Byline: Matthe W. Evans

NEW YORK — Desert Essence hopes to grease the gears of expansion with tea tree oil.
Few beauty brands are more closely linked to the leaf extract, a liquid backbone on which Desert Essence was founded in the mid-Seventies. The ingredient will remain the principal positioning tool as executives heading the $20 million brand try to build the business 25 percent by spring. Currently, Desert Essence accounts for one-fifth of parent Consac Industries’ total sales.
Why not start a beauty brand expansion plan with a makeover? Desert Essence’s 100-item collection, 60 percent of which uses tea tree oil, has been repackaged to be more “user friendly,” said Consac president Ryan Drexler. Product launches and more promotional activity are also part of the growth plan.
In February, three items are slated to join Desert Essence’s Age Reversal assortment — one of several sub-segments that make up the full line, which ranges in price from less than a dollar for essential oil towelettes to $22 for Tea Tree Oil Eco Harvest, a 2-oz. bottle of tea tree essential oil. Other Desert Essence sub-segments include a facial care collection, a hair and body assortment and a bath and body care line, called Aroma Essence.
Tests conducted on tea tree oil have revealed medicinal properties and the oil is now an ingredient in a number of health and body care products. But when Drexler’s parents founded Desert Essence in their garage 25 years ago, few U.S. brands used the substance. Thanks to company associates who were chemists that “traveled a lot,” said Drexler, Desert Essence began using the ingredient very early on.
“My parents were ahead of their time,” said Drexler, whose father was a chiropractor interested in nutritional supplements and skin care. “Back then, we had to go to small health food stores to shop because you couldn’t go to a supermarket for [health food] items.” Drexler feels this culture is stronger today, given the proliferation of such retailers as Whole Foods Market which has opened in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Along with Wild Oats, Trader Joe’s and GNC, Whole Foods carries Desert Essence on a chain-wide basis.

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