JEUNESSE READY FOR U.S. EXPANSION

Byline: Soren Larson

NEW YORK--Jeunesse Cosmetics Ltd., the largest direct marketer of cosmetics in Israel, is chasing bigger game. The company has embarked on a path to grab a share of the U.S. beauty pie.
Jeunesse consultants started selling the company's skin care and makeup in the New York metropolitan area about a year ago, and now the company is ready for a full-fledged expansion, according to Jeunesse president Uri Ben-Ari.
"We've been having a few tests over the last year," he said. "Now we're ready to explode."
The Jeunesse consultants currently number 300, Ben-Ari said, and are scattered through 16 states. The goal is to have between 1,000 and 1,500 consultants in over 30 states by the end of the year.
Ben-Ari noted that Jeunesse had also run some print advertising in various locales in the 16-state area "in order to create awareness in these markets," and that more regional advertising will appear throughout this year. National advertising is a possibility, depending upon how far the company has extended its reach, he said.
Jeunesse, which is based in Tel Aviv, was founded in 1985 by two entrepreneurs, Ami Stiebel and Mordechai Starovsky.
The company has enjoyed steady sales growth since its inception, including sales gains of 50 percent in the last year. Jeunesse now accounts for 70 percent of the direct sales market in Israel, which translates to around $11 million in volume, according to Ben-Ari.
"The brand is extremely well established in Israel," he said. "We've succeeded in getting across a prestigious image."
Ben-Ari said Jeunesse had sales of "maybe a couple of million" dollars in the U.S. in its first year here. He expects sales could near $10 million in 1996.
The company expects the U.S. to eventually eclipse Israel, which has a population only of four million, as its largest market.
To build an American following, Jeunesse has created a promotional program where a caller to a toll-free number can request a visit from a Jeunesse consultant.
A consultant will then travel to the caller's home or office and administer a free facial. The Jeunesse product line is then demonstrated in the hope of generating sales and creating a customer relationship.
"The concept is to have direct, personal consultation backed up by quality," Ben-Ari said, noting that Jeunesse tries to maintain an upscale image with its packaging. "We want people to be unafraid to pull out these products in public."
Another Jeunesse hook, according to Ben-Ari, is the company's use of unusual ingredients in its skin care brands.
The firm markets over 100 stockkeeping units of makeup and three lines of treatment, each targeted at a different skin type. There are also specialty products, like exfoliators.
One skin care brand, Minarelle, contains minerals from the Dead Sea, which Ben-Ari claimed have unique healing powers.
"People have been coming to the Dead Sea since thousands of years before Christ and using it as a spa," he said, noting that the sea's waters and its soil are extraordinarily rich in natural minerals.
"It's standard in Europe for doctors to send their patients who have psoriasis or other skin diseases to the Dead Sea for treatment," he added.
Minarelle, a brand targeted at women with normal to dry skin, ranges in price from $15 to $40 for its Rejuvenesse product, an intensive encapsulated treatment.
Jeunesse's two other lines range in price from $10 to $25. The Placenta & Pentavitin line is aimed at "mature skin" and contains animal placenta, which the company claims promotes the skin's oxygen intake, and pentavitin, a combination of carbohydrates that helps deliver the ingredients.
Naturel is a water-based line for women with oily skin, mostly younger consumers.
Ben-Ari said the best-selling Jeunesse products, in terms of units sold, are the company's hand and foot creams, $8 apiece for a 3.5-oz. tube.
"The Israeli Army uses the foot cream," he said.
With Jeunesse now being tested in England and France, and with the products headed soon to Canada and Mexico, the company should enjoy rapid global growth in the near future, according to Ben-Ari.
He noted, "The baby boomers are seeking to look younger, and they have the money to spend."

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