By  on February 4, 2005

NEW YORK — Israel-based beauty company Ahava, which hails from a country no bigger than the size of the state of New Jersey, wants to blanket North America with its skin care products.

Ahava products, known for mineral-rich formulas derived from the Dead Sea, began selling in the States more than 10 years ago. Today, it’s found in an eclectic mix of some 550 stores, ranging from Whole Foods to Bloomingdale’s. Ahava is also sold in The Limited Brand’s Bath & Body Works 66 flagships, as well as its new C.O. Bigelow format. Its worldwide business stretches across 25 countries.

To ramp up its presence on this continent, Ahava’s parent company, Dead Sea Laboratories — located on the banks of the Dead Sea — has ended its deal with Ahava USA, its previous distributor based out of South Carolina, and formed Ahava N.A. led by president Jerry Rauchwerger in collaboration with New York Accessory Group.

The firm will be charged with widening distribution of the company’s main collection, recently renamed Ahava The Source; a body care line for dry skin called Dermud, and its offering of antiaging products called Time Line. Retail price points range from $15 to $60.

Despite a boom in wellness products and day spas, Ahava sales remained flat last year, signaling time to revisit the company’s approach to the North American market, said Rauchwerger.

Ahava N.A., which took over distribution Jan. 1, plans to jump-start the company’s growth with brand-new packaging created by Ahava Israel, an advertising campaign and new retail partners. The goal is to grow its current N.A. sales from $14 million to $20 million by the end of 2005, and to reach $40 million in sales the following year.

New packaging, which launches this quarter, was designed to give Ahava a “more serious, therapeutic look,” explained Rauchwerger. He added that the addition of the subbrand The Source to the main collection was intended to connote the exclusivity of Dead Sea minerals.

Ahava’s marketing campaign — the first for the brand since it hit U.S. shores more than a decade ago — includes print ads that break in June beauty magazines, an aggressive public relations program led by the Gale Group and in-store events that will include sampling and gifts-with-purchase at department stores, namely Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Marshall Field’s and Lord & Taylor. Industry sources anticipate Ahava N.A. will spend $1 million in marketing and advertising expenses.“This brand is so ripe for growth,” declared Rauchwerger, pointing to Lord & Taylor, which expects its Ahava sales to double in 2005.

The company, which has outlined a distribution goal of 750 doors by yearend, is also eyeing specialty retailers, such as Saks Fifth Avenue.

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