. We do also have to put faith in the manufacturers to ensure quality control and quality checks are happening throughout the manufacturing process.
What are your current best sellers?
Our best-selling product is the iconic eggplant vibrator, amongst our glass range the carrot glass dildo is our best seller as it is beautiful in design. We do also offer combo deals included vibrator and glass dildo in a packaged option.
Our latest editions that we launched in May included the ‘Large Banana Vibrating Dildo’ which has proven to be very popular also due to its high vibration power and rechargeable battery. We are in the process of developing new products in house which will be ready for market this coming summer.
Are you producing some of your products in your range yourself or are your exclusively working together with established manufacturers?
As a start-up business, we are currently working with established manufacturers to produce our product line. However, we will be partnering with other industry experts to design and create an anal range of vegan toys which are made from sustainable and environmentally friendly materials.
When you look at the erotic market as a whole, would you say that this market puts enough emphasis on environmental and social sustainability? How would you describe the status quo of the market in this regard?
From the research we have done not enough is being done for protecting the environment in the erotic industry. A lot of products are packaged with unnecessary amounts of plastic when they could be using more eco-friendly alternatives. Although most toys are now made with silicon which is more environmentally friendly there are still lots of plastic.
Some of the larger companies are becoming more sensitive to their social impact and I expect to see more initiatives towards becoming more environmentally friendly from the larger firms. However, companies will go to great lengths to manipulate the consumer and society into thinking they are socially responsible when fundamentally they are doing in pursuit of profits. We feel it will be down to smaller companies, such as ourselves, to have these aspects incorporated within our total business models to make a real difference and change the industry.
How will the market for vegan sex toys develop in the future?
The food industry has seen numerous health warnings regarding animal products. Common sense says, if it’s not good to eat, you probably shouldn’t put it in your body either.
Veganism is a growing trend and a rapidly expanding market, which is not slowing down any time soon. Every day people are becoming increasingly conscious of the various materials they put in their bodies and the broader, more wide-ranging effects these have on society and animals. The recent shift in consumer buying habits from millennials will spill over into other industries beyond simply diet.