Since its inception in 2001, Ayurvedic beauty brand Forest Essentials has grown its footprint to over 100 company-owned stores across India, plus it has a robust online business. It also exports products to over 120 countries worldwide. Now, the brand is putting its mark on the U.K. with its first international store; it plans to open 12 stores in the U.K by 2024.
The company, which has seen double-digit growth year over year, received funding from Estée Lauder Companies in 2008. While Indians comprise about 1.4 million people in the U.K., making them the single largest visible ethnic minority population in the country, Forest Essentials is focused on making Ayurveda easy to understand as a luxury play for all U.K. consumers.
The Forest Essentials store opens on Thursday in London’s Covent Garden, a popular beauty destination. It will feature Ayurvedic consultations, the brand’s core product range and an exclusive “Enchanted Forest” gifting proposition with keepsake folkloric boxes. “London is a very cosmopolitan city and has a whole mix of people, so it’s a good market to start with,” said Samrath Bedi, executive director at Forest Essentials. “We have a whole history between India and the U.K., so there is some knowledge and understanding here about India and its traditions. With the store, we will be able to help people understand the brand and what it stands for, [and] Ayurveda.”
“The Indian beauty market is still fairly nascent in the UK,” said Rohini Wahi, retail and business insights strategist at WGSN. “We are beginning to see a number of ‘third culture’ beauty brands in the U.K. — particularly in skin care and hair care — that create innovative and sophisticated products fusing traditional Ayurvedic [practices] with high performance. The increase in demand has been driven by an increased interest in natural ingredients, as well as a desire for traditional time-tested rituals. Consumer sentiment is moving toward long-term remedies rather than quick fixes.”
The brand first entered the U.K. via e-commerce site Lookfantastic in October 2021. While Forest Essentials did not share sales figures, the results were very strong and showed the potential for an in-store presence for the brand, said Bedi. “While U.K.’s current economic situation does make us more apprehensive, we are still thinking about the launch as a long-term play. Opening the store is actually going to accelerate the traction for the brand.”
Like many brands recently launching in the U.K., Forest Essentials is focused on differentiation, when it comes to its in-store experience. “The store is going to cover all the five senses, a principle of Ayurveda. [That includes] how the store smells, what kind of service you get, the cup of tea you’re offered and the demonstration you have. We will be able to talk to customers about stress, sleep and food to help them understand what Ayurveda is all about,” said Bedi.
The global market for Ayurvedic products is projected to pass $12.5 billion by 2026. In the U.K., e-commerce beauty sites like Space NK and Cult Beauty have been adding Indian and Ayurveda brands like Fable & Mane, Uma and Ranavat to their assortments. Many Indian-based Ayurvedic brands like Forest Essentials and Mauli Rituals are also found in top hotels globally.
Adding to its core product range, Forest Essentials will bring its made-to-order skin-care range and a makeup range to the U.K. market next year. The company is also in talks about opening stores in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia in the first half of 2023. Then, it plans to debut in Singapore, which it sees as a gateway into Southeast Asia.
In September, Glossy reported that while the Indian beauty market is smaller than its counterparts, the stage is set for local founders and those from the diaspora to succeed. Estée Lauder and L’Oréal are currently dominating the Indian market, but they know a wave of homegrown brands is taking hold. Estée Lauder recently teamed up with Nykaa, one of India’s leading omnichannel beauty and lifestyle retailers, on a beauty incubator meant to spotlight and propel the next generation of Indian beauty brands.