After posting double-digit gains for more than a decade, sales of personal care wipes have slowed in recent years as cash-strapped consumers debate the cost of convenience. But La Fresh is bucking the trend by putting a fresh spin on the wipes concept and posting big sales increases in the process.
The Chino, CA-based company was founded in 1997 by Eve Yen, who’s also the founder of Diamond Wipes International, which bills itself as the largest consumer and industrial wet wipes manufacturer on the West Coast of the U.S. La Fresh is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Diamond Wipes International, which got its start as a travel wipes business and was really “a pioneer in that space with the goal of lightening travelers’ loads,” notes Jennifer Norman, VP-marketing, La Fresh Group Inc.
But four years later, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks forever changed the way Americans travel, as the Federal Aviation Authority implemented a number of restrictions on what passengers could bring on the plane. La Fresh immediately increased its product offerings, ultimately expanding the brand to 16 different items including on-the-go shoeshine wipes and lens cleaners. Along the way, the company expanded its distribution in hotel gift shops, resorts and duty-free stores.
Business was brisk, but Norman saw the opportunity to engage consumers at home, where they were far away from airports and conventions, but still eager for convenient, environmentally-friendly, high-performing products.
The result was the 2010 launch of Eco-Beauty and demand has been exceptional, according to Norman, who notes that the La Fresh range has a strong, high-performance ingredient story. For example, all La Fresh products are free of parabens, sulfates, GMOs, triclosan, phthalates, PEGs, acetone, dyes, artificial fragrances and animal byproducts.
In fact, the brand has won a number of awards from consumer magazines. For example, the waterproof makeup remover wipes won best makeup remover in Prevention’s 2012 Beauty Awards.
To further highlight the benefits of its makeup remover wipes, La Fresh is rolling out a direct response television campaign (DRTV) featuring actress Virginia Williams, best known for her role as Lauren Reed on the TV series “Fairly Legal.” This is the second DRTV campaign for La Fresh Eco-Beauty and Norman contends these campaigns play an important role in the brand’s development as the extended length format enables the company to promote the benefits of La Fresh. The ads feature exclusive offers on three full size La Fresh Eco-Beauty Waterproof Makeup Remover pouches, eight assorted Eco-Beauty portable sachets, a signature travel case and VIP auto-delivery signup. Media will include 60 and 120 second spot buys on national cable networks targeting beauty-involved women such as E!, Style, WE, OWN, Bravo, VH1 and Oxygen.
Not only does DRTV expand La Fresh’s audience, it also helps drive traffic to traditional retail outlets.
“Retailers tell us that they wish they could double the size of their wipes section,” says Norman. “Given the economy, wipes are viewed a little luxury and from what we hear, there has been a dramatic pick up in sales.”
The La Fresh executive expects to get another boost with new Eco-Beauty Anti-Aging Face Cleanser Wipes, which promise to dissolve away surface toxins and makeup while revitalizing skin with active levels of antioxidants and mineral polypeptides. The antioxidants are sourced from maqui berry, a fruit know for its exceptional oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC). Moreover, the polypeptides are a bioavailable enzymatic blend of copper, zinc and manganese designed to lift skin’s youthful appearance.
Also new are Travel Lite Antiperspirant Wipes, which are said to provide long-lasting wetness and odor protection with invisible, non-whitening assurance. Travel Lite wipes come in women’s and men’s variants. To get the word out on the benefits of its products, LaFresh distributes one million samples a month, which leads to repeat purchases and strong word-of-mouth advertising, notes Norman.
The new product launches and aggressive marketing and distribution plans should help LaFresh’s sales soar in 2012. Norman says sales nearly doubled in 2011 and she expects the same type of gain this year.
And, the LaFresh team is meeting with retailers and coming away with orders from the likes of Harmon, Hy-Vee and Valu Merchandisers, with more major retailers to be added later in the year.
“Sampling is a great way to build trial and ultimately, the brand,” she says. “Once people try our wipes, they love them.”