By  on November 2, 2007

LOS ANGELES — Alterna is not letting the natural products rage pass it by.

The Los Angeles-based professional hair care company has reformulated its Hemp line with certified organic botanicals and organic hemp seed oil. The result is Hemp Organics, which will launch next month with six products: repair shampoo, for $23; shine shampoo, $23; straight shampoo, $23; repair conditioner, $28; shine conditioner, $23, and straight conditioner, $23.

"We wanted to give people looking for natural, organic and vegan a luxury option," said Alterna chief executive officer Paul Johnson. "When you think about organic, natural or vegan, you think about Whole Foods. You don't think of department stores. This group of people wants both. We don't want them to suffer."

Designed in-house, the packaging is bright and clear: Straight items are housed in red bottles, shine products in orange and repair products in yellow. The bottles are recyclable and made from postconsumer materials. "We wanted to keep the heritage of Alterna, while making the packaging eco-friendly and attractive to our consumer," explained Johnson.

Although the line is sulfate-free, it is not paraben-free — yet. However, Alterna plans to eliminate all those preservatives from its products starting next year. The removal of parabens is part of a yearlong effort to update Alterna's formulas. "It has been a process to take our products to the next level," said Johnson.

The Hemp Organics line builds on Alterna's reputation for finding high-end, occasionally unusual ingredients to foster healthy hair. The brand's Caviar Anti-Aging collection of products, released last year, has generated publicity for the company (it was recently mentioned on ABC's "The View") and is now the top-selling line in Alterna's portfolio.

Quality ingredients come with a price. The Hemp Organics products are about $3 more expensive than their predecessors. "I think people come to us for technology and when they want the best," said Johnson. "That is a clientele that realizes that if you pay a little bit more, you get something better for your hair."

Therese Tolan, a senior category manager at, which introduced Alterna last spring, wasn't concerned that the extra dollars would be a problem for the Web site's natural hair care shoppers. "Price is not something I think our customers are concerned with. They really look into the ingredients," she said. "In the case of Alterna, they are looking for hemp [seed] oil."After 10 years in business, Alterna has spread its reach across the U.S., although its heaviest concentration remains on the West Coast, and to 35 nations outside the U.S. But Johnson feels that the organics line can help the $30 million brand attract an audience previously untapped. "We are in a very 'green' type of market," he said. "If that opens us up to more doors, then we will be successful with this new launch."

Alterna, which is owned by San Francisco-based private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners, originally unveiled hemp products around six years ago. Since then, Johnson said hemp has become increasingly mainstream, and he predicted the popularity of the ingredient would help the hemp line's sales double with the formula renovation. Hemp Organics products still contain the previous items' Enzymetherapy system meant to deliver nutrients to the hair and follicles.

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