By  on January 19, 2012

In beauty, the color of the moment is green.

A number of smaller firms are expected to pitch “for sale” signs this year, in many cases hoping to attract a beauty giant as mighty as the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. or Procter & Gamble Co.

At the center of much of the chatter in financial circles is Yes To Inc., a skin care range that endeared retailers and shoppers to natural products with a carrot and a happy-go-lucky image. Several sources said Yes To Inc. is close to hiring Deutsche Bank to advise the company on a possible sale. Deutsche Bank, which declined to comment, is garnering lots of interest from potential sellers given it advised Smashbox in its sale to Lauder in 2010, said bankers.

Yes To Inc.’s co-founder, Ido Leffler, said the firm is not for sale, but it has been inundated with calls from all corners of the financial world. Leffler said, “We’ve been looking at potential advisers” to handle the volume of queries “so we can focus on continuing to run the business. Nothing has been done.”

Still, bankers are looking at Yes To Inc. as a hot commodity.

The skin care range — which began in Israel and now has collections based on cucumbers, blueberries and tomatoes — launched stateside in May 2007 in Walgreens and quickly garnered a flurry of attention with its paraben-free, antioxidant and Dead Sea mineral-powered product. Its whimsical product design and Leffler — the charismatic, orange-clad “chief carrot lover” — launched Yes To Inc. on the radar screen of industry stalwarts, including Ulta, Target, CVS Pharmacy, Wal-Mart and Sephora stores in Europe.

The now five-year-old brand — widely seen as an industry darling — attracted private equity investors San Francisco Equity Partners and Simon Equity Partners in 2008. Afterward, the company established its headquarters in San Francisco and begun expanding its distribution here and aboard. It is now sold in 28,000 doors across the globe and industry sources estimate the brand generates $60 million in retail sales.

Other companies seen as acquisition targets include Tarte Cosmetics Inc., which has received funding from the private equity company Encore Consumer Capital, and fellow niche brands Peter Thomas Roth skin care and Urban Decay cosmetics. Financial players are also closely keeping tabs on the botanical skin care brand Aesop. The Australian brand has a strong Asian presence, which could nicely suit a larger company looking to move deeper into the market, such as Lauder, sources said.

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