Au Naturale Builds Its Retail Network And Customers’ Lashes With New Mascara
Au Naturale is rounding out its assortment and retail network.
The clean cosmetics brand has expanded at Whole Foods, launched in Nordstrom’s Fresh Faces pop-in, joined Indie Beauty Expo’s collection with Neiman Marcus, and is headed to HSN later this year. It’s also introduced mascara, the all-important makeup staple, to a vast merchandise range containing in excess of 160 stockeeping units.
“To be able to catch the eye of two well-known retailers is exemplary of how much we’ve grown in the past few years,” says Shelly Mattson, executive director of sales at Au Naturale, speaking of Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. “Not only are we honored to be chosen by two luxury retailers, but we are excited to see that they are opening their doors and searching for clean beauty brands. It speaks to just how far the industry has come and proves that clean beauty truly is a movement, not just a moment.”
Au Naturale’s $27 Bold Statement Vegan Mascara speaks to how far the industry has come, too. Since its founding in 2011, the brand had been trying to develop a natural mascara. At its in-house facility, Au Naturale manufactures cosmetics without synthetic preservatives. To stay away from synthetic preservatives, it avoids water, but founder Ashley Prange shares the mascara had to have a bit of water to work and water could breed dreaded bacteria. “How do you get past that?” she asks.
An ingredient called xylityl cocoate was the answer. Demonstrating the advancement of the natural ingredient toolbox, it’s a new organic preservative made by GiOrbis Laboratories and sold by ingredient specialist Oh, Oh Organic. “We can feel confident that there’s no bacteria in the end product,” says Prange. “I’m a huge fan of this ingredient because it allowed us to do mascara, and it moves the conversation along in the industry. We’re being completely transparent about it because I believe this particular ingredient should be used by every brand.”
For Au Naturale, bringing mascara into its product mix was important to encourage distribution partners wanting color cosmetics brands to offer products for the full face to consider it. Prange says the mascara’s formula provides buildable volume that lets consumers elect for a natural look or serious length and thickness.
“Not only are we honored to be chosen by two luxury retailers, but we are excited to see that they are opening their doors and searching for clean beauty brands. It speaks to just how far the industry has come and proves that clean beauty truly is a movement, not just a moment.”
“We are able to have a mascara that truly performs and exceeds our expectations,” she emphasizes. “Quite frankly, my expectations were low considering what’s out there in our space now and that we were more limited with what we could do with the formulation because of our mission. I thought our formula would coat the lashes and not do much more, but this actually does much more.”
Au Naturale hasn’t just unveiled mascara, though. Its $15 release Lip Slick Tinted Lip Oil available in three shades complements a lip product stable at the brand that’s been a strength. Comprised of mostly organic oils, it’s designed to nurture the lips and give them a bit of shine.
“The lip oil has a skincare quality, and you can layer it over lipsticks for dewiness, not a pronounced shine like a lip gloss. Standalone, it’s like you just finished eating a popsicle. People want a bit of color and an element of nourishment,” says Prange. She mentions the lip oil as a possible point-of-sale offering for boutiques thinking about placing distinct goods at the cash register.
After entering 25 Whole Foods locations in 2017, Au Naturale has spread to some 200 doors nationwide at the natural grocer. This month, the brand is in Allure’s beauty box and supplied some 120,000 units of its The Anywhere Creme Multistick in the color grapefruit to participate. The brand is sold at mom-and-pop shops and spas across the country as well, and Prange is keen on broadening its reach in the spa channel.
“It’s one thing to open a door, it’s another to support it. We are everywhere from Hawaii to Amsterdam, and we have to address finding people to support the accounts.”
Au Naturale’s growth trajectory is due for a significant boost. Last year, it’s sales increased 56%, but they could rise as much as 400% this year. Previously, the brand was forced to turn away distribution opportunities because it couldn’t handle them. Prange divulges acquiring sufficient packaging to satisfy orders contributed to the brand forgoing those opportunities, but she mentions she got “creative with one investor and the bank” last year to help pay for packaging.
“My biggest cost is secondary and primary packaging. We have a lot of different components we need in-house to not be able to disappoint retailers and getting them costs a ton in shipping,” says Prange. “A majority of the money I received went to packaging. Now, I have it, so I don’t have to worry about reordering, but we can put in packaging orders because we have the money to do it. With larger quantities, I can get a better price. We are sitting in a great place.”
Ideally, Prange would like Au Naturale to secure two additional major distribution deals over the next year or so to strengthen its retail presence, but she is well aware that securing deals isn’t the hardest part of achieving success at retail. “It’s one thing to open a door, it’s another to support it,” says Prange. “We are everywhere from Hawaii to Amsterdam, and we have to address finding people to support the accounts.”