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Wine Grapes Propel Personal Care Industry

By: Leslie Benson
Posted: August 5, 2008, from the August 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.
Italy’s Faenza vineyards

Silvi ’59 harvests the grapes grown in Italy’s Faenza vineyards to produce its skin care line.

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According to Wayne Beckley, founder and president of Merlot Skin Care, combining red grape seed extracts with peptides such as argireline and matriyl 3000 helped to stabilize his products, maintaining a pH level of 6.2–7.2. When he discovered the high antioxidant quality of grapes, Beckley quickly transitioned from his background in chemistry into the mass drugstore skin care arena, formulating his own products and utilizing contract fillers to bring his formulations to market in El Paso, Texas. Beckley launched Merlot Skin Care, named after the red wine he says his research determined “women love most,” to five Walgreens drugstores. Since 2001, his business has boomed, landing the line in 6,000 Walgreens stores, in GNC stores and in Ulta shops.

Another relatively small business with growing global sales, Silvi ’59, has determined additional ingredients to complement grapes. Magnani uses sea collagen, aloe vera and other materials in her line, which are certified and microbiologically tested by her manufacturing partner. Magnani says she chose the contractor, located in Varese, because it is only two of approximately 100 medium-sized Italian cosmetic production facilities with an internal R&D facility.

“Apart from grape seeds, grape skins and grape leaf extracts, Silvi ’59 creams contain natural ingredients such as sage, lavender, mallow extracts, rosa moschata oil, shea butter, calendula, olive oil, helichrysum, sweet almond oil, camomile, liquorice, witch hazel, rosemary, chitosan, avocado oil, peppermint and even precious stones high in microelements (rhodochrosite and malachite extracts),” Magnani says. In addition, some of Silvi ’59 creams contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) for exfoliation and moisturize. “Since delicate skins can be sensitive to AHAs, we have decided to use only three of those acids,” Magnani adds. “We mixed them with the extract of camellia, which has an antioxidant and soothing effect. The pH of our creams is 4.5/5; healthy skin has an acid value of between 4.5 and 5.9.”

Small Brand Advantages

With product lines such as Silvi ’59 and Merlot Skin Care having properties that even sensitive skin can enjoy, brand loyalty remains high. In fact, Beckley reports that Merlot Skin Care has a 95% return consumer rate. The newest Merlot Skin Care product, a grape seed-based peel-off facial mask, released in summer 2008, sold out during its first run. “The mask developed as a result of finding a distinct need/void in the marketplace,” he says. However, Beckley didn’t use a major marketing campaign to get the word out. Instead, he and his team utilized drugstore promotions. He began giving Walgreens pamphlets about his products and samples to hand out, as well as videos for in-store TV sets. “We want consumers to try our products,” Beckley says. Apparently, he says the high cost of sampling has been worth it.

Appealing to a mass retail and drugstore consumer, ages 18 and up, Beckley also began marketing to them online, via banner ads on Web sites for magazines such as Martha Stewart Living. As for leading a small business, he couldn’t be happier at his success thus far. “You can move fast as a small-business owner,” Beckley says. “Big brands such as P&G don’t have that luxury due to their chain of command. It can take two years for them to get a product idea into formulation.”