Australian indie beauty brands, specializing in all-natural, “clean” ingredients, are finding a new foothold in the U.S.
This week, Australia’s Go-To, a direct-to-consumer skin-care line, will launch on Sephora.com and roll out in over 400 physical stores in August, as part of the the retailer’s Clean at Sephora initiative. It joins fellow Aussie brands Edible Beauty and Dr Roebuck’s, which have also seen success since launching at the beauty giant.
Priya Venkatesh, svp of merchandising for Sephora, said Go-To’s uncomplicated approach to skin care, affordable price point and fun packaging were key drivers in establishing the relationship. Go-To founder Zoë Foster Blake added that the new relationship is “validation” for the brand. Though Go-To has been profitable in Australia since its 2014 launch, Foster Blake is expecting double-digit growth thanks to the new strategy with Sephora.
Compared to the Australian cosmetics and personal-care market, which is valued at $4.5 billion, the U.S. market reached over $86 billion last year and certainly provides more opportunity for these Australian upstarts. Clean beauty — products devoid of toxic ingredients, like carcinogens — have been a major push for Sephora, which launched the Clean at Sephora initiative on June 1. While the retailer featured products free of parabens, formaldehyde and phthalates in the past, it was interested in creating more transparency and education for customers around ingredients. Australia has long been a hub for natural beauty brands, starting with skin-care line Jurlique in 1985. Sephora, too, has been known to outsource global product innovation from other countries, like its push into the K-beauty trend with partner Glow Recipe.
The attention is paying off. Edible Beauty, which was developed by naturopath and nutritionist Anna Mitsios and launched exclusively in the U.S. with Sephora in February, has seen total revenue increase 40 percent in the last 12 months.
“There is definitely a relationship between the success of our brand in the U.S. and the growing American wellness trend,” said Mitsios. “American consumers are definitely incredibly discerning when it comes to sourcing natural skin care, and understand the importance of using toxin-free products on their skin while also looking at how they can address their skin health from the ‘inside out.’”
Dr Roebuck’s founder Kim Devin, who created her brand based off of a 30-year-old family skin-care recipe, has had a similar experience. She credits 90 percent of total brand sales to North America, thanks to Sephora’s 1-year-old partnership with the brand. “What Whole Foods created with the wellness food market, Sephora is trying to do that in beauty. The Australian healthy lifestyle has buyers looking to us as leaders in this space,” she said.
Sephora, for its part, is investing more time and effort into ensuring Australian brands succeed in the U.S., beyond just giving them shelf space. With Dr Roebuck’s, that meant communicating a fresh packaging aesthetic that would benefit the company greatly in terms of profitability.
“We went in there a year ago and people liked the product, but because Sephora is a self-serve environment, the packaging needed to scream “clean beauty from Australia,” and it previously had an apothecary feel. We completely revamped two months ago,” Devin said.
A similar directive from Sephora buyers came to Mitsios, which led to the development of its upcoming Ultra Hydration Kit, which launches this month and combines three of Edible Beauty’s best sellers in a travel-size collection, complete with a colorful, floral makeup bag. “The buyers were very keen to have these products in an introductory size to teach the customers about us,” she said.
That kind of special attention certainly helps these Australian upstarts further their efforts to take on the U.S., as Devin explained: “For a small brand to take on America, you have to partner with a strategic partner.”
While Sephora invests more in the space, its clean-beauty business is just budding. And it’s not the only retailer facilitating the Australian insurgence: Natural beauty store Follain, which previously only stocked American brands until 2016, began selling Sydney-based brand Ere Perez, known for its performance-packed quality ingredients, like Arnica, rice and beetroot, last month. Ere Perez’s Beet Root Lip and Cheek product has already sold so well, Follain will be featuring it in its best-sellers trial kits next month.
“Australia produces these unbelievably clean and effective lines,” said founder Tara Foley. “Australian products were one of the reasons why we wanted to open Follain up to non-U.S. brands.”