NEW YORK — For Australian Organics, the second time’s the charm.
Just one year ago, the Melbourne-based beauty company arrived at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Marketplace meeting at the San Diego Convention Center to pick buyers’ brains regarding the company’s all-natural hair care products. As a result of the feedback he received, David Cullen, president of Australian Organics, made several changes to the hair care line, such as packaging, size and price issues. Cullen is returning to San Diego this weekend armed with a revamped line, a network of regional brokers and a sales pitch aimed to woo retailers. Until now, Australian Organics has been distributed solely in health food stores in the U.S., U.K. and Australia.
“There are not many of these types of products in the mainstream, that’s the whole thing,” Cullen said. “We have a very clean ingredient list. There are no animal products, no petrochemicals, no synthetic fragrances and no synthetic colors. People with allergens such as MCS — multichemical sensitivity — find that the products work best for them.”
Due to its natural positioning and heritage, Australian Organics has few competitors nipping at its heels. However, salon brands such as Aveda, which sometimes finds its way onto drug store shelves, may be its closest competitor.
The new line has been slimmed down to six items, and they are available in two different sizes: 12-oz. and 15-oz. containers. There are three shampoos and three conditioners, for normal; oily and fine hair; and dry, colored and chemically treated hair. Products will retail for $4.99 for a 12 oz. size, down from $6.99, the price Cullen pitched to retailers last year. “We made the bottles smaller, to 12 ounces from 15 ounces” to cut the price, Cullen said.
An advertising budget has been set aside to launch the brand in the U.S. mass market but Cullen wants to keep those plans “under wraps” until after the show when orders will reveal whether the brand will be distributed regionally or nationally. Cullen would share that he’s considering a print campaign in women’s magazines for brand support.
Australian Organics is a privately owned company that has been selling its products in natural food and grocery stores for close to 16 years. About four years ago, the company exited the private label manufacturing and hotel amenity businesses to focus full time on its brand. Despite the limited distribution base, Australian Organics is sold in the top retailers in the countries it’s distributed in. In England, for example, Australian Organics can be found in Debenhams department store and in Holland & Barrett, the country’s largest health food retailer, which just bought the U.S.-based GNC chain. Australian Organics even appears in Harrods.
The brand has been in the U.S. for nearly three years in stores such as Whole Foods and Fresh Fields, as well as smaller mom-and-pop chains. The line recently entered the Ulta beauty chain.
But Cullen believes the mass market is ripe for a tried and true natural hair care line; he’s also ready to leave the comfort zone of being a big fish in a small pond.
“It wasn’t our long-term strategy to stay in health food stores in the U.S. We don’t do any of their trade shows anymore.” In fact, Cullen is pulling his products from the health food distribution channel over all in the U.S.
Cullen reached out to the mass community last year when he invested in attending Marketplace — a show that after shipping, flights, hotel and booth space fees can cost a manufacturer nearly $30,000. But the interface with buyers was looked upon as a way to get his foot in the door. “People saw our product and we got our feedback,” Cullen recalled.
While Australian Organics is known mainly for its hair care products — hair care comprises 70 percent of sales — the company also makes natural shower gels, lotions and soap, all of which are priced under $10. Cullen will show the body care line at Marketplace, too.