Crunch, Brush, Rinse, Smile: Unpaste’s sustainable tooth tabs

Lin Adler and Patrick Graham cross a bridge and walk towards the camera somewhere in Europe. Lin's long, gray hair is blowing in the wind and she wears light pink pants, a button down printed shirt, and a camel trench. Patrick has on grey pants, and blue-gray shirt and a dark gray bomber jacket. They are both smiling.

Lin Adler and Patrick Graham co-founded Unpaste

Unpaste co-founder and CEO Patrick Graham shares the story behind how the company got started.

Patrick Graham was on a business trip in the fall of 2022 when he learned Unpaste, a company he co-founded with his friend Lin Adler in 2019, had won Amazon’s Products for Tomorrow awards. The program sought out innovative products created with sustainability in mind. Unpaste’s zero-waste, chewable tooth tabs fit the bill.

Patrick admits he only entered the awards program because his sales team urged him to.

“I went over the application, and I thought, ‘There’ll be hundreds of thousands of people applying for this. I’ll fill it out and I’ll do it correctly, but there’s no way we’ll get it.’ I filled it out, and forgot about it,” he laughs. Patrick was more than shocked when he learned the good news several months later.

“We mostly use text and email to communicate at our company, and our head of sales called me three times in a row,” he says. “I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ It was very exciting to get the prize.”

An eco-friendly solution for plastic waste

Unpaste’s mission is to reduce waste by eliminating toothpaste tubes, which are one of the most common single-use plastic items that end up in landfills every year. Unpaste tooth tabs are made entirely of natural ingredients, and they come in compostable packaging. It’s simple to use the tabs: just “crunch, brush, rinse, smile,” as the company says.

“The majority of [the ingredients] in toothpaste is used to get it into and out of the tube. It’s not for teeth cleaning,” Patrick explains. “We know that you can clean your teeth very, very well with far fewer ingredients than are in toothpaste and without having a plastic tube.”

Three rows of Unpaste bags hang on a store shelf.

Using Unpaste tooth tabs is as easy as “Crunch, Brush, Rinse, Smile.”

A transatlantic product idea

Patrick worked in various consulting and IT businesses before founding Unpaste. He comes from a long line of butchers, and was raised in Hollister, California, where his family grew their own produce. He has always enjoyed launching new businesses, which led him to co-found Unpaste with his business partner Lin after she introduced him to tooth tabs.

When Lin lived in Berlin, she befriended her German car mechanic neighbor and his two brothers, one of whom is a dental engineer. The idea for Unpaste came from the siblings, who had created tooth tabs after they became concerned about what they believed were unnecessary ingredients in toothpaste.

“They were convinced that toothpaste was causing issues. You’re brushing your teeth, but what’s all this extra stuff doing in your mouth?” Patrick says. “They wanted to simplify the tooth-cleaning process while also eliminating plastic waste.”

Unpaste is its own separate company, led by Patrick, with the German side serving as a co-manufacturer. The company’s tooth tabs are reviewed by Aktion Zahnfreundlich, a German organization responsible for reviewing oral hygiene products.

“We thought the product was terrific, and we were really aligned with the mission,” Patrick says of his collaboration with Lin. “We’ve both been trying to reduce our environmental impact, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. We like that there are no toothpaste tubes or plastic, but we also like how Unpaste tabs feel in your mouth.”

Unpaste Patrick Graham headshot.jpeg

Patrick Graham is the co-founder and CEO of Unpaste.

Products for Tomorrow

As a Products for Tomorrow winner, Unpaste received a $20,000 grant, guidance and assistance with sustainability certifications, and product placement opportunities for their winning products across Amazon’s online site, including the Products for Tomorrow store.

The Unpaste team used their prize money to purchase more inventory to ensure they did not run out of stock, which was a relief for them given the unpredictability of shipping times caused by the pandemic. However, the benefits of winning the award extended beyond just the prize money.

As part of their winnings, Unpaste also received a climate footprint analysis by ClimatePartner, a ClimatePartner certification, inclusion into Climate Pledge Friendly, based on a qualifying certification, and one year of high-quality carbon offset credits, which is particularly important for their eco-focused brand. All of this helped Unpaste toward their goal of becoming certified climate neutral (emissions free).

Patrick especially appreciates getting customer reviews now that they sell in Amazon’s store, as feedback was harder to come by when the company only sold wholesale to eco-retailers. “We get feedback from other retailers, but it’s nice to get it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak,” he says. “You need to really pay attention to what customers are saying, and Amazon gives us that.”

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Living the brand mission

Unpaste is a remote-first company that operates without its own warehouse or office. As CEO, Patrick tries to own as few possessions as possible, living most of the year out of a carry-on suitcase and a backpack. He also hopes to eventually reduce the amount of travel he has to do for the business.

Patrick encourages businesses to be part of a bigger movement, like sustainability. And for those who find it difficult to break old habits, such as switching to tooth tabs, Patrick suggests the effort can pay off.

“There are many things we used to do in the world that we no longer do,” he says. “I didn’t know anything about toothpaste until a few years ago, and now I know more about its history. My mother used to be an antiques dealer; she is now retired, but her house is still full of stuff. I discovered a bottle of tooth powder on her shelf, which is probably over 100 years old. That’s all Unpaste is: tooth powder compressed into a tablet. So, we think, ‘This is Products for Tomorrow,’ this is a new product. But, in some ways, this is a throwback to more than a century ago. We simply brought back something from the past that was working better.”

Join the movement toward minimizing environmental impact

Whether you’re just getting started with a product idea or already tracking your environmental progress, the Amazon Sustainability Solutions Hub can provide you with data and resources to grow your business, develop more sustainable products, and reach a wider audience.

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Lola Okusami
Lola Okusami
Sr. Creative Writer