Are your cleaning products vegan-friendly and sustainable? Anne-Sophie Flurry’s SHU GUM uses natural and sustainable ingredients to protect against bacteria buildup in shoes.
Anne-Sophie Flurry is a neuroscience researcher, an entrepreneur and the creator of SHU GUM, a specially formulated gum to protect against the buildup and effects of bacteria. Not only that, but the compound, similar to slime or putty, is 100% vegan and sustainable.
The feet have around 250,000 sweat glands, producing half a pint of sweat daily. So, when wearing shoes, a closed, warm and dark environment is created, providing a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and infections.
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Setting up SHU GUM
It was her brother developing Athlete’s Foot on a holiday in the Swiss Mountains that inspired Flurry to create Shu Gum. “We were still going hiking every day and the problem was that the doctors gave him a salve for his foot,” she recalls. “When he’d put it on and wear his shoes and go out, it’d be gross and sticky. If you already have a foot infection, that’s quite uncomfortable.”
This brought to Flurry’s attention the limited options to treat such infections, and how they’d usually involve some kind of discomfort or compromise. Additionally, fungal spores remain inside the shoe even after the foot has been cured, risking reinfection, which, Flurry explains, a lot of treatments don’t address.
Flurry’s father worked in the toy industry and invented slime, owning a factory that produced it, so it was always used in her family as a useful compound. “When we were young and had sunburn, we put it on our shoulders as it cooled it down without sticking to us. So, from then on, I always knew there was probably some healing properties that you could use from it.”
So, as a solution to treating her brother’s infection, she and her family decided to mix the anti-fungal treatment with slime compounds to clean both the shoe and foot itself, which was used as an alternative treatment in her home from then on.
Vegan and sustainable
Flurry had been working on a neuroscience PhD when she decided to start working on SHU GUM, as she wanted to apply her knowledge to the real world. “You find out all these amazing things [in the PhD], and you have to evaluate how it could play into real life, but you don’t actually do it,” she says. “There were so many alternatives to real-world problems that I know about, but I wasn’t doing anything with it, so I quit the PhD and I thought this was a great place to start, as it’s something we’d done for a while and we know works.”
SHU GUM is made from natural and vegan-friendly ingredients: Guar gum (sustainably sourced in India), water, alcohol and essential oil isolates. Flurry explains she wanted to create a product that reflected her values of ethical shopping: “I really pay attention to where I spend my money and I wasn’t going to make a product that didn’t represent my values — how can I back something that I don’t really agree with? So, every step of the way, we made sure it’s as eco-friendly as possible.”
As a vegan, she also wanted to ensure her product was vegan-friendly. Flurry went vegan five years ago and hasn’t looked back since. After watching documentaries such as What the Health and Earthlings, she decided to go fully plant-based for both health and moral reasons. “Even though you’re aware of animal treatment as a meat-eater, you turn a blind eye because it’s so normalised,” she says. “You grow up with it, and from watching Earthling, it was more of a moral dilemma that I had, where I couldn’t justify it. I’ve not had meat since then.”
Standing out from the rest
The compound is not only natural, but biodegradable and sustainable, something the cleaning industry doesn’t usually address. Other alternatives to deal with cleaning footwear and removing odour are usually foot sprays and foot deodorants, which are aerosols that damage the ozone. Flurry explains that these don’t actually target the problem: “You’re thinking my feet smell because I’m doing sports, so I’ll use a foot deodorant, but what you need to do is actually rid the shoe of bacteria, otherwise it’ll keep doing it.”
Ethical consumer spending has hit record levels in the UK, with 43% of UK consumers choosing brands due to their environmental values, something reflected in SHU GUM. “People are realising it’s about value over profit,” notes Flurry, “and will now spend their money in line with their values and on something that’s well produced and pays workers properly.”
She also hopes the product will encourage people to keep their existing shoes, instead of throwing them away when they are no longer clean. Combined with the coronavirus and the rise in ethical shopping, the need for vegan and sustainable cleaning products is becoming more important than ever.
Although having launched sales earlier in the year, due to Covid-19, further sales and the official launch party has been delayed. But Flurry hopes to do it as soon as things are eased and has an order coming in a few weeks.
Use the code ‘TVR’ for a special £10 off SHU GUM.