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Frais Hand Sanitzer Goes Upmarket

Premium-ingredient formula aims for prestige retail channel.

LOS ANGELES —Journeying through Cambodia in 2006, Robert Main and Michael Davis-Smith found heavy doses of hand sanitizer a must, but they didn’t like the way products on the market smelled and dried out their skin.

Upon returning home to Sydney, the pair conceived of a business that would create products to fill what they perceived as a gap in the hand sanitizer market for a prestige player. Two years later, they launched the brand Frais and its hand sanitizer, called Les Huit, in West Coast beauty haven Studio at Fred Segal.

Frais’ formula uses 66 percent pure sugarcane alcohol to kill 99.9 percent of germs on contact, and a blend of eight essential oils, including ginger, tangerine, orange, grapefruit and cardamom. Frais, which comes in flutelike bottles, retails at $7 for 1.7 oz., $29 for 15 oz. and $33 for a pack of 140.2-oz. minis.

“We tried to keep a very unisex appeal and chose ingredients that would change over time like a wine,” said Davis-Smith. “We would hope it wouldstay at the prestige retail channel. We do not want to go to the pharmacy level at all. We want to differentiate.”

This year, Frais is expecting to enter about 25 doors and anticipates retail sales of $200,000, according to Laura Chisholm, who is handlingdistribution. Luxury hotels, airplanes and cruise ships are another channel of distribution that Frais is targeting. The brand did its initial testing on about 200 travelers, of whom Main reported 95 percent had positive reactions.