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Australia’s Beauty Initiative

Karen A. Newman
Back to the January Issue

When The Australian Trade Commission (AUSTRADE) put out a call to homegrown beauty companies seeking access to the U.S. market, the result for 10 chosen marketers was unprecedented exposure to American retailers and beauty journalists through the “Discover the Beauty of Australia” trade initiative, targeting retailers and media through the distribution of products and promotional materials.

According to Anjali Jain, AUSTRADE’s New York-based business development manager, AUSTRADE has helped a range of Australian companies enter the U.S. market, many of which have become successful. Jain, along with AUSTRADE’s senior export adviser for cosmetics, Betina Reid, recognized additional initiatives were needed to build on this success in the highly competitive U.S. market.

They launched the “Discover the Beauty of Australia” initiative in August 2007, in conjunction with McEntyre Public Relations in New York, to raise awareness among U.S. consumers, beauty editors and beauty buyers that Australia is home to many great cosmetics and personal care brands, and to enhance the image of Australian cosmetics and beauty products in the U.S. in order to, ultimately, generate export sales.

“We’re building on the already successful image of the ‘Australian brand,’ which is recognized as the most marketable in the world,” says Jain. “Our unique natural resources and clean green image are [both] keys to our country’s success.” Among those uniquely Australian resources is a variety of natural ingredients, including those used for sun protection, as well as brands that build on the nation’s indigenous history.

“We wanted to highlight that many Australian cosmetic and beauty companies have niche products that U.S. consumers will find unique and [that will] pique their interest, particularly those based on the natural ingredients and indigenous history, which is already well known and appreciated Down Under,” Jain says. Another goal of the initiative is to inform U.S. beauty buyers that Australia is an untapped resource that can provide consumers with a variety of brands that offer something quite different and exciting.

While AUSTRADE has a database of over 800 Australian companies in the beauty industry, the 10 companies participating in the first initiative include Advanced Natural Skin Care, Botany Essentials, Intraceuticals, LI’TYA, LM Naturals, Mirenésse, Skin Doctors, SUN FX, Urban Rituelle and VitaMan.

The Time is Right
Urban Rituelle, with offices in Sydney and Los Angeles, is an Australia-made brand of bath and body care products. The company is the brainchild of Leanne Haining and Scott Kelly, who drew their inspiration from the fragrance bazaars of the East. Urban Rituelle celebrates 10 years in business this year. Kelly says the time is right to find success in the U.S. because “after nearly 10 years of manufacturing and marketing bath and body products we have developed a brand that is in demand by the international community. Given our extensive experience in the industry, and the knowledge that we manufacture only the highest quality products, we have the confidence to take on the U.S. market.”

In 1995, the pair began to produce and sell a range of vegetable soaps, candles and body care products. Their traveling experiences restored an appreciation of life’s simpler pleasures, and this experience was translated into a desire to create a range of products that enhance and celebrate everyday rituals.

Leanne’s background in visual merchandising and design combined with Scott’s years of experience in sales and marketing have helped steer Urban Rituelle from a small Sydney market into a successful international business with distribution throughout Australia and select global markets—including the U.S., New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Thailand and the Middle East.

Kelly finds some similarities between the Australian and U.S. markets. “In particular, I find that retailers in both markets are quite adventurous and are willing to try new brands,” he says. “However, the biggest challenge in the U.S. is standing out from the crowd due to sheer competitiveness of the markets.

“By concentrating on a niche market and focusing on both the uniqueness and superior quality of the Urban Rituelle brand, I believe we can firmly establish Urban Rituelle in the marketplace.” The firm already deals directly with Anthropologie, and Kelly said he believes boutique independent retailers and select specialty retail chains best suit Urban Rituelle’s image and marketing philosophy.

Mirenésse, a cosmetics company operating under the motto “Make up your own mind,” was started by Irene Patsalides, a pharmacist, and her partner Andrew Naumoski, who characterize their company as a personal venture into creating products that performed to their expectations, not hype. And, with “skin treatment benefits that deliver the results that other brands promise,” Mirenésse has been a top-selling makeup brand on HSN in the U.S. since 2004. Patsalides reports that U.S. sales have been growing at a rate of more than 300% annually. “We now feel it is time to enter the retail arena, due to public demand,” she says. “And growth indicators from our Web traffic also indicate this is the correct time.”

Patsalides says Australian brands are being recognized for their innovative products, creative design concepts and expert marketing, as well as the purity of the products.

“After seven years, when we have seen thousands of brands come and go, we are still winning awards for our products and formulations, and accolades from our loyal customers,” she says.

For the Mirénessse partners, the challenge in growing in the U.S. is the sheer size of the market. While marketing tactics may be similar in the two countries, the major difference is market size and potential. “It is much easier to reach consumers in all of Australia than it is to reach many of the consumers in the U.S. Obviously, partnering with a major retailer would be the ideal situation to gain the most exposure and would be of the most benefit to both of us,” says Patsalides.

Natural and Organic
Australia has a long history of using natural/organic ingredients, according to Jain, and because that history now coincides with the growing U.S. trend toward natural and organic products, beauty products from Australia have had a great reception. “Australians have a strong preference for natural products, and this has been a driver in the direction of the Australian cosmetics industry. Several of the brands participating in this program contain unique native ingredients,” says Jain.

LM Naturals’ Stretch Mark Oil, a blend of essential and cold-pressed oils that is said to be 100% natural, has been shown to reduce the appearance of stretch marks in just weeks, according to Fariba Fanaian, marketing director for the company and whose mother developed the oil. “When I gained a lot of weight and developed dark stretch marks while carrying my beloved son, my mother set out on a determined mission to find a solution that would help me,” says Fanaian.

After years of research and testing, the product was born. The patent-pending product comes in two formulations—for pregnant women and mothers. The brand is sold in the U.S., Ireland, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Mongolia, Cambodia and Malaysia. According to Fanaian, Stretch Mark Oil was distributed in Emmy Awards gift baskets, presented to “some famous mommies like Heidi Klum, Debra Messing and Jaime Pressley. We have also appeared in Mariska Hargitay’s baby shower guest gift bags.”

Says Fanaian, “I am truly proud of my mother’s achievements—it simply illustrates that with love and determination, anything is possible.”

Also in the natural product arena, Botany Essentials recently expanded beyond the booming Asian aromatherapy market into the U.S. due to the increased demand for natural, plant-derived skin care, according to the company.

“Botany manufactures 100% natural plant aroma product ranges specifically targeting the smart consumer,” says Celestine Hade, president. A new line of aromatherapy products marks the next generation of natural fragrance, skin and body care products for the company.

Also in the naturals arena, Advanced Natural Skin Care incorporates new scientific formulations with natural ingredients to offer intensive corrective treatments and products specially formulated for eyes, face and body. The products are hypoallergenic, include natural ingredients, contain no petrochemicals, are rich in antioxidants, contain natural colors and aromomatics and are not animal tested.

Other Niches
AUSTRADE’S Jain acknowledges that most Australians are raised with the knowledge of the sun’s harmful rays, and are, therefore, health- and beauty-conscious from an early age. “The drive to protect the skin with natural products is not seen as an extravagance but a way of life,” she says, and sunless tan specialist SunFX offers an alternative to the sun’s burning, damaging rays.

Men’s products still seem to offer an area for potential growth around the world, but Jain says Australia may be ahead of the game, and that’s good news for VitaMan. “As a result of Australian men’s naturally ruggedly handsome image, the men’s brand participating in the program has received extra attention from men’s retailers.” VitaMan holds nothing back in its marketing: “Capture all the finer points of natural Australian magnetism, magnify them, then bottle [or tube] them and you’ve got VitaMan.” The product range appeals to men, according to the brand, due to its nonthreatening and clearly masculine packaging, as well as through its fragrances and ingredients.

Future Initiatives
Building on these initiatives, AUSTRADE is planning to participate in Cosmoprof North America with the first-ever Australian Pavilion in 2008. Australia will also be featured as the “country of focus” at the show.

AUSTRADE also focuses on numerous markets around the world. It helps Australian businesses enter these markets by providing market advice, intelligence and support through its specialist advisers in Australia and through staff based in these specific markets.

There are many Australian brands available in boutiques and department stores around the world. Major Australian markets are New Zealand, the U.S., Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and China.

In January 2007, AUSTRADE assisted six Australian cosmetic companies with business opportunities in China through the inaugural Cosmoprof Shanghai trade show, attended by thousands of key Chinese importers, distributors and buyers of cosmetics. Even more Australian businesses were expected to feature their wares in AUSTRADE’s Australian National Stand at this month’s Cosmoprof Shanghai. The trade show is a regional extension of Cosmoprof Asia in Hong Kong, which is the prime cosmetic and beauty trade exhibition for Asia, says Jain.

AUSTRADE also had a pavilion at Cosmoprof Asia, November 2007, featuring 42 cosmetics companies exhibiting and resulting in 52 deals signed. In addition to AUSTRADE’S participation at Cosmoprof Shanghai, there will be an Australian Pavillion at Cosmoprof Bologna in April 2008.

This Just In
According to Jain, the initial reaction to all ten brands represented in the “Discover the Beauty of Australia” initiative has been very positive. “Retailers have been receptive to seeing Australia as a new resource/supplier of quality, unique products. Also, many products are based on natural ingredients and enhanced by Australia’s unique natural resources and clean green image. Consequently, some of the brands are currently in negotiations with a number of retailers.”
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