While the rest of the world is falling head over heels like it’s a Black Friday sale for New Zealand’s natural self care products, it seems that us kiwis take it for granted. A truly green and clean nation filled with people who are creating products directed by moral compass, we don’t need to search much further than our neck of the woods. In this issue, we talked to Brigid van Heerden, Product & Marketing Manager of the successful local self-care brand, The Aromatherapy Company. Covering a range of home fragrance and body products with the right mindset but without the offensive price tag, we delved into its working process and philosophy to understand what we as consumers are buying into.
How did it all start? What was the idea behind the creation of The Aromatherapy Company and its new child brand Smith & Co?
The Aromatherapy Company was founded in 1990 from very small beginnings – our founder experimenting with aromatherapy fragrances in the basement of her father’s office. At the time, there was a lack of understanding about well-being products and The Aromatherapy Company took off with its first brand “Naturals” – quickly acquiring a loyal following of customers with the same ideals in mind. The passion has always been to create natural products that are not only good for you and your skin but also smell amazing – all the while being gentle to our environment and never testing on our furry friends.
The original Naturals range is still strong today, in addition to the flagship Therapy range, both having their own respective following and Smith&Co is the new kid on the block. Smith&Co is a modern, quirky brand that blends traditional values and new trends, appealing across the age ranges with our Aromatherapy Co ethos. The fragrances in Smith&Co are more trend driven and bespoke layered scents – which contrast beautifully with the essential oil fragrance blends in Therapy or the natural top note heavy fragrances in Naturals.
People are becoming more and more aware, albeit slowly, of what we apply on our skin and the creation process of the products – what are the philosophies and ethos behind the brand that makes it appealing for this set of consumers?
Our philosophy is to use the most pure, skin safe and beneficial ingredients in our body care as possible. I.e. hero oils like meadow foam seed oil or sea buckthorn oil that actively benefit the skin. Our range of body care products never contains sulphates, parabens, mineral oils or dyes. We aim to be transparent about our products – consumers have a right to know what they are putting on their skin. Our ethos is to use as local and best quality oils/ingredients as possible when sourcing ingredients. We never test on animals (only in-lab testing and on ourselves) and all our body care is now vegan friendly. All this combined appeals to our set of consumers.
When it comes to ingredient selection, what are the standards that they must adhere to?
Pure, quality, not tested on animals, locally sourced if possible and must be beneficial in some way. When selecting new hero oils for our body care – we look at research material in conjunction with our scientists/lab technicians that show actual beneficial results when trialed/tested. For example, elderberry oil is the new hero ingredient in the Smith&Co washes and lotions – this amazing oil is rich in bioflavonoids, antioxidants and vitamin A, making it a wonder oil for healthy skin.
With the constant stream of limited edition collections, the team must be working on new blends and product development around the clock. What is the process when choosing fragrance blends for new collections?
Yes, being an innovative and design-driven company, we are constantly designing new ranges, limited editions and fragrances! It is a lengthy and in-depth process with constant evaluation, testing and re-designing. When developing fragrances, we do this in tandem while designing the look of a range, as it has to make sense or tie back to the brand or look of a range. The team will research everything from what is on trend out in the market – fashion and fragrance wise, review best sellers, customer feedback: what fragrances did they love or what have they asked for – all this information is collated into a development plan in conjunction with our perfumers from around the world, to create our amazing signature fragrances.
Why the evolution into self-care products that are fragrance free?
It wasn’t an evolution as such – it was a matter of looking at our customers and what they want out of certain products that the two new fragrance-free products in Smith&Co were developed.
This was a risky one for an “aroma” based company to develop, where our fragrances and scents are so loved and become go-to favs. However we believed that we should create a great product that nourishes and soothes the skin that our customers could then layer with the fragrance of their choice thereafter.
So you could moisturize your body with the fragrance-free Dry Body Oil from the Smith&Co range, but then layer your favourite Therapy Pulse Point on top of that or Smith&Co Hand Cream without creating multiple conflicting scents. Also, some people are very sensitive to fragrances – be it natural, essential or synthetic – so these products were developed keeping those customers in mind too. The brain can become overloaded with too many scents going on at one time, so as fragrance specialists, we understand this well – hence the Dry Body Oil and Bath Tonic were developed with these concepts in mind.
What has been the hardest part of growing a brand in New Zealand?
When the company was founded, oil burners and tea lights were the order of the day and through imagination and determination, The Aromatherapy Company drove new concepts in home fragrance through scented candles, diffusers and later in body care. We have been fortunate that The Aromatherapy Company started at a time where the well being, mindfulness and mood enhancing sector or era was just starting to take off – so the brand quickly secured its place in New Zealand and still have the same loyal customers today, 27 years on.
The brand is growing at a phenomenal rate – where to from now? What can we expect?
The brand is growing and doing very well – locally and internationally. I am so proud and humbled to a part of the amazing team at The Aromatherapy Company. Expect great things! We have a gorgeous Christmas range due out end this year and incredible new concept ranges in store for next year, plus new developments in the pipeline for our flagship brand Therapy. Expect that our products will only get better – which will excite and delight our customers, which is what we thrive on.