TEA TREE’S DUAL PUSH

Byline: Soren Larson

NEW YORK — Vitamins have been the big buzz in skin care of late. Less heralded, though starting to generate interest, is an exotic ingredient called tea tree oil.
Now, a company called Tea Tree Solutions is hoping to take advantage of both these trends.
The firm, which already sells its skin care brand in five doors of Neiman Marcus, is launching a 13-product vitamin collection April 28 in the chain’s full 30-door distribution.
The vitamin range will be stocked next to the company’s treatment line, which is based on tea tree oil, a natural ingredient derived from the Australian tea tree.
The philosophy behind the vitamins, according to Tea Tree Solutions president Jodi Drexler-Billet, is that when it comes to a health and beauty regimen, “inner beauty” is as important as outer appearance.
It also relates to “the current interest in fitness,” she added. “People are interested in being healthy. It makes perfect sense that when they’re at the counter looking for a skin care product that they would be drawn to additional products like [vitamins].”
John Stabenau, vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Neiman’s, agreed that the concept should appeal to health-conscious consumers. “It’s a way of life,” he said. “A lot of people are thinking this way.
“We’re always interested in trying out new and different directions,” he added. “It’s an experiment that we think will work. Hopefully, we can build it into something.”
Over the last few years, ingestible vitamins that purportedly have beauty benefits have been launched by a number of major mass market players, including Revlon, Avon and Mary Kay, along with a number of smaller direct marketers.
Vitamins are reportedly one of the fastest growing segments in mass outlets, with last year’s sales exceeding $1.8 billion.
Tea Tree Solutions is connected to a long history with vitamins, as its parent company, Consac Industries, was founded by Drexler-Billet’s parents in 1975 to sell vitamins in health stores. The firm’s Country Life vitamins and health-related products are still on the market.
Now, Tea Tree Solutions hopes the movement will take shape in the upper tier of the industry. Using vitamins as lead ingredients in skin care is already a hot marketing trend — Origins even named a moisture lotion Night-a-Mins — but until now, no one in the prestige arena has sold the vitamins by themselves.
With its Vitamin Collection, Tea Tree Solutions will recommend individual vitamins for shoppers’ specific concerns — for example, the Cal-Mag Complex of calcium and magnesium for strengthening bones and muscles, or a concoction called Hair & Nails. Advisers will also develop entire programs, which will include formulas like Stress Management or GoodNite Factors.
While the vitamins, which Drexler-Billet said contain only natural ingredients, are geared for use by women, the collection will also include an item called For Men.
Prices range from $16 for a jar of Vitamin C 1000 to $30 for Skin Care Formula.
The company’s skin care is also sold in four Nordstrom doors as well as 10 independent specialty stores across the country, and the line will be rolled out to the full Neiman’s chain this year.
Among other traditional products, like face cleansers and moisturizers, is the pure oil itself: a 1.7-oz. bottle of the firm’s Organically Grown Tea Tree Oil sells for $25. The rest of the line ranges from $4.50 for a lip balm to $18 for an 8-oz. body wash to $25 for a 2-oz. moisturizer.
Together, the vitamins and treatment could near the $500,000 mark at retail this year, according to industry estimates.
Australian aborigines have used tea tree oil for centuries, Drexler-Billet said, for everything from treating skin blemishes and cuts to soothing insect bites and strengthening the gums.
While it is still unsung in the U.S., Germans seem to be taking to tea tree oil. Once available only in pharmacies and health food stores, the ingredient is making waves in the German mass market.
Swiss-o-Par, a division of Rufin Cosmetic, introduced its seven-product tea tree hair and skin care line in German drogeries in December. “We’re way above plan,” said Hendrick Rumpfkeil, the brand’s marketing manager.
A number of German mass health care manufacturers, such as Abtei Pharma and TTL-Kosmetik, now offer tea tree oil in pure form.
Drexler-Billet is hoping that tea tree will soon be a household word in America as well.
Tea Tree Solutions is too small to undertake extensive advertising and is relying on the Neiman’s catalog and the store’s customers for publicity.
She noted: “More than anything, it will be word of mouth.”

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