Natural Skincare Brand Mad Hippie Gathers Steam With Ulta Beauty And Whole Foods Expansion
Retailers think Mad Hippie’s madness is actually genius. The natural skincare brand known for its powerfully active products has been picked up by Ulta Beauty and extended across Whole Foods’ store network.
Mad Hippie’s distribution gains illustrate its swelling reach both to traditional green beauty shoppers and those typically seeking conventional merchandise. It also illustrates the appeal of strong ingredient stories to consumers. Mad Hippie’s Vitamin C Serum put the brand on the map and hasn’t budged from its bestseller status.
“Ulta is expanding their offerings in terms of natural products, which signifies a welcome shift in the industry toward cleaner, safer products. We are excited to be a part of that movement and look forward to sharing our line with Ulta shoppers,” says Dana Stewart, who founded Mad Hippie with husband Sam. “We feel confident that Ulta knows its audience. They are a company that is navigating the ever-changing marketplace quite gracefully.”
At Whole Foods, where Mad Hippie kicked off with four doors eight years ago, around a year after its introduction, the brand continues to convert shoppers to its products, particularly Vitamin C Serum. “The quality is really on par with prestige vitamin C serums, and it’s clean,” says Amy Jargo, global category manager for Whole Body at Whole Foods. “It’s wonderful to see a brand doing so many great things for the industry from an ingredient perspective, and creating products that work really well and are competitive in the entire beauty space, not just the clean beauty space.”
Stewart credits Mad Hippie’s start at least in part on her husband’s Irish Scots heritage. The Stewarts spent five years in Nicaragua and, while there, the sun did a number on his pale skin. To help Sam and surfers like him, Mad Hippie began with natural products designed to address the effects of the sun in bright yellow packaging featuring a Volkswagen bus. Surfers were the brand’s target customers, but its customer base quickly ballooned beyond them.
“We found a lot of the results-driven products that were available weren’t natural. They would be found in a dermatologist’s office or med spa, and they had a lot of ingredients we were interested in, but other ingredients we weren’t,” says Dana Stewart. “It felt like you needed 50 bottles, each one with an active ingredient, in order to get all the ingredients we wanted to use. We had a new baby at the time, and we had about five minutes while one of us was holding the baby for the other one to do their skincare routine.”
“The quality is really on par with prestige vitamin C serums, and it’s clean. It’s wonderful to see a brand doing so many great things for the industry from an ingredient perspective, and creating products that work really well and are competitive in the entire beauty space, not just the clean beauty space.”
In 2010, the Stewarts switched Mad Hippie’s labels and boxes to a vibrant Peter Max-style graphics distinguishing the brand from the minimalist aesthetic ruling clean beauty packaging, and approached Whole Foods in Portland, Maine, the city they lived in back then, with four products: Eye Cream, Face Cream, Cream Cleanser and Vitamin C Serum. The couple subsequently moved to Austin, Tex., and, finally, to Portland, Ore.
In Austin, Mad Hippie’s relationship with Whole Foods blossomed, and the brand pushed broadly into the natural grocer segment. In addition to Whole Foods and Ulta Beauty, the brand is currently carried by Natural Grocers, Earth Fare, PCC Natural Markets, Lassens, Central Market, Fresh Thyme, New Seasons Market and The Vitamin Shoppe, the retailer that gave Mad Hippie its first national exposure in 2016.
As it has expanded to big retailers such as Whole Foods, Mad Hippie’s wholesale-related costs have mounted, but Dana Stewart points out the profits justify the costs. “You have to put in money to get your name out, and make sure you are doing demos and that customers are seeing you, and that staff members are trying your line,” she says. “There are a lot of costs with getting your name out there, but Whole Foods for a lot of people is a great account.”
There’s more products from Mad Hippie for staff members and customers to try than the four the brand initially got into Whole Foods. Cleansing Oil is a recent entrant. It’s mix of organic pumpkin seed, safflower and rose hip oils, white tea, squalene and ginger removes makeup naturally. Hydrating Nutrient Mist, a product packed with 18 actives that was released prior to Cleansing Oil, takes Mad Hippie’s merchandise to the body below the face. Across its 10-item range, the brand’s prices run from $15.99 to $34.99.
“You have to put in money to get your name out, and make sure you are doing demos and that customers are seeing you, and that staff members are trying your line. There are a lot of costs with getting your name out there, but Whole Foods for a lot of people is a great account.”
“We wanted to change the industry a bit with our affordable pricing for high-quality skincare,” says Stewart. “If you want high-quality actives like peptides, you’ve often had to pay through the nose for them, and we wanted to bring them to a wider group of people at an affordable price point.”
Mad Hippie envisions international markets as significant future growth drivers. It’s already stretched to Scandinavia, Taiwan and Ireland. Abroad and at home, Stewart views mainstream retailers as the primary wholesale growth opportunities for Mad Hippie in the months and years to come.
“Mainstream beauty before was not at all geared toward natural products, and I think there are a lot of those larger mainstream beauty channels out there that are really shifting,” says Stewart. “The millennial shopper is driving that. They are willing to pay for naturals from companies whose values align with theirs.”