When I was a child, I dreamed of visiting Willy Wonka’s magical chocolate factory. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible, since it only ever existed in author Roald Dahl’s fabulous imagination. But yesterday, I was invited to do the next best possible thing – tour the Lush factory in Toronto, which fulfilled all my latent Wonka cravings.
The factory lived up to my wildest expectations, with its giant vats of bubbling brew; workers who were busy shaping, pounding, and stirring; gigantic mixers and cranes for heaving ingredients hither and thither; whizzing machines, spinning wheels, and gurgling hoses; and spectacular stacks of colorful products waiting to be sent to eager customers all over North America.
Lush is a natural cosmetics and skin care company with more than 930 stores worldwide in 49 countries. It is well known for its fierce stance against animal testing and vocal campaigns for animal rights, as well as its unusual fragrant and colorful soaps, lotions, and bath bombs. An impressive 35 percent of products are package-free, which gives Lush big bonus points from a zero-waste perspective.
The Toronto facility, which includes three buildings and employs 600 people full-time, supplies products for all North American stores, assisted by a smaller factory in Vancouver. (Other major facilities exist in the United Kingdom.) I was curious to learn that, by mid-summer, Lush must start preparing for Christmas. This means a massive hiring spree and round-the-clock shifts. Last year, the Toronto factory hired an additional 1,358 people to work from July till December to make enough stock.
Whether you’re a Lush addict, a green beauty fan, an animal rights activist, or a Willy Wonka dreamer, come join me on this curious journey through a fascinating place where all products are still made by hand because, as brand and product trainer Sara Ponte told me, “We’d rather give jobs to people than machines.”