By  on December 22, 2011

Apivita, a Greek personal care brand inspired by the culture of honey bees, is hoping to find its sweet spot in the U.S. market.

The firm, which was founded in 1979, is arriving in American stores with three new natural-based skin care collections, all of which utilize ingredients drawn from bees, such as honey, propolis, royal jelly, bee pollen and beeswax, in addition to natural Hellenic botanicals.

The collections are Queen Bee, a skin-firming range aimed at customers 45 and older; Wine Elixir, a four-stockkeeping unit wrinkle-reducing, antioxidant packed range, and the Aqua Vita line, which contains 13 active ingredients — including geranium essential oil, chaste tree extracts, rose, olive polyphenols, oat and honey — designed to infuse moisture. Chief among the active ingredients in the franchise is a liberal use of propolis, a natural antiseptic used by honey bees to ward off infection within the hive. Royal jelly — also a hero ingredient — is the natural substance eaten by the queen bee, which allows her to grow larger and live longer than the other bees. Price points range from $18 for a hand cream to $90 for an antiaging serum. “We hope that the American consumer develops a deep appreciation and understanding of the Apivita brand and how we differ from other natural brands on the market,” said brand co-founder and president Niki Koutsianas.

The Athens-based company generated 35 million euros — or $55 million at current exchange — in nearly a dozen European and Asian markets this year. It is entering this market with a fledgling distribution consisting of 60 points of sale, including 16 Dillard’s Edge shops, five Soft Surroundings locations, as well as spas and independent and specialty retailers, such as Patricia Field. By the end of 2012, plans call for the brand to be available at approximately 175 points of sale in the U.S., including Apivita shops-in-shop at Dillard’s. Talks are also under way with unnamed direct TV retailers and the Hudson’s Bay Co. across Canada, said Byron Donics, founder and chief executive officer of HTI Collection, which is the exclusive sales agent for the brand. He added that Apivita expects to enter Mexico, Chile and the U.K.

“Our goal is to grow in a healthy, focused way,” Donics asserted. “We fully expect to increase our distribution in 2012 with impactful shops-in-shop as well as our linear presentations.”

In addition, Donics asserted that the brand recently completed clinical studies for its newly launched Queen Bee collection and that the results revealed 32 percent increases in skin firmness after four weeks. “I’ve never seen an emotional connection to products like Apivita has with consumers,” he said.

He and the other executives declined to make sales projections. But industry sources estimate that the tightly controlled rollout could produce a sales target of $3 million at retail here in the first year, with the possibility of doubling in volume within three years.

This launch represents a return to the U.S. for Apivita, which had been available here from 2007 to 2009 until it was discontinued due to difficulties with a distributor. Also, an American Web site, apivita.com/usa, was launched at the end of November, generating sales of over $1,000 a day in the first week.

During a recent presentation to editors, Koutsianas told the story of how she met her future husband, co-founder and managing director, Nikos Koutsianas, in 1972 in the Athens pharmacy where they were later married. Both were practicing pharmacists who shared a passion for nature and the company, which was billed as the first natural beauty care company in Greece, was born. Apivita currently owns more than 200 beehives on its farm, and produces its own natural bee ingredients as well as organically cultivated Greek medicinal herbs. “We have invested most of our time in researching the sustainable agriculture of medicinal herbs and organic beehives,” said Koutsianas. As a demonstration project, Apivita has re-created the ancient garden of Hippocrates on the island of Kos.

The company has won at least one fan on these shores. During the press event, Patricia Field, who stocks the line in her Bowery store, stood up and declared, “I’m 69 and still working the creams.” It is as if, “these products and your skin know each other,” she concluded.

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