Who Invented Beeswax Wraps?
I, Toni Desrosiers, invented beeswax food wrap.
I don’t say it enough and most people think beeswax food wrap has always been, but that’s simply not true. It's undisputed humans have coated cloth for many purposes throughout history but when it comes to beeswax wrap with its malleable, tacky, waxy qualities for the primary application of fresh food storage, Abeego was in a league of its own.
Contrary to what some believe, beeswax wrap wasn’t found in a tomb during an archaeological dig unearthing a kitchen, at least, not yet anyway. While inspired by museum exhibits and personal accounts of how fresh food was stored, I took most of my inspiration from plastic wrap. Growing up with “clingy” plastic wrap, I set out to recreate that feature as closely as possible while only using natural ingredients.
When I tell people I invented it but didn’t patent, they usually fall into two categories. One, they think I’m lying, and two, they think I’m an idiot.
I can’t convince some that I’m telling the truth but once I explain why I choose not to patent it even the nastiest skeptics can wrap their heads around it.
Toni Desrosiers with her partner Colin at her first craft market in 2008.
THERE WAS NO MARKET FOR BEESWAX WRAPS. WAS THERE?
Initially, I explored patenting beeswax wrap. I met with experts and we weighed the pros and cons. I’ll never forget the look on one patent lawyer’s face, when he said, “This is a stupid idea, my wife would never buy it and no one else will either.” As hurtful as that was, he wasn’t totally wrong considering it was 2008. Plastic was entrenched so deeply in people's lives and minds that the idea of a plastic alternative seemed unnecessary.
My second most memorable interaction with a patent lawyer went like this, “You’ll never be able to protect this. You’re making it in your kitchen and so can anyone else. You’ll drown in cease and desist fees. Besides, one day Big Plastic will squash it.” He wasn’t totally wrong either. Judging by the countless searches for DIY beeswax wrap, the home kitchen is the most common place to make beeswax wrap!
Shortly afterward, I showed my invention to my peers in herb class. They said, “OMG, this is exactly what I’ve been waiting for.” I sold twenty on the spot and decided not to pursue a patent on beeswax wrap and launch it even if I couldn’t own it.
WHY DIDN'T YOU PATENT BEESWAX WRAP?
I didn’t want to blow my cash owning an idea - I wanted to sell it!
Shark Tank, Dragons Den, and other flashy investment shows have led the general public to believe a patent is the holy grail of all business documents. For certain products, it can be but sometimes having one can do more harm than good. Did you know there’s no “Patent Police”? Protecting a patent is 100% on the owner of the patent and it’s expensive! I started Abeego with $1200, a credit card and not a lot of support for an idea that had yet to blossom in people's minds. I decided to turn my attention to where my heart was, growing the best damn beeswax wrap company possible.
I wanted to build trust and trust can’t be built on secrets.
Opting out of a patent meant I could have kept my ingredients a trade secret! At first I tried to keep them secret but it just didn’t sit right with me or my customers. Beeswax wrap was a new idea. People didn’t understand it and they didn’t 100% trust the 27 year old holistic nutritionist with “secret ingredient” food wraps, especially since plastic had just been outed for using BPA in their products. I decided to take the lead and offer product transparency. I believe you deserve to know what’s touching your food so I published my full ingredient list in 2009. It’s found on our packaging, website, and anywhere else our brand lives. Our formula has been the inspiration for millions of beeswax wraps and what’s better?—no hidden ingredients, no matter the brand! By adopting product transparency and leading the way, everyone else has followed suit.
I didn’t have a billion dollar budget and quickly learned my competitors' marketing dollars were my marketing dollars.
There was no question, my invention was going to turn the food storage industry upside down. A lone gal with one megaphone could never convince the world that the institution of plastic wrap was wrong and it had run its course. You have to remember in 2008 almost no one was talking about plastic and the impact it had on our food, health and planet. At the time, challenging plastic wrap was laughable and people literally laughed in my face at my expense! Not patenting beeswax wrap was a willful, conscious decision and in the end a damn smart one too. It turns out, more lone folks with megaphones bring relatively unknown ideas to the surface. All of a sudden more brands were selling it, talking about it and their marketing dollars became my marketing dollars. Abeego grew exponentially as a result.
WOULD YOU PATENT BEESWAX WRAP IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME?
Honestly, no. I think the way things turn out is the way they turn out. You can only move forward and apply the lessons you’ve learned to the next thing. Does that mean I don’t have regrets? Nope. I have two huge regrets.
No Gold Standard for beeswax wrap means customers suffer.
I wish I would have set the Gold Standard for beeswax wrap in 2008. I always knew I’d inspire others and while some wraps are pretty decent, I never really anticipated how bad some of them would be! The main issue is that no one really understands what they are trying to make and customers don’t really understand what they should be looking for. As a result, beeswax wrap is too sticky, too thin, too stiff, too thick, and too smelly. They crack, crumble, peel or wear out in a few washes. In the end, the customer suffers and it reduces the whole category to a gimmick and that breaks my heart.
Female inventors are overlooked and it sucks to be a statistic.
Female inventors have historically been overlooked (Hedy Lamarr or Mary Anderson, anyone?) but it’s my fault no one knows I’m the inventor of beeswax wrap. I was quiet when other brands claimed to rift on oilcloth or find it in king tut’s tomb after they bought Abeego or in some cases met with me personally. I was meek when customers ignored me and instead asked my husband how he came up with the idea. I smiled and didn't correct the interviewers when they refused to credit me as the inventor. I sat back while the world changing idea I invented slipped away.
My advice to any woman is if you’ve got an idea you believe in, be loud and aggressive early, patent or not, because 15 years later, it’s a heck of a lot harder to convince people you're the inventor.
Maybe one day I’ll be recognized for inventing beeswax wrap, even a mention on Wikipedia would be nice! In the meantime, I’m focused on being the Mother of Beeswax Wrap because the concept is too important to end up being another gimmick that’s forgotten about the next time Big Plastic comes out with a new product and a billion dollars to advertise it. For now, I rest easy knowing it spans the globe, I’m the Mother of it all and Abeego is the original beeswax wrap.
On a mission to Keep Food Alive, Abeego is rewriting the story on fresh food preservation. Hellbent on debunking the "airtight" myth, Abeego offers food wrap that protects and breathes, mimicking nature's peel to keep fresh food for what feels like forever. Abeego is B Corp Certified, proudly made in Canada and uses pure Canadian beeswax to make Canada's leading beeswax wrap.