Online Exclusives

Caffeine Fix

By Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor | August 30, 2010

Barista blends coffee and personal care.

With more than 20 years of experience in finance and product development, Christine Willett was a natural fit to lead Barista Bath and Body, a novel coffee-infused personal care company she founded along with its president Nancy Scuderi and Mary Bocci, vice president, business development.

Headquartered in Portland, OR, with offices in Orange County, CA, organic coffee is a main ingredient in Barista products, which range from “froth” lip balm ($4.50) featuring jojoba oil, peppermint oil and coffee extract; to “triple shot” 3-in-1 shower gel, a hydrating combination of organic coffee and vitamin E. The company made its debut at Cosmoprof North America and received the 2010 Discover Beauty Award based on concept, packaging and the ability to succeed in the marketplace.

The trio of entrepreneurs spent five years working with coffee roaster, franchisors and wholesalers in manufacturing and supply chain to meld the two worlds of beverage and personal care into one with Barista. Willett took time to chat with HAPPI about this unique brand sure to deliver a hot cup of success into the personal care market with its niche angle.

HAPPI: Why did you decide to use coffee as an ingredient? What are its benefits?

CW: Our decision to create a natural hair and skin care line was borne from years of collective frustration when trying to find natural, healthy-for-you shampoos, conditioners and skin care products that also delivered consistently shiny, voluminous hair and truly clean, rejuvenated skin. Published studies have documented the benefits of the topical application of coffee and its major constituent, caffeine. Barista Bath and Body products are formulated with organic coffee, coffee extract and essential oils to maximize the revitalizing benefits of coffee.

Coffee, along with caffeine—its major ingredient—has the following advantages. It features a pH similar to the human body, meaning that it cleans better than ordinary soap or shampoo, which often have a much higher pH; acts as a gentle exfoliant;is an effective antioxidant; and promotes the appearance of smoother-looking skin, especially in cellulite-prone areas.

HAPPI: How does coffee work as a unique ingredient in the shampoo, conditioner, gel, body scrub, body crème, soap, mist and lip balm?

CW: Some products say they use coffee, but it is at the bottom of their list of ingredients. For us, it is most often a primary ingredient, with actual brewed organic, free trade coffee right in the bottle. We partner with a roaster who will roast the beans for us and send them to our plant to be brewed and used as a primary ingredient in most of our products.

The main thing to remember about coffee is that its pH is quite low, close to the human body, allowing it to deliver true cleanliness and shine, as well as smoothness in body scrubs and soaps. Regular soap and water (pH 12) neutralizes your skin’s acid pH and strips away its natural defense system.

The best example here is our shampoo. In our shampoo, “perk it up,” actual brewed organic coffee provides that perfect pH to remove impurities from hair to make blonde, less brassy, brunette richer and even grey shinier.

HAPPI: How did you go about starting up the company?

CW: We were all having a bad hair day—mother, daughter and niece. While commiserating over our unanimous beverage of choice, coffee, we realized that how our hair looks on any given day impacts how we feel. After countless trips to cosmetics counters, specialty stores and drug stores, we continued to find ourselves unable to purchase a shampoo which would give our hair volume, shine and bounce.

We have 50 years combined business, manufacturing and finance experience, and we felt confident we could turn those skills toward creating a better natural beauty product line. Ironically enough, we have spent the last five years consulting with some coffee manufacturers—little did we know that coffee would be the right magic ingredient for this new line.

We researched hair, its basic chemistry and the factors that impact the health and appearance of hair, and defined a list of beneficial ingredients. One of the ingredients that met all our criteria was coffee.

Equipped with a list of attributes, performance criteria and preferred ingredients, we met with chemists, an esthetician, and cosmetic laboratories to help us develop our product line. We tested countless formulations before we found the shampoo we all adored.

Instead of relying on harsh chemicals that strip your hair and skin of its inherent beauty, Barista Bath and Body products contain brewed coffee, ground coffee, coffee seed oil, essential oils and natural ingredients that support the body’s ability to rejuvenate. Our formulations are free of parabens, phthalates and sulfates that disrupt the body's natural capacities.

HAPPI: Do you have any inspirations in the marketplace in regards to starting the line?

CW: As women entrepreneurs we admire successful people like Poppy King and Deborah Lippmann, who both found a gap in the marketplace for a product they were passionate about and knew they could offer.

HAPPI: What are your future plans for the company?

CW: We are looking at expanding the product line to meet all of the daily skin care needs of both men and women.

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