Just 40 minutes from Adelaide’s CBD, the hills are alive with flowers and herbs. Marshmallow, lavender, rose, liquorice and calendula scent the breeze and over 10,000 native trees lean towards the sun. This patch of soil on Jurlique’s biodynamic farm remains at the core of the 30-year-old natural skincare range that has grown from a niche aromatherapy beauty brand to Australia’s number one prestige skincare brand in just over 30 years.
With sales outside Australia now making up 70 per cent of the company’s business, Jurlique can be found in more than 1200 stores in 21 countries. The brand has a presence in Asia, the US, the UK and Europe. It’s a company that has come full circle, with its European founders, botanist and horticulturist Ulrike Klein and biochemist and naturopath Jurgen Klein, setting up the Adelaide-based Jurlique farm in 1985 and now spreading their (business) wings across the world in full force.
The Kleins were ahead of the beauty curve when they founded their once-niche brand. Since the mid-eighties, the natural beauty industry has grown prolifically. According to consultancy group Kline, the global natural beauty and personal care market is now estimated to be worth US$36 billion, and has experienced consecutive double-digit growth over the past five years. The challenge for Jurlique today, according to Deputy CEO Laurence Crussol, is to compete in the global environment but retain the brand’s distinct roots. As such, its 153-acre Adelaide Hills farm still grows the 35 different herbs that serve as raw ingredients in the company’s products. “When you mix peppermint, geraniums and the botanicals, the farm smells amazing. It’s in Jurlique’s DNA,” says Laurence.
Harvested for two months at the end of every year, Jurlique’s herbs and flowers are picked and sorted by hand and then stored in a drying shed for up to a week. From there, the ingredients are steam-distilled (to release essential oils, nutrients and liquids) before being showered with continuous water and burnt down (to release more nutrients and minerals). The whole process ensures that no plant material is wasted.
Biodynamic farming is a vast departure from Laurence’s industry experience, which spans working with L’Oréal in Paris, and then Australia, to looking after Lancôme and Armani, before joining Jurlique in 2011.“It’s very different here to France. In France, beauty is a ritual from a young age. It’s part of your education. You protect your skin from the sun and the environment. We put face cream on babies,” says Laurence. “What attracted me was the potential I could see in Jurlique. I could see the values in terms of what the brand does for the environment and social responsibility. At the same time, I was attracted to a much smaller company and the impact you can have. I thought, ‘How can I make a difference?’ It was a big move, but incredibly easy.
The flexibility that you find in a smaller company, the fast decision-making, was refreshing. The energy when I came on board was amazing.” Testament to that flexibility was the decision to restructure Jurlique to emphasise the brand’s concept stores. “We closed stores. It was about quality not quantity. We moved teams around. We have reaped the benefits and we’ve seen some fantastic growth.”
Key to this was the 2011 sale of Jurlique to Japanese-listed beauty group Pola Orbis Holdings, which also owns Paris-based Orlane and the marine beauty brand H2O, for AU$335 million. James Packer, an investor at the time, said he was “thrilled the brand has developed into a true global competitor”. Laurence says that the change in ownership has been a positive move in that Jurlique is given flexibility and autonomy whilst enjoying the support of the larger holding company. “They trust the way we do business,” she says. “While Australia remains the number one market for the business, there is definitely a connection between Asian customers and us. In China, there is a passion for the beauty category. They are passionate about skincare and really understand the power of nature and love the brand.”
Coveted in Asia for the botanical purity of its products, Jurlique now has 20 concept stores in Hong Kong and a mix of concept and department store placements in China. The challenge now for Jurlique, says Laurence, is maintaining the brand’s pole position above not only other mainstream brands but also new industry players, such as entrants in the Korean skincare market, which has affectionately been dubbed ‘K-beauty’ (a reference to the region’s preponderance of unique ‘K-pop’ music). If France is the core of the European beauty ethos, South Korea is Asia’s, exporting US$2.64 billion of cosmetic goods in 2015. A report by the BBC highlighted that South Koreans spend twice as much of their income on beauty than Americans, and South Korean men spend more on beauty than men in any other country. The report also highlighted a growing segment of Korean-American beauty entrepreneurs, who are spreading Korean products beyond their local market.
“We need to be on top of Korean skincare brands. We need to be stronger in our communication and retail, which is our expertise, as we have our own stores,” says Laurence. “It is a challenge. There are a lot of new things happening.” But the same goes for Jurlique which, earlier this year, shook up its Australian in-store experiences by removing all cash registers and moving to hand-held iPads to assist customers at any point in the store. When the stores closed for the day each transitioned to the new system, the change-over taking just 12 hours. The company will start rolling it out in their international stores soon.
Also this year, Jurlique launched its Nature Distilled brand initiative, which aimed at showing the company’s roots, literally, through a selection of curated content charting the creation of its products.“It is beautiful,” says Laurence. “It was a major change for us. We are standing out and expressing who we are and what we can deliver. The power of nature is the answer – and nothing is more powerful than nature. The idea is how do we capture all these sources of nature, distill it and process it and put it in a bottle? There is a lot of authenticity in this campaign.” The Nature Distilled initiative was conceived as the brand celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2015. Back at the Jurlique farm, heritage roses (which Ulrike Klein once declared the “queen of plants when it comes to skincare”) continue to bloom and be distilled into Jurlique beauty products to be sold across the world.
“We have expanded, investing in a new factory nearby as the previous factory was too small for our international distribution. But it’s 100 per cent South Australian… The quality of the product is still here.” If 30 is the age when we are truly meant to be an adult, then Jurlique has grown up – but still likes to go home.