from the April 2009 issue

Dead Sea brings life to skin-care

Israel's beauty and skin-care industry is emerging as a new and rather potent player in the global cosmetics arena. The products range from established premium brands such as Ahava to newcomers such as Butai to the, mass-market Yes To Carrots, Israeli companies are tapping their nation for the raw materials, scientific innovations and home-spun creativity required to expand worldwide.

The best-known - and perhaps most ambitious - member of the sector is Ahava, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year and is now sold in 30 countries. Anchored around Dead Sea salts and minerals and still partially owned by its kibbutz founders, Ahava has recently gone bricks-and-mortar, opening branded boutiques in Singapore, London and Berlin, along with its six flagship shops in Israel.

On a far larger scale is Yes To Carrots, which in three years has gone from a "cult" Tel Aviv brand to distribution in 20,000 stores in 17 countries - including Boots and Debenhams in the UK and Walgreens and Duane Reade in the US - and $50m in sales. Like other Israeli beauty product companies, Yes To Carrots is almost entirely organic, and combines locally grown fruits and vegetables with Dead Sea minerals.

As with Butai, Yes To Carrots - which includes some three dozen products for the hair, face and body - has been developed to maximize the benefits of its natural ingredients. "Orang foods like carrots are rich in beta carotene, antidioxidants and free radicals," says company founder Ido Leffler. "The Dead Sea minerals help them easily absorb into the skin, hair and body."

Sabon and Laline are two Tel Aviv-based firms with rapidly growing global footprints. Thirty-five-year-old Sabon is the larger, with 80 shops throughout North America, Europe and Israel. Laline, meanwhile, expanded abroad in 2005 with four shops in the London area. This may seem like an industry in its infancy compared to the dominant international players but the sector's sheer determination is impressive considering Israel's tiny size and modest population. Yet, says Kelly Kovack, a partner with Purpose Built, a New York-based branding consultancy specializing in cosmetics and skin-care,

"Israel is a hotbed for science and technology, which trickles down into all categories of goods." including cosmetics.

What's more, Israel is "an incredibly mixed culture, with people originating from all over the world", says Ronen Zohar, chief executive of Sabon, which will launch this year in Japan.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report April 2009

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