Online Exclusives

A New Oasis

By Christine Esposito, Associate Editor | September 1, 2010

Bold, ingredient-focused packaging and several new products are fueling Desert Essence�s growth during the beauty market�s downturn.

Having been in business since 1972, Desert Essence executives have seen the natural market evolve—and explode—as companies tapped into the white-hot “green” personal care space. And as more newcomers moved in, this venerable brand felt as if it was getting lost in the shuffle—even though it had market-leading products and loyal customers.

So, about 18 months ago, Desert Essence embarked on a journey to completely overhaul its look, something the Hauppauge, NY-based company hadn’t done since its inception.
According to Wendy Cockayne Lucas, vice president, sales and marketing, Desert Essence talked to consumers and retailers, conducted market research and turned for Beardwood & Co. to create a new look. The result is a much more vibrant package that speaks volumes about the company’s desert ingredient story and stands out better on the shelf.

In fact, when conducting its consumer research, one long-time customer said it was “about time” Desert Essence updated its packaging.

“She said, ‘Now I can leave [the product] on my sink instead of putting it in the medicine cabinet,’” Lucas told Happi.

In addition to the punched-up packaging, Desert Essence has added a number of new products and introduced skin typing (with color coded bottles), including new dry-sensitive skin SKUs as well as oily-combination and normal.
Desert Essence says it has the three top-selling facial skin care items in the natural beauty category, two of which are facial cleaners. What was missing, said Lucas, were ancillary items to complement what consumers already loved.

Of the new launches, the fastest movers have been Desert Essence’s Thoroughly Clean Oil Control Moisturizer with tea tree oil and chamomile (built to complement its top-selling Thoroughly Clean face wash); a USDA organic facial cleanser for dry/sensitive skin that contains apple juice, and Blemish Touch Concealer, which is formulated with tea tree oil and natural mineral pigments.

Desert Essence has revamped its look and added new dry-sensitive skin products.

The privately-held firm also has a new tag line: “Beauty Blooms in the Desert.”

And it appears as if Desert Essence is doing just that—growing in a marketplace that has hit a bit of dry spell.

“2009 was an extremely challenging year for natural beauty. If you are truly natural, there were more challenges. We were flat,” Lucas said about Desert Essence’s performance last year.

But thanks to the restage and the new products, sales have rebounded. In fact, they are up 19% in 2010, according to Lucas.

Company officials want to keep the momentum.

“If we don’t change, we are going to get lost. We are looking at product innovation and new channels of distribution. But this will be slow and thoughtful,” said Lucas, noting that it is essential for Desert Essence to maintain the ingredient supply and product integrity it has built during the past three decades.

In addition, Desert Essence wants to win over consumers who aren’t fully indoctrinated, which should help boost sales.

“Our consumer is the very natural consumer. They are very well educated. They know the ingredients,” Lucas said. “There’s a mid level consumer who knows, for example, that parabens are bad, but they don’t know why. That is the bigger pot of consumers.”

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