Benefits Dead Sea Products
Israel’s beauty and skincare industry is emerging as a new and rather potent player in the global cosmetics arena. Indeed, from established premium brands such as Ahava to newcomers such as Butai to the cheeky, mass-market Yes To Carrots, Israeli companies are tapping their nation for the raw materials, scientific innovations and home-spun creativity required to expand worldwide.
The best-known – and perhaps most ambitious – member of the sector is Ahava, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year and is now sold in 30 countries. Anchored around Dead Sea salts and minerals and still partially owned by its kibbutz founders, Ahava has recently gone bricks-and-mortar, opening branded boutiques in Singapore, London and Berlin, along with its six flagship shops in Israel.
“Ahava used to be something that tourists bought when they visited the Dead Sea, but now we want to become a true international cosmetics brand,” says chief executive Yacov Ellis, who also says that his company has grown at double-digit levels over the past five years.
“Consumers today want ‘green’ products and cosmetics that deliver true therapeutic results,” he says. “With the Dead Sea, the biggest natural spa in the world, Ahava is at the centre of these trends.”
Ahava is not the only Israeli company strategically positioned at the crossroads of technology and nature. Butai Cosmetics debuted four months ago with eight face and body products that combine organic ingredients with purified “delivery agents”. Shea butter, for instance, delivers the healing effects of vitamin E in Butai’s hand cream; green tea’s restorative properties enter the skin via absorbent lutein (a kale derivative) in the eye cream; and the tomato-based phyto-chemical lycopene activates the white lotus oil in Butai’s night cream. Buy Ahava Skin Care Products
Equally eco-conscious is the capsule collection of eight bath and body goods from Olia, a two-year-old premium olive oil brand. Ranging from shampoo to face scrubs, the products are based on 100 per cent organic, locally harvested olive oil and produced exclusively in Mitzpe Ramon, a southern Israeli community. “We launched our olive oils as a healthy part of people’s diets but realised we should not stop there,” says Olia founder Hilla Wenkert, who will launch a companion men’s line this spring. “Olive oil is naturally nourishing and moisturising, with high levels of antioxidants that help slow the skin’s ageing process.”
On a far larger scale is Yes To Carrots, which in three years has gone from a “cult” Tel Aviv brand to distribution in 20,000 stores in 17 countries – including Boots and Debenhams in the UK and Walgreens and Duane Reade in the US – and $50m in sales. Like other Israeli beauty product companies, Yes To Carrots is almost entirely organic, and combines locally grown fruits and vegetables with Dead Sea minerals. As with Butai, Yes To Carrots – which includes some three dozen products for the hair, face and body – has been developed to maximise the benefits of its natural ingredients. “Orange foods like carrots are rich in beta carotene, antidioxidants and free radicals,” says company founder Ido Leffler. “The Dead Sea minerals help them easily absorb into the skin, hair and body.”
Sabon and Laline are two Tel Aviv-based firms with rapidly growing global footprints. Thirty-five-year-old Sabon is the larger, with 80 shops throughout North America, Europe and Israel. Laline, meanwhile, expanded abroad in 2005 with four shops in the London area.
This may seem like an industry in its infancy compared to the dominant international players but the sector’s sheer determination is impressive considering Israel’s tiny size and modest population. Yet, says Kelly Kovack, a partner with Purpose Built, a New York-based branding consultancy specialising in cosmetics and skincare, “Israel is a hotbed for science and technology, which trickles down into all categories of goods.”
What’s more, Israel is “an incredibly mixed culture, with people originating from all over the world”, says Ronen Zohar, chief executive of Sabon, which will launch this year in Japan. “It’s a ready-made test market for the rest of the world.”