NEW YORK — In April, Jurlique, the Australia-based skin care brand, named former Bumble and bumble general manager, Eli Halliwell, to the post of chief executive officer. At the same time, the estimated $100 million company partnered with private equity firm JH Partners. The two moves for the niche skin care line, known for its regimen of gentle, natural products — particularly its Rosewater Freshener — are both aimed at growing Jurlique into a bigger brand, one loyal consumer at a time.

WWD: What’s your first goal as ceo?

Eli Halliwell: Our strategy is to bring the story of the brand to life in a way it hasn’t been brought to life in the past. We are going back to the roots of the brand from the origins of how we were founded and the values we were founded on. That’s the real strategy driving the whole business. Any venues and distribution channels that we can leverage to help bring that message to life so people can understand why they would want to buy Jurlique products or experience Jurlique products will be part of that.

WWD: What is Jurlique’s positioning?

E.H.: We are a brand that was founded on the principles of living in harmony with our Earth and bringing the magic of nature into people’s lives on a daily basis through growing our own ingredients, planting our own seeds, bringing them to harvest and handpicking them. Having a handmade product that has a whole lot of love and care and effort going into it adds to the magic. We also leverage science in a way to really bring as much of the efficacy and potency of these ingredients to life to deliver specific benefits.

WWD: Are the products organic?

E.H.: Our farms are certified organic and certified biodynamic. That’s how we grow all of our herbs.

WWD: Where is the organic market now, and where do you see it in five years?

E.H.: You are going to see massive growth in organic farming to meet consumer demand for food in the coming years. There already is a really broad, powerful network of organic producers for food and cosmetics.

This story first appeared in the July 21, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

WWD: What is Jurlique doing to keep up with this growth?

E.H.:We are currently expanding our farm. We have an old farm that we have had for years that is 15 acres. And we now have a 150-acre farm that is in the process of receiving irrigation systems.

WWD: Is organic getting any respect in the U.S.?

E.H.: America has finally caught up with the rest of the world. I think that is signified by Wal-Mart, which is the number-one retailer of organic milk in America, and possibly the world. The changes they are making at that company are indicative of a true populist trend where people are embracing values in a way they didn’t in the past. So [organic] has gone from being a niche concept to being much more mainstream.

WWD: How will the recent cash infusion brought on by the partnership with JH Partners be utilized?

E.H.: We are always investing in ourselves and building a strong brand platform, so we will be spending on new branding and new training.

WWD: Is there anything you want to change about the company?

E.H.: Every company goes through a growth cycle and an evolution. Jurlique has gone from a founder-driven company to one that has an outside perspective and a professional management organization. The transition always is difficult, in any company. As part of that, I am really excited to help go back to the roots of the company and reconnect the current company with where we’ve been over the past 15 years.

WWD: What are your untapped markets?

E.H.: There is a huge piece of the planet that we’re not in very strongly, and that’s Europe. We have amazing opportunity in the U.S., and an incredible following in Asia through our stores. Right now, Jurlique is sold in the spa channel [375 doors in the U.S.] and in [Jurlique] stores [14 in the U.S.]. We have one small test [in a department store] that we have been running in the U.S., but it’s not going so well.

WWD: Where do you see the biggest opportunity for growth?

E.H.: We have such incredible customer loyalty that, for me, it’s just about explaining the story. It isn’t a specific channel or country; we have an amazing opportunity here in the U.S., but we have just as much opportunity in Australia, where we are currently the number-two skin care brand [behind Clarins]. We are on the verge of becoming number one. [In terms of growth,] I think we will look at a bunch of different channel strategies, [Jurlique retail] stores included. But really it’s about bringing the message to our people. I don’t feel like enough people understand our products, and as they become more informed, they’ll try it, and because our products are so effective, they’ll stay loyal customers.

WWD: Do you think growth will hurt the niche nature of the brand?

E.H.: I don’t think it will. My personal philosophy on brands is that they are tied to the people of a company, and the culture of a company is what really drives and creates a brand message. What we are working on right now is having our whole corporate culture go back to its roots. There’s a lot of training coming up. The better our people understand the roots of the organization, the better they are going to understand the story — and they’ll be able to tell it one person at a time. That’s how we are going to grow. It’s not going to be some massive “turn on the lights” and suddenly we’re huge.

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