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Boscia: From Japan, Naturally

NEW YORK — Boscia, a start-up skin care brand being launched in the U.S. by an established Japanese cosmetics company, is using preservative-free skin care in an attempt to make its mark on prestige beauty.<br><br>Boscia is the brainchild of...

NEW YORK — Boscia, a start-up skin care brand being launched in the U.S. by an established Japanese cosmetics company, is using preservative-free skin care in an attempt to make its mark on prestige beauty.

Boscia is the brainchild of Yokohama, Japan-based Fancl Group, and its founder Kenji Ikemori. In 1980, after a discussion with a dermatologist friend, Ikemori made it his mission to create awareness of the potentially troubling effects of cosmetics preservatives on sensitive skin. He located a manufacturer that agreed to produce one preservative-free cosmetics product, which he coupled with informational literature and began distributing to consumers via his bicycle. As Ikemori’s one-man operation grew, he merged it with his manufacturer to create Fancl, which is publicly traded today and had total sales of $700 million in 2002, an increase of 37 percent.

Twenty-two years after Fancl was born, Boscia — a combination of the words “botanical” and “science” — has become the company’s vehicle for translating Ikemori’s preservative-free philosophy to the mainstream U.S. beauty market.

On Nov. 7, Boscia bowed at Henri Bendel. Later this month, the line will hit five doors in Nordstrom’s Southwest region. The products, which are also sold on boscia.net, could generate sales of $2 million retail in their first year, according to industry sources.

Boscia’s initial expansion strategy will be slow. Caren Conrad, Boscia’s general manager of sales and marketing, believes the products could be carried in 50 doors within the first year. The company has no plans to market Boscia outside the U.S. at this time.

The line consists of 18 stockkeeping units: 14 topical skin care products ranging in price from $12 to $38; three nutritional supplements priced between $13 and $28, and a 100-pack of facial cloths for $6. The topical products contain two key ingredients: jojoba leaf extract, said to have strong antioxidant capabilities, and willow herb for moisturization. The supplements include a moisturizer and an antioxidant, and the third supplement is for the complexion.

Gen Inomata, president of Boscia and Irvine, Calif.-based Fancl International Inc., came to the U.S. in 1995 to survey the U.S. market for preservative-free skin care lines. But they seemed nonexistent, he said, so Fancl decided to launch a product it hoped would have general appeal — from packaging to ingredients — in the prestige market. An established mail-order company with 200 outlets in Asia and a customer base of three million, Fancl markets products in Asian communities in the U.S., but those items are not ideal for the mainstream, according to Inomata.

Boscia is the latest entry in a growing field of preservative-free beauty products, including Lush, Carte, Awake, Jurlique, Vivi Skin and Malibu 2000. Beiersdorf and Shiseido also have either launched or expressed interest in preservative-free prospects over the last seven years.