A FRESH APPROACH: BATHROOM CHIC
Byline: Chantal Tode
NEW YORK — American consumers want personal care products that are not only functional but stylish, say the owners of Fresh Inc., the Boston-based retailer and manufacturer of upscale bath and body products formulated with natural ingredients.
The concept has been so successful that owners Lev Glazman and Alina Roytberg are stepping up the launch schedule and looking to open new stores domestically and overseas. And the couple predicts that after a whopping 150 percent jump in sales last year, turnover will double this year to $7 million at retail.
Fresh got its start in 1991 as a bath boutique in the South End of Boston carrying products from a number of manufacturers. Glazman and Roytberg opened the store after noticing a void in the marketplace for bath and body products made from high-quality natural ingredients that were fashionable enough to display in their bathrooms.
Soon after opening the store in Boston, the couple set about creating their own line of high-end personal care items.
The products were developed in conjunction with the factories they had visited in France and Italy while purchasing items for their store.
In 1995, Fresh introduced its first line — Original Formula f21c vegetable soaps in 11 fragrances. Formula f21c, the brand name, stands for “Fresh 21st century.”
Based on the success of the soaps in the Fresh store, the company expanded into other personal care products and eventually started wholesaling the brand. The lines currently offered include Milk Formula f21c soaps, lotions and bath additives, and Soft Formula f21c soaps and hair care.
Prices range between $6.50 for a soap to $24.50 for Milk Bath.
Fresh products appeal to “an educated, urban consumer who is interested in quality natural products with great design that are not so much in-your-face and have great fragrances,” observed Roytberg. “They don’t need to be told why they are spending more because they know what makes a high-quality vegetable-base soap different from what is sold in the supermarket.”
Roytberg, who worked as a fashion designer for 10 years prior to the creation of Fresh, develops all the packaging. Her goal is to offer consumers as much creativity, quality and diversity in their personal care products as they find in clothes and home accents.
For example, Roytberg designed packaging for the Soft Formula soaps that resemble miniature pillows. The cotton paper packaging on the Petit Formula soaps changes from season to season to keep up with color trends.
Glazman, an entrepreneur, develops the fragrances.
Today, the company manufactures more than 70 personal care items that can currently be found in 14 Barneys, 33 Neiman Marcus and 22 Nordstrom stores, as well as in Bergdorf Goodman and 600 specialty outlets nationwide. Several items are also featured in the Williams-Sonoma catalog.
The Fresh store in Boston, which was moved to the more fashionable Newbury Street, accounts for 15 percent of company sales.
Glazman and Roytberg hope to break ground on new Fresh stores here and in London in the near future.
“We are so connected to retail, we never really want to go away from it,” said Roytberg, referring to the company’s plans to open more retail stores. “It helps us to keep in touch with the market.”
The company isn’t planning to bring Formula f21c to any additional department stores in the U.S., although it would like eventually to have dedicated counters in the stores that already carry the line.
An aggressive new product lineup is part of Fresh’s strategy to continue its growth.
A new fragrance, Mukki, is being added to the Milk line this fall. According to Roytberg, it is a cheerful, warm scent suitable for either gender. It will come in a 3.3-ounce miniature milk bottle, at $20.
All the items in the Milk line contain milk proteins. Clear glass packaging and ingredients in subtle pastel tints attempt to convey the clean, fresh appeal of milk, said Roytberg.
The Milk line is more playful than the other lines, she added. For example, a depiction of Mukki the Cow, the line’s mascot, appears on all packaging.
Honey, a new range of soaps, is intended as a companion line to the Milk line. The scents are Honey Chestnut, Honey Linden, Honey Hibiscus and Honey Plum.
Luxe, which ships in November, was designed with men in mind, said Roytberg. It consists of three “quality agricultural” scents — wine grapes, olives and tobacco. Each is available in a $27, 6-oz. scent; a $16 shaving cream, and an $8 soap.