Weleda is finishing up a milestone year, its 90th anniversary, what a journey it has been.
From its formation in 1921 as a pharmaceutical laboratory with its own medicinal plant garden, Weleda is now a leading manufacturer of holistic natural cosmetics and pharmaceuticals for “anthroposophical” therapy. All of the company’s products—be it a pomegranate firming day cream, a massage balm with arnica
or copper ointment for relieving muscle pain—are based on the anthroposophical understanding of people and nature, which states that life processes in the human body and nature are similar.
As a result, all of its preparations and products are formulated using carefully selected natural substances, and Weleda does not use synthetic fragrances or dyes or preservatives. And 62% of the plant-based raw materials Weleda uses come from controlled organic or biodynamic cultivation, or are obtained from certified wild sources.
It’s that level of commitment to natural which has garnered Weleda a dedicated following of consumers.
“Our customer base is very loyal—very small, but very loyal,” Hamish Cook, vice president of marketing, Weleda North America, said at HBA 2011 in New York City this summer.
Weleda at a Glance
• 2010Sales: CHF 385.3 million
• Personnel: 1931 (full time) at the end of 2010
•Key Personnel: Patrick Sirdey, chief executive officer; Moritz Aebersold, director BU international markets; Peter Braun, director BU pharma; Patrick Kersting, chief financial officer; Andreas Sommer, director BU natural and organic cosmetics. Weleda Board of Directors—Georg Fankhauser, chairman; Barbara Schneider, deputy chairman and member of the audit committee; Rolf Kerler, member of the audit committee; Dr. Giancarlo Buccheri, Prof. Götz Werner, Paola Ghillani.
•Major Products: Personal care products including facial and body skin care, baby care, oral and hair care products, as well as topical and ingestible pharmaceutical products.
In 2010, Weleda’s sales topped $400 million (385.3 million Swiss francs) on a decline of 3.5%, which the company attributed to the dramatic change in exchange rates for Swiss francs in relation to the euro. According to Weleda officials, revenues, when adjusted for changes in exchange rates, actually rose 11.1%. Using a similar formula for exchange rates, sales rose 12.2% in 2009, according to the company.
Germany is Weleda’s biggest single market, where consumers are smitten with its Calendula Baby Cream, Pomegranate Creamy Body Wash and Pomegranate Firming Day Care—its top three best sellers there, according to company officials.
By category, 72% of Weleda’s revenues stem from its natural and organic personal care products which include items like its best selling diaper changing cream plus a full range of facial and body skin care, hair care products and oral care. The remainder comes from its pharmaceuticals business, which includes a range of topical and ingestible treatments and products for a variety of conditions ranging from hay fever to upset stomach to common aches and pains.
Pomegranate is one of the natural ingredients featured in Weleda's skin care line.
The company’s motto—"In harmony with nature and the human being"— highlights the values that have a crucial influence on Weleda's business objectives. Specifically, company executives insist that all corporate actions should serve the good of its customers, employees and partners, and should be characterized by love and respect for nature. As such, Weleda has been well ahead of the curve in terms of sustainable development, placing great importance on ecological, social and economic responsibility via founder Rudolf Steiner's view on human health, shared social life and environmental awareness.
For example, Weleda obtains the majority its organic sesame oil—an essential ingredient in many of its body care products—from southern Mexico in a partnership with a local family-owned business that provides farmers with a reliable source of extra income stemming from a purchase guarantee. Some 238 farmers have a contractual agreement with Sesajal to grow sesame on 1,300 hectares of land under natural, organic conditions.
The price the farmers receive is considerably higher than the market standard, according to Weleda, and even exceeds the current fair trade recommendations. In return for this price, the farmers commit to producing organic sesame with an organic purity of 97%.