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Natural Beauty Pioneer Enters Mass

Gabriel Cosmetics is in high demand as retailers boost their natural beauty assortments.

As health consciousness spreads, so does Gabriel Cosmetics Inc.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company’s namesake brand and its trendier sister ZuZu Luxe have launched on Target’s Web site as part of the retailer’s effort to build its natural beauty assortment. The launch marks a major move into the mass market for Gabriel, a nearly 25-year-old green skin-care and cosmetics pioneer that’s largely been found in natural food stores.

“We have been approached by other retailers, but the timing hasn’t been right for me or my company. I want to make sure we grow at a steady rate and do it right. I want to have really strong foundation,” said Gabriel Cosmetics founder Gabriel De Santino. “The timing was right with Target, especially with their online business. There wasn’t a huge commitment or huge overhead, and sales have been going extremely well.”

Target is pushing into the burgeoning natural beauty segment as consumer demand rises for purer choices. In addition to Gabriel, the retailer’s natural beauty assortment includes the brands Vapour Organic, Yes To, W3ll People, Acure Organics, S.W. Basics and Pacifica. Before gluten-free was a selling point on frozen pizza, Gabriel and ZuZu Luxe featured gluten-free and vegan products. Gabriel Cosmetics touts its products are made completely out of natural ingredients.

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“Last year, the company grew 12 percent. The natural products industry is estimated to grow around 9 percent over the next several years. People, especially Millennials, want healthy alternatives, and ask questions about what’s in the products and how the ingredients are going to effect their bodies,” said De Santino. “We have all the answers to those questions, so these are exciting times for us.”

The natural beauty landscape has changed considerably since Gabriel Cosmetics started and so has its operations. Established initially with skin care, the company branched into color cosmetics in 1995 and extended its makeup repertoire seven years later with ZuZu Luxe to make bolder seasonal statements. Rounding out its portfolio is Clean Kids, a bath and hair-care range for children. Gabriel is the biggest brand in the company’s portfolio, followed by ZuZu.

“When we first entered the market, there were probably three [natural] cosmetic lines, and what I have is now is that there are over 20,” said De Santino. “I have seen so many companies come and go. They try to expand too quickly or they compromise on their ingredients.”

Between Gabriel’s color cosmetics and ZuZu Luxe, there are almost 240 stockkeeping units priced from $7.50 to $35.50. The complexion category is particularly strong for Gabriel Cosmetics with mascaras also bestsellers. “I try to see what’s on-trend in the mass-market arena and duplicate it using healthy, beneficial ingredients,” said De Santino, mentioning sheet masks are recent introductions to his skin-care collection.

The company’s products are sold at more than 1,000 doors nationwide. It’s reached beyond the U.S. borders to Canada, and De Santino is weighing distributor deals to further boost Gabriel’s global presence. Two years ago, Gabriel Cosmetics opened a flagship store in Redmond with a concept showcasing its entire product line-up that De Santino hopes to bring to future locations. “The retail store has been an incredible opportunity for us to test new products and have people see our products properly displayed,” he said.

Going forward, De Santino’s goal is to give a wider swath of customer access to his products, but he isn’t hastily rushing into retailers to chase sales. “We are in a rare place where we have a lot of retailers come to us. I couldn’t ask for a better position to be in to find the right marriage between our company and retailers,” he said. “I am going to wait and see how things work with, and see what other options are available to us with other retailers.”