Direct-sales company Arbonne International LLC has exited bankruptcy with a bang by releasing its largest new product offering of some 150 skin care and makeup stockkeeping units.

This story first appeared in the June 4, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Arbonne revamped RE9 Advanced’s packaging and formula, a risky proposition given the antiaging skin care line constituted about 40 percent of its business since launching seven years ago. Arbonne also phased out cosmetics labels About Face and Virtual Illusion in favor of a more sophisticated Arbonne Cosmetics lineup, and replaced men’s collection NutriMenC RE9 with RE9 Advanced for Men skin care and grooming items.

The flurry of product activity was stoked by Arbonne’s senior vice president of product development, Peter Matravers, an industry veteran influential in the creation of Neutrogena’s T/Gel, and director of product marketing Roeya Badri Vaughan, a former Mattel brand manager, who both joined Arbonne about a year ago. They seized upon the opportunity to modernize Arbonne’s product portfolio and excite a field of nearly 700,000 direct-sales consultants as the Irvine, Calif.-based company left a rocky period behind with the emergence of parent Natural Products Group LLC from Chapter 11 protection in March.

“The business was getting soft and, because RE9 Advanced was our bread and butter, we needed to do something quickly,” said Badri Vaughan. Said Matravers, “It’s a different world from 2003. Then, there were a few antiaging products out there, but today they are prolific. Today, people are starting to demand proven results.”

Matravers believed the antioxidant vitamin C should stay the driving force behind RE9 Advanced, but it should be improved and paired with complementary supporting ingredients for immediate impact. He explained that updated RE9 Advanced contains a stabilized form of vitamin C able to be used at higher concentrations and a mix of other ingredients that includes algae extract, alpha lipoic acid, peptides, copper, vitaspheres, sea buckthorn oil, kudzu, marine lavender and beech tree to moisturize, amplify collagen and diminish wrinkles, among the many benefits.

“All in all, we’ve taken a more biological approach,” said Matravers, while stressing that Arbonne’s natural orientation remains crucial, as evidenced by the botanically based ingredients featured in RE9 Advanced. The best-selling product in the $35 to $85 line is the $50 Restorative Day Crème SPF 20.

Arbonne tested six different looks before settling on the renovated RE9 Advanced’s packaging with a color scheme of gold and dark orange, which was in the old packaging in a less rich shade. “The ones that lost out were a significant departure,” said Badri Vaughan. “The equity of the brand is in that orange. It is important to stay true to that equity.”

The packaging of Arbonne Cosmetics, however, is very different from its predecessor. Graphite has replaced light green as the dominant color, and Arbonne’s double lower-case ‘A’ logo is a prominent accent. The changes are meant to be “modern, but not alienate our existing customer base,” said Badri Vaughan, who added that the cosmetics assortment was reduced from 160 to roughly 100 increasingly versatile sku’s.

Arbonne piggybacks on its skin care strength in cosmetics products for eyes, cheeks, lips and face, the leading category. The $18 to $40 makeup boasts an array of ingredients to better skin such as pomegranate extract, hyaluronic acid, aloe, polypeptides, and vitamins A, C, and E, and what the company calls Optlight Technology to diffuse light in order to hide imperfections and help make the makeup feel weightless. “This is an important technology and will propel us to new heights,” said Badri Vaughan.

With the cosmetics line’s makeover, Badri Vaughan estimated cosmetics could become 12 to 15 percent of Arbonne’s business, up from about 10 percent. “RE9 enhances our business building activity. The cosmetic line is going to grow our business through incremental sales and by diverting their [customers’] spend,” she said.

For men’s skin care and grooming, Matravers pointed out that men have unique needs that require distinct active ingredients to address skin aging as well as to comfort skin and smooth razor burn. Among those drawn upon frequently in the $32 Post-Shave Balm, $22 Shave Gel, $30 Exfoliating Wash and $46 Facial Moisturizer SPF 20 are vitamin C, algae extract, sea buckthorn oil, kudzu, red seaweed, sea mayweed, bisabolol and mallow. RE9 Advanced for Men’s packaging is burnt orange and metallic gray.

Adriana Lynch, Arbonne’s chief marketing officer, lauded the introduction of new RE9 Advanced and Arbonne Cosmetics products, which began rolling out to consultants in the spring, for netting positive results for the company. “There has been significant momentum in the field,” she said. “Aggregated sales [for the two brands] are up more than 40 percent when compared to the same period last year.”

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