Propoline conditioner and shampoo.

Athens-based skin care marketer Apivita is shifting its focus to the international stage, launching new products and upgrading packaging in a bid to top 32.5 million euros, or $47.9 million at current exchange, in sales for 2008.

Athens-based skin care marketer Apivita is shifting its focus to the international stage, launching new products and upgrading packaging in a bid to top 32.5 million euros, or $47.9 million at current exchange, in sales for 2008.

The firm, which was founded with the opening of an Athens pharmacy in 1972 — followed by a product line called Propoline in 1979 — has up to this point made products for the domestic Greek market and about 20 export markets. Now, the aim is to develop new products tailored for specific markets like the U.S., Europe and Japan.

This means meeting consumer preferences as well as legislative regulations in each market, according to vice president and export director Alexandros Argyropoulos. While the firm has no plans to customize new formulations from scratch for each market, it intends to make variations to products based on the demands of a particular market, according to Argyropoulos.

Apivita, which takes its name from two Latin words — apis, which means bee, and vita, which means life — markets some 300 stockkeeping units across several brands, including the firm’s original Propoline line, a 100-item collection of hair, oral, skin and body care products ($7-$20). There’s also the 150-item Aromatherapy line, a face and body care collection that will soon be renamed Apivita ($12-$40); Express, a line of 25 masques with sales of about three million units a year ($9-$24), and Apitherapy, a brand of nutritional supplements like bee pollen ($80-$100).

The company, which had revenues of 26 million euros, or $38.3 million, in 2007, a 22 percent increase from 2006, also markets a line of hotel amenities and a roster of spa treatments.

All of Apivita’s brands are being repackaged to “unify” the different lines, said Argyropoulos during a recent interview in New York. The Propoline range, which executives claim has a market share of about 40 percent in the Greek pharmacy channel on annual sales of about 600,000 bottles of shampoo alone, is slated to roll out in the U.S. with new packaging early next month.

Additionally, Apivita plans to launch outside Greece in spring a line of seven antiwrinkle and firming skin care products called Queen Bee. The line, which replaces the treatment component of the existing Aromatherapy line, will employ royal jelly and honey and will include one ingestible product. Serums and creams in the line, which are designed to stimulate the production of collagen-producing fibroblasts, will be priced from 60 euros, or $88.35, to 75 euros, or $110.45.

This story first appeared in the January 4, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Apivita founder Nikos Koutsianas, who has mixed the disciplines of pharmacy and beekeeping, was inspired to launch the brand by his love of Greek flora. To this day, Apivita maintains a garden on the island of Kos containing 256 therapeutic plant species that were said to be used by Hippocrates.

“The bees have what it takes to make cosmetic products,” he said, pointing to the honey and propolis (a waxy substance employed for its antiseptic properties) produced within beehives. Bees also inspired the Apivita logo, which is a representation of the Bee of Malia, a piece of Minoan jewelry from the 16th century B.C.

The firm, which claims to be the oldest producer of natural cosmetics in Greece, also contends that with its in-house research and development department, it is the only company producing extracts from Greek herbs on its own. Apivita’s skin and body care products employ green tea extract and its hair care products feature 22 organic extracts, including rosemary. Products are free of parabens, propylene glycol and silicone.

Apivita operates a flagship in Athens as well as a corner in Notos Galleries, the Greek department store. It also has distribution in 4,000 pharmacies in Greece, and some spas there. The firm plans to open a new manufacturing plant in mid-2009 that is to contain a spa for employees and VIPs.

As part of its international focus, Apivita plans to expand into six department store corners in China as well as open flagships in Beijing and Shanghai.

“Asia is our biggest area of international growth,” said Argyropoulos. In Hong Kong, he noted, the brand has seven points of sale, including one flagship and two department store corners. In August, Apivita entered the South Korean market, followed by Russia in October.

In the U.S., the brand is carried in nearly 200 locations including C.O. Bigelow, selected Nordstrom stores, Studio Fred Segal and Pure Beauty. The lines that are best represented in the U.S. are Propoline and Express. International growth plans also include the U.S. market, where “we are looking at a U.S. flagship as a possibility down the road,” said Argyropoulos.

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