After a quick walk around the corner, we arrived at the third part of our journey - the soap factory. Upon walking into the warehouse, I instantly fell in love with the smells radiating from the room, and despite being the least impressive factory of the whole tour, it happened to be my favourite smelling one by far.
On arrival, I was immediately engulfed with a warm wave of Miranda Soap intertwined with a sprinkling of Maypole and a smidgen of Karma - it was like Lush had bottled happiness in a fragrance and was showering me with it as I walked through the doors. Home to only thirty employees, this factory is very much on the modest side, with only a handful of vats on the side to mix and make the soap, and then a handful of workers to pour, set and cut the soaps.
I was lucky enough to experience one of my favourite soaps, Porridge, being stirred at the time of my visit, and I cannot explain to you just how delightful a hot batch is to smell whilst cooking. As each vat can make over a tonne of soap at any particular time, it was not surprising that the factory was very quiet compared to the previous two. Not to mention the fact that as most soaps are also sent to shops whole rather than being sliced first, employees only have to pour and leave the products to set, before they begin the next batch.
During my scout around the factory, I had a chance to view the mould room, which contained thousands of containers used during the soap setting process. It was interesting to learn that some of their more simplistic designs, such as Bohemian and Sea Vegetable, are actually poured in containers that can be brought in local shops - not everything that Lush use have been specifically designed and brought in for them.
At the back of the factory, I witnessed miniature Maypole Soaps and Pumice Powers being cut and shaped from their moulds. Did you know that the latter foot scrub is actually shaped and trimmed by hand, once it has fully set? Seeing this made me appreciate the effort that goes into making these beautiful scrubs a little more.
The factory is also home to the creation of the Bubblegum Lip Scrub, and a small team of employees work solely on making enough to satisfy the huge consumer demand for this best-selling product. While all other lip scrubs are made in the same room, this Snow Fairy scented item takes precedence over the other 'flavours', just because of how many are sold on a daily basis.
Upon walking into the factory, I realised that I was standing in what was ultimately an actual kitchen. It was here that I discovered a handful of workers making the batches of fresh face masks, and I was lucky enough to see how hands on everything was - from the slicing of the fennel, to the peeling of the ginger. The smell that radiated from here was sublime, and while I was disappointed that the employees were making Brazened Honey, and not a product I could sample, it was wonderful to watch and realise just how fresh the masks actually are.
This point was proven minutes later, when I made my way into the main part of the factory and discovered boxes of fruit and vegetables that were being carted into the fridge. I was told that these were used in both the masks and cleansers that were prepared on site, as well as the snack bowls that made a daily appearance in the staff room. The consensus 'if it's good enough to go into our products, it's good enough to eat' was definitely evident here.
While observing this process, I learnt that Lush are in the process of opening up another factory in Germany. Originally, this was to help with distribution demands, keep products as fresh as possible when shipping between European countries, and try to lighten the load across the Poole factories. However, in light of Lush's growing success and expanding empire, it is now believed that there will still be just as much expected from UK factories: Germany has only served as a prevention from the Poole factories becoming overburdened with work.
Walk past the face masks and you reach the open expanse set aside for gifts. During my visit, the area was fairly empty, and aside from a couple of sets being boxed, there was not a lot going on. However, I was assured that come August time, the floor was by far the busiest for the company, and an impressive number of seasonal employees were hired just to fulfil the work that needed to be done at this particular factory.
Next door to the gift set area are two aisles that most of my readers will be familiar with - the online sales department and the Lush Kitchen area. Here you'll find almost every product that can be purchased online - all organised to make it easier for the employees to find. Here also lays home to the biggest collection of samples I have ever seen (see above picture) - an impressive feat by itself.
When an order comes in, the items are collected and ticked off, and are then passed onto another person, who will recheck to make sure that it's correct. Once an order gets to this stage, it'll be handled by yet another employee, who will package it up and get it ready to be sent off - placing next day delivery orders in red coloured carts and regular orders in white.
Alongside both of these aisles are a team of employees who monitor all of the orders that come in, and it just so happened that on the particular day that I was visiting, the Kitchen was home to the shirts, hoodies and totes that Lush were releasing for the staff that week. I felt a huge pang of jealously walking past the piles of clothing - made even worse when my guide joked that I could have one of everything and then retracted his statement a few seconds later. However, I quickly recognised just how privileged I was to be even walking in the factory at that moment, and I quickly shrugged off any negative feelings that I had harvested for that brief moment.
The back of the factory was where the solid conditioners, bath melts and oils, and massage bars were created. As to be expected, huge fridges were bursting with an abundance of melts in their various stages of completion. Products such as the You've Been Mangoed and Razzle Dazzle Bath Oils were displayed in their masses - the latter pictured here showing how beautiful they look while they await their final coating.
Teams of workers were allocated space across this area to remove each and every one of the products from their moulds, garnish them with lustre before boxing them up to go off to the various stores. While there wasn't anyone working in the massage bar area at the time, I was given the full details of how each of the bars were made, and why Lush as a company have opted to produce more aerated bars in their range.
Despite observing and learning so much about the company, I couldn't believe that it was only a little after 11am. With one more stop before I arrived at the Lush Kitchen, you would have thought that my nerves and excitement would have kicked in at this stage. However, with so much still left to see, my mind was focused on the final destination of my tour - the bubbles factory. And as you will find out in the last part of this series, there is so much fun to be had with bubbles!