NEW YORK — South Korea’s STC Biotech Group, a Seoul-based cosmeceutical and biological research company, is aiming for a fivefold expansion of its U.S. business by 2006. The firm’s strategy includes organic expansion via its CelGen skin care brand and further development of the English Ideas treatment range, which STC Biotech acquired in 2001.
That same year, English Ideas entered the Sephora USA chain and STC Biotech, an Irvine, Calif.-based subsidiary of STC Biotech Group, wants CelGen to follow suit. A distribution deal for CelGen with Sephora is imminent, according to STC Biotech president Patrick Yoon, and would add to CelGen’s current U.S. distribution network of more than 100 doors. He is also said to be eyeing Barneys New York, Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom — as well as select day spas — for further distribution of CelGen.
All told, retail sales for STC Biotech in the U.S. are expected to reach $5 million by yearend, a number that could approach $25 million by 2006, according to industry sources.
CelGen products are available in seven categories in the U.S. — antiaging, body shaping, body slimming, hair care, sun protection, cleansing and the so-called hydroceutical range. They use an altered form of water as an active ingredient, according to Yoon. “Energizing water,” as he called it, is designed to emulate the composition of moisture that surrounds skin cells, thereby aiding in absorption of active ingredients found in CelGen formulations.
Though CelGen is new to the U.S. as of June 1, it has a following among Asian women looking to improve appearances through topical skin care, Yoon noted. It has been available in Asia for the past 10 years, where annual sales topped $150 million in 2003, and are projected to hit $250 million this year. Currently, a much longer list of products is distributed in South Korea, Japan and China. The products expected to spearhead growth in the U.S. are a selection of its top problem-solving lines. Items like Heavy-Duty Cleansing Oil, $25 for 5.07 ounces, Cell Balancing Solution, $35 for 5.07 ounces, and Fat Burn Gel, $20 for 12.34 ounces, highlight the range distributed in the U.S.
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Leading sales efforts abroad is a CelGen product called Energy Crystal, which retails for $60. The solidified version of energizing water is designed to be dissolved in drinking water or broken up and sprinkled over food to fight toxins and promote faster blood circulation.
Yoon’s formula for a successful transition to the U.S. market is based on what he considers a well-defined target audience. “We have to focus on the niche area [cosmeceuticals] that people are [trying],” he said, “and the people who are afraid of using drugs because of side effects.”
— Allison Altmann