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Burt’s Bees Broadens Retail Reach

Burt's Bees, the small but agile North Carolina-based natural beauty company, has stepped up plans to pollinate the mass market.

NEW YORK — Burt’s Bees, the small but agile North Carolina-based natural beauty company, has stepped up plans to pollinate the mass market.

In June, the $100 million firm gained chainwide distribution in Walgreens and CVS stores, and is currently in talks with a host of other suitors to enter more mass retail outlets.

The addition of CVS and Walgreens, which together account for 10,175 doors, more than doubled Burt’s Bees previous retail penetration of 10,000 stores.

Burt’s Bees’ swarm of new distribution activity stems from recent moves within its management team. Last month, the company wooed Mike Indursky from L’Oréal and appointed him to the post of chief marketing and strategic officer.

Prior to Burt’s Bees, Indursky most recently served as vice president of marketing for Garnier, which includes brands such as Garnier Fructis, Garnier Nutrisse and Garnier 100% Color. During his three years at L’Oréal, he served as vice president of marketing for Maybelline New York. Prior to L’Oréal, Indursky spent eight years at Unilever, where he held several senior marketing positions, including senior vice president of Unilever Cosmetics, which included brands such as Calvin Klein, Vera Wang and Nautica. The Unilever division was acquired by Coty Inc. in May.

The marketing executive traded corporate life for a niche company because, in his words, “To work entrepreneurially is part of my DNA.”

While the company’s headquarters and manufacturing plant will remain in Durham, N.C., Burt’s Bees opened an office in Manhattan last week, at 245 Park Avenue. Indursky, who splits his time between New York and North Carolina, will lead all marketing functions from the Manhattan office, and is currently in the process of recruiting a marketing staff.

Indursky rounds out the executive ranks, lead by president and chief executive officer Doug Meyer, who took over the helm in September 2004.

The 16-year-old company was purchased in October 2003 by the Manhattan-based private equity firm AEA Investors, which acquired 80 percent of Burt’s Bees for an estimated $175 million. Prior to that transaction, the company was run by its co-founders, Burt Shavitz, who retired in 1999 but still does personal appearances on behalf of the company, and Roxanne Quimby, who remains on the company’s board.

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Indursky stressed the company’s new management team is not looking to tamper with the equity of Burt’s Bees, but does plan to substantially broaden the business with an expanded retail presence and product assortment. Burt’s Bees, he explained, appeals to consumers with natural formulas, a nod to social responsibility, efficacious products and a quirky positioning.

Burt’s Bees has some 120 items across nearly every personal care category — from oral care to baby products — and is sold in an eclectic mix of retail outlets, such as Express car washes, Whole Foods Market and Ricky’s Urban Groove.

Indursky explained that Burt’s Bees has the capacity to double each product category in size and has forecast year-over-year sales growth of 20 percent for the company.

In the past, the firm’s marketing efforts have relied heavily on the praises of loyal users and its signature “hive” retail display.

In Walgreens and CVS, the hive fixture is attached to the side of an endcap and holds approximately 35 items.

In July, the company launched a $6 million print advertising campaign for the first time in its history in 13 beauty and lifestyle books such as In Style, Allure and Real Simple. Burt’s Bees will continue that effort with a planned $10 million ad campaign for 2006. In September, Burt’s Bees will relaunch its Web site,

Indursky noted, “All the people that never got to try Burt’s Bees will.”