In the year since we last spoke to Julia and Jordy Kay, the co-founding couple behind Great Wrap have been keeping busy. Their company incarnated from a home-compostable cling wrap business, to materials science company — securing 24 million in seed funding, along with rebranding and launching a design-led dispenser made from recycled plastic bottles. We spoke with co-founder, designer and architect Julia Kay to find out why she’s created a dispenser worthy of our benchtops and how she plans to weave good design into Great Wrap’s future.
Words by Ella Liascos
Photography by Shelley Horan
A lot has happened since we last talked. You’ve rebranded Great Wrap, simultaneously launching Great Mate — a beautifully designed dispenser made from plastic bottles. Adding to that, a 24 million dollar seed funding round (big congratulations). Let’s start with the rebrand, what inspired the change so early in Great Wrap’s young life?
Thank you so much! Yeah, it’s been a crazy exciting time for us at Great Wrap. I think for me the rebrand was about showing the world the way we see ourselves. We are a material science company, we’ve improved our product to a point we’re proud of and we have developed more efficient ways of working with waste streams. Our visual identity is the first thing people see, before they know our story – I wanted to show the world we had grown up, although we’re a young company we’ve grown rapidly. We’ve been lucky enough to meet some amazing impact-focused investors along the way which has allowed us to accelerate our growth and bring on the right team to help us get to the level we want with our products. We’ve also significantly increased our manufacturing capacity, launching a new facility at Tullamarine. It’s a really nice story actually, the previous tenant was injection moulding petroleum plastic eskys in the factory. I like to think that our working with biopolymers in the same space speaks to the future we’d like to see not just in Great Wrap but in businesses around us.
“Design historically has been the tool by which we innovate.”
You’re an architect with a small design studio called Studio Kay. You can see that your design background has heavily influenced the rebrand and launch of your most recent product, Great Mate. What led you to steer the Great Wrap brand into a more design-oriented direction?
Haha yes, I am, sadly Studio Kay has taken the back seat over the last three years but I’ll be back!
For me, it was an intuitive step. Design historically has been the tool by which we innovate. Beautiful products help us to attract users that might not initially be drawn to our products because of sustainability. I wanted to speak to customers outside of the amazing cohort of people that already do the right thing in their homes. Once we had the wrap itself functioning properly I wanted to elevate the brand to reflect our growth. It’s been an amazing journey for me as I have been able to use my training to work with industrial designers, visual designers and creatives whilst learning a lot about how the products around us are made. It’s crazy but I’ve actually built buildings faster than it took us to develop and manufacture the Great Mate. There is just so much more to think about when something has to be repeatable at scale and last a lifetime.
“I saw the Great Mate as an opportunity to create a storytelling vessel, the real magic is the compostable wrap made from food waste inside.”
Tell us about Great Mate. Cling wrap is a utility item ordinarily tucked away in a drawer, hidden from view. What inspired you to make it worthy of our benchtops?
Typical cling wrap boxes ended up in the third drawer down, hidden away. We wanted to change our users’ relationship with cling wrap, by making it something they could be proud of and want to leave on their kitchen bench. I saw the Great Mate as an opportunity to create a storytelling vessel, the real magic is the compostable wrap made from food waste inside. We wanted to come up with a way to engage and delight users that may not typically be drawn to a product like ours.
The materiality of Great Wrap itself can occasionally pose some functional challenges, especially for users with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis so I wanted to make our wrap easier to use than standard cling wrap. Additionally, the slide cutter is housed beneath a button with no exposed edges making it safer than regular cling wrap boxes.
The whole dispenser is manufactured from rPET and injection moulded locally in Melbourne. We chose to manufacture locally so we could control all aspects of the design process to ensure the best quality.
Was the design-led casing intended to change the way we use and think about cling wrap?
Yeah for sure, we’re always hiding away products that we don’t like the look or functionality of in the bottom drawers of our kitchens. By tieing the experience of wrapping your leftovers to a beautiful object — you are prompted to be more mindful about the materials you are working with and talk about them. There’s a reason nobody was attacking cling wrap before we were and my theory is that it’s linked to that bottom drawer exposure!
“Art and design can really be harnessed as tools to engage your audience and evoke change. Throughout history, some of the best art has been created in response to some sort of crisis for humanity.”
As part of the re-brand, Great Wrap has also somewhat reincarnated as a Materials Science company, which is very exciting. How does this broaden or influence what Great Wrap will offer moving forward?
We have always been a material science company in terms of our work. I think seeing results in the lab and building up our own confidence around what we’re working on has been really influential in Jordy and I feeling comfortable enough to call ourselves this. We’ve started a lot of really exciting research projects in the biopolymer space which I can’t say too much about now but I’m really looking forward to it. I think longterm for me personally, I’d really love to see Great Wrap expand research
What role do you feel art and design play in the realm of sustainable innovation and positive change?
Art and design can really be harnessed as tools to engage your audience and evoke change. Throughout history, some of the best art has been created in response to some sort of crisis for humanity. In my work I see them as critical tools that can be used to generate emotion in ways nothing else can. I’m really looking forward to continuing to build this side of our business out. I’m also really looking forward to being able to collaborate with local artists in the future.
You recently secured 24 million in funding, which you’ve said will allow Great Wrap to supply all of Australia’s cling wrap. What are you most excited for this next stage of the company’s growth?
Well, we are on our way to launch in the US which is an incredibly exciting part of the journey. I’m really interested to see where the American market takes us. We are also really close to scaling up some of our research too. This means we’re a few steps closer to processing our own potato waste on-site at our new facility. I’m really excited to see the biorefinery up and running.
Are there any design-led innovations or company’s in the sustainability space that are inspiring you at the moment?
Obviously, I’m a major nerd around construction materials, Stonecycling is a product I’m particularly keen to work with on a future design project — unfortunately, they’re a European company so it’s been hard to get my hands on some samples. Fungi solutions are also doing amazing work in our space with Mycelium packaging.
Lastly, are there any new products on the horizon we can look forward to?
We are finally launching pallet wrap in 2 weeks time after 3 years of product development. If you’re a business or you know a business. Chances are you’ve come across pallet wrap in your time. Ours is made locally in Melbourne (by us) and breaks down in your compost pile. Get on it!
Julia Kay is an architect, designer and co-founder of Great Wrap, a materials science company that created the first home-compostable cling wrap made from potato waste in Australia. Along with her team, her mission is to "reinvent the material palette of the future."