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NEW YORK — Since its inception, Kiss My Face has aimed to be different. <BR><BR>In 1981, when the company first got off the ground, co-founders Bob MacLeod and Steve Byckiewicz filled their Volkswagen with their colorfully packaged natural skin...

NEW YORK — Since its inception, Kiss My Face has aimed to be different.

In 1981, when the company first got off the ground, co-founders Bob MacLeod and Steve Byckiewicz filled their Volkswagen with their colorfully packaged natural skin care potions and began to solicit natural food stores for distribution.

Today, the Gardiner, N.Y.-based company consists of more than 200 stockkeeping units and is sold at Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Vitamin Cottage, Earthfare and The Vitamin Shoppe. The company will expand its distribution in CVS stores to more than 200 units by September, following a successful yearlong test in several select units. Future plans include entering as many as 1,000 CVS stores. In addition, Target will begin carrying select products in 500 stores starting in October. The brand also has gained a following abroad, and is now available in 20 countries.

The team attributes a recent jump in sales and interest for their products to a new wave of consumers aware of the benefits of natural products. Many are now also shopping at health food stores. “Big stores like Whole Foods are attracting a new customer….They’re buying organic beef and suddenly they see an organic face cleanser — it’s all fitting together,” said MacLeod.

Besides being natural, Kiss My Face products also have creative names, such as Cell Mate 15 Facial Crème and Sunscreen. “We’re innovative, always coming out with new ideas and concepts,” MacLeod said. And customers seem to agree. Insider sources estimate the company’s sales for 2004 will near $75 million, a 27 percent increase over last year.

Starting in mid-August, Kiss My Face will launch a four-product addition to its Obsessively Organic line, one that uses only all-natural ingredients. Sugar Reef body scrub ($15), Clean for a Day facial cleanser ($12), Soy Soft facial cleanser ($10) and Balancing Act facial toner ($12).

The Obsessively Organic products are said to be as effective as skin care items that use chemicals. For example, their facial toner features grapefruit, orange, ginger and lemon balm essential oils, as well as seaweed extract to cleanse and tone the skin, instead of the alcohol blends relied on by typical mass marketed products.

This story first appeared in the July 23, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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Clean for a Day uses natural cleansing agents from corn and sugar to remove dermal impurities. A key benefit, company officials said, is that there is less risk for irritation when natural ingredients are used instead of chemicals.

MacLeod and Byckiewicz are confident consumers will repurchase their products once they try them: They attach a free sample of a new product to almost every item they sell. “Once we get them to try it, we have a huge amount of return customers,” said MacLeod.