Gear Hugger wins the top prize at Expo East Pitch Slam.

October 13 2022
Gear Hugger wins the top prize at Expo East Pitch Slam.

Checo Diaz, the founder of Gear Hugger, a nontoxic lubricant manufacturer with headquarters in California, wants more people to consider how oil is used in commonplace products. “I’m here to tell you that we’re in a toxic relationship with petroleum," Diaz said during his pitch.

Gear Hugger's inventive, multi-purpose plant-based lubricant won the top prize at the Natural Products Expo East Pitch Slam Contest on Wednesday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, defeating a group of ten Naturally Network products that had been pre-selected. “We're eating more sustainably. We’re driving electric cars, doing compost in our homes, but nobody's wondering what's lurking in our garage,” said Checo.

Checo used petroleum-based chemicals to "tune up" and maintain the condition of all of his equipment. The amount of dangerous substances Checo was releasing into the environment and his love of nature were at contradiction, he claimed. "I set out to develop a better, cleaner, plant-based method to maintain my gear and remove petroleum from the picture." Checo stated he wants Gear Hugger's multipurpose lubricant to be the natural WD40 alternative "a brand that is going to be for the garage like what Method is for the home" in order to revolutionize the industry.

With the help of his father, who is in charge of product development, and the family's combined 70 years of experience in the industrial lubricating industry, Checo and his company were able to start selling directly to customers in January. Family Handyman selected it as one of its top 10 new outdoor-living goods for 2022 a few months later.

Checo pitched the lubricant's uses for van life, house maintenance, and outdoor sports like biking and climbing, saying, "It has three times the lubricating power of WD-40 without the horrible smell." According to Checo, the multipurpose lubricant is 96% bio-based and free of PTFEs and petroleum, making it suitable for use around children and animals. Checo added with a chuckle that the secret ingredients in the mix are "mainly soy and coconut with hidden seasonings."


For this year's Pitch Slam competition, New Hope Network and Naturally Network joined together. Five of Naturally Network's regional affiliates held a pitch slam tournament for their members. The winning brands were given the opportunity to compete for the top prize.
  • Ryan Armistead, founder and CEO, Happy Moose Juice, Naturally Bay Area
  • Alexa Daniels, CEO and co-founder, KeJoym, Naturally Boulder
  • Erica Bethe Levin, CEO and founder, GloBowl, Naturally Chicago
  • Danny Schwarz, founder, Chuza, Naturally San Diego
  • Juan Giraldo, CEO, Waku, Naturally New York
  • Morgan Lerner, co-founder and co-CEO, GoNanas, Naturally Chicago
  • Stephen Caldwell, founder, ÜRösti, Naturally New York