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DSN Retail Excellence Awards — Beauty


It’s no secret to retailers that the beauty category is on fire right now. Driven largely by demands for better-for-you products and ingredient transparency, the growth of the beauty aisle has created a lucrative market — one that has no shortage of brands.

As the category has grown, manufacturers — some established players and others category upstarts — have been quick to innovate, bringing new and unique products to market. In an effort to recognize the standouts, this month Drug Store News’ Retail Excellence Awards are focused on beauty and personal care brands that have stood out with their products.

DSN also would like to recognize the following manufacturers that were unable to provide extra information by press time: L’Oréal, Coty and Revlon.

The REX Awards winners are:

Australian Gold
For nearly 30 years, Australian Gold has been an innovator in sun care, both in the United States and abroad. During the past three decades, officials at the company said they have seen a lot of changes in how people use sunscreen, particularly how frequently they are applying it.

The desire to have products that are natural, chemically-free and environmentally friendly has escalated in recent years, officials at the Indianapolis, Ind.-based company said. With this in mind, Australian Gold created a line of mineral-based lotions and chemical-free continuous sprays. “Scientists have known for years about the unique protection and unreactive nature of minerals, but technologies to create viable products that consumers would like have only recently become available,” said Thomas Kurnava, vice president of U.S. sales for the brand.

As is the case with all of its formulations, Australian Gold extensively tested the new product line throughout the development process to ensure it was both safe and included quality ingredients with unique benefits. Kurnava said the company takes great care in evaluating the d Dioxide, both of which are considered reef safe. Australian native ingredients, such as Kakadu plum and eucalyptus add vital nutrients, as well.

“Our consumers remain loyal due to the fragrances and exceptional feel of our sun care products, and this new line will not disappoint,” Kurnava said.

Bee Bald
Cleveland-based Bee Bald manufactures and distributes a line of grooming, shave and skin care products marketed to bald men.

“Men without hair actually need to take better care of their skin than their hairy counterparts,” said Dennis Fisher, president of the company. “Given that more of their heads are exposed to the elements, and in particular, the incredibly damaging effects of exposure to the sun, it is important to protect this part of their body.”

Bee Bald’s line includes a daily cleanser, pre-shave scrub, premium shave cream, post-shave healing balm, daily moisturizer and daily moisturizer with SPF 30. In addition to those core essentials, Bee Bald has created two-, three- and five-piece kits with combinations of its products, as well as cleansing wipes that come individually and in a flat pack.

Bee Bald sales and store distribution continue their strong growth trend, tripling in each of the past several years. Although sales in the overall category are slow, smaller, niche companies like Bee Bald appear poised to break through, bringing incremental sales along with them.

“We’re committed to getting our message out to the more than hundred million men who need us and who need to up their grooming game,” Fisher said. “Our social media presence is starting to explode, and we’re constantly expanding on the innovative ways in which we engage with our customers and audience.”

Edgewell Personal Care
Edgewell Personal Care is best known for its portfolio of such established brand names as Schick, Wilkinson Sword, Edge, Skintimate, Playtex, Banana Boat, Hawaiian Tropic, Bulldog, Jack Black, Diaper Genie and Wet Ones.

Company officials said that innovation is inspired through shopper insights and intellectual curiosity grounded in delivering unique solutions that challenge category conventions. “Edgewell strives to deliver quality products that exceed consumer expectations while delivering category-driving solutions,” said Jeff Henderson, vice president of sales at the Shelton, Conn.-based company. “Within our sun care strategy, for instance, having a multiyear plan, which combines education, awareness and innovation with the right balance of promotional execution, has been instrumental in driving household usage and category growth.”

In January 2018, Edgewell launched Schick Intuition f.a.b., a first-of-its-kind women’s razor with a cartridge that contains bi-directional blades that let consumers shave in both directions. Edgewell worked with retail partners to launch this disruptive innovation by creating innovative display vehicles, featuring a
battery-operated razor that moved up and down.

Scott Pakula, executive vice president of sales at New York City-based eos, said the first thing people think of when they hear the company’s name is innovation. He is referring to the fact that several years ago when eos introduced its lip balm in the shape of a sphere, it disrupted an entire category with something that was completely distinct.

“It is not very often that there is an opportunity to enter a category with an innovation that turns business as usual upside down,” Pakula said. The company’s initial line was a certified-organic lip balm, and today eos offers five other lines ranging from medicated to color-enhancing choices.

While most know eos for its lip balms, the company also has a line of women’s shaving creams, as well as hand and body lotions, both of which feature the company’s trademark signature fragrances. “Whether it is our lip balm or shave cream, our brand stands for a combination of style, quality and performance, something other products in these categories don’t necessarily bring to the table,” Pakula said. These features, he said, are particularly appealing to eos’ core audience of women age 25-to-40 years old.

Most recently, the company introduced eos Crystal Lip Balm, a 100% wax-free, clear, paraben- and petroleum-free lip balm that contains shea, coconut, avocado and other natural oils. Eos also introduced two benefits-based SKUs of women’s shave cream, one for dry skin and another for sensitive skin, bringing the total number of SKUs to six in that line. Packaged in soft-touch plastic pump bottles, the shave cream can be used wet or dry.

Procter & Gamble
CPG giant Procter & Gamble has earned a REX Award for two of its brands — Gillette and Olay.

Executives said Gillette has been a household name for more than 100 years for one simple reason — it has constantly pushed to improve and perfect men’s grooming. “While we’ve seen the category explode with a quantity of brands offering similar benefits, Gillette stands apart with a focus on quality and answering the needs of what men really want from their shave,” said Pankaj Bhalla, brand director at Gillette and Venus North America based in Cincinnati. Offering features at every price point and giving shoppers a wide range of choices also have played a key role in its success, he said.

As Bhalla pointed out, while all blades may look alike on the shelf, Gillette’s proprietary technology creates a long-lasting blade that is thinner than a surgeon’s scalpel. “In fact, if you look at a blade under magnification, you’d see that the tip is shaped like a gothic arch to optimize the strength. This improves the closeness of every shave and means most cartridges last an average of one month — a value equation that pays off when you calculate shaves-per-cart,” he said.

Stephanie Robertson, Olay brand director North America, describes described the brand as a worldwide leader in skin care that has been trusted by women to bring them healthy, beautiful skin.

She said women are looking for products that provide superior performance and real skin transformation. “If a product doesn’t provide her the result it promises, she will find something different,” Robertson said. To achieve its difference on a crowded shelf, Cincinnati-based Olay holds to its founding philosophy, which is to maintain a deep understanding of women’s changing needs and to combine products that fit their needs with the latest advances in skin care technology.

As an example, she cites Olay Whips which launched in January 2018. “This product was uniquely designed for the nearly 50% of women who are looking for results, but hate the feel of heavy creams,” she said, noting Whips was designed to quickly absorb into skin, resulting in a light to the touch feel.

Markwins Beauty Brands

If you ask Alice Chen, head of corporate communications for Los Angeles-based Markwins Beauty Brands, what her company’s strengths are, she would say the company is set apart by its strategic brand portfolio and acquisition targets, as well as its nimbleness in innovation and speed-to-market capabilities.

Some of the brands under the company’s umbrella include Physicians Formula, industry-leading entry point brand wet n wild, leading multicultural brand Black Radiance and youth brand Lip Smacker. The company also recently added LORAC’s prestige offerings to its lineup.

As Chen notes, being a vertically-integrated company gives Markwins a competitive advantage on cost and launch timelines, driving speed-to-market to quickly cater to consumers’ needs. “Our No.1 growth driver is through innovation,” said Chen, noting that the company is always on the lookout for the latest delivery systems and beauty/skincare technologies.

Markwins also views its acquisition targets as innovation targets. The acquisition of Physicians Formula, for instance, brought with it R&D capabilities, a fully-functioning innovation lab and expertise in skincare, emulsions, and powders. With LORAC, the company was able to attain and leverage the brand’s light-reflection technology across its other brands. 

“Each brand in our portfolio caters to a specific consumer,” said Chen. “Markwins underlying philosophy is to satisfy consumers’ needs and give it to them at a value they can’t find elsewhere.”

Profusion Cosmetics

At Profusion Cosmetics, a company known for its makeup palettes and kits, its focus is helping women create a professional look at an affordable price point. Its fashion-forward makeup, note officials, appeals most to women ages 18 to 36 who are trend obsessed, want to experiment and have fun with color. The palettes were created to work in tandem with other products their customers may already have. 

“For us, the goal was to create a rich, saturated pigmented product that is long wearing and easy to blend,” said Sharon Wang, president of the Chino, Calif.-based company. “Our core customer wants to be a makeup artist and isn’t afraid to try different colors to create a new look.”

This year, among the stand out products in the collection, according to Wang, are its Pro Pigment, Chocolates and Siennas palette collections. The various colors within these palettes offer a high impact look and the wide variety of shades within each kit make them ideal for a range of skin tones, note company officials. 

Beginning in January, all of Profusion’s products will be vegan and all are cruelty free.


Sandoz, a division of Novartis Group, one of the largest global healthcare companies, recently acquired the AmLactin skin care brand. According to company officials, a key ingredient in the therapeutic skin care line is lactic acid, a powerful, yet mild alpha-hydroxy acid that is known to gently exfoliate and hydrate rough, dry skin. 

The company’s newest formulation, AmLactin Rapid Relief, has quickly been gaining acceptance. Officials for the Princeton, N.J.-based company point out that according to IRI, Rapid Relief recently reached $3 million in sales and continues experiencing double-digit growth. 

“Today’s skin care consumer is extremely savvy and demands efficacious cosmetic moisturizing products with distinct points of difference,” said Carol Lynch, president of Sandoz. “AmLactin has been relieving dry skin for more than 20 years and will continue to be a brand consumers can trust and rely on for years to come.”

The Mane Choice

The Mane Choice founder and CEO Courtney Adeleye describes the Huntsville, Ala.-based company as creators of a multicultural, healthy hair care and body care brand whose products are infused with vitamins, biotin, and essential nutrients. Its assortment ranges from Manetabolism Plus Healthy Hair Growth & Retention Vitamin to shampoos, conditioners, stylers and treatments. 

Adeleye, who ran the Mane Choice out of her home for its first three years, said her company’s point of differentiation lies in its authenticity, customer relationships, unique packaging, formulations and marketing strategies. “Innovation for The Mane Choice represents a way for our company to showcase our passion for healthy hair and lifestyle by solving challenges within the beauty space through viable solutions—solutions presented in an unpredictable way,” she said. 

Wahl Cipper

Wahl Clipper has been making hair clippers since 1919 and was the first to introduce a beard trimmer to consumers in 1984. Some outside of the beauty industry may also recognize Wahl as a leader in the pet grooming category while others may know it as the oldest massager manufacturer in the world. Whichever role it takes on, Wahl remains a family-owned company that still espouses family values focused on authenticity, qualities that set it apart from its competitors, note officials at the Sterling, Ill.-based company.

“Since we invented most of the categories we participate in, innovation feels like part of our everyday life,” said Steven Yde, vice president of marketing, NAC division. “Our inspiration comes from our obsession with doing the right thing for our customers and our employees.”

Wahl recently introduced a series of guide combs (guards) for its hair clippers which will be included on all new products and integrated into its current lineup during the next two years. Yde said several years of research went into developing the combs to ensure consumers were absolutely convinced that cutting hair at home is an easier, more comfortable and faster alternative.  

Two fun facts retailers may be surprised to know about Wahl is that next year will mark the company’s 100th anniversary and if they stretched all the copper they have wound over the past 99 years it would run to mars and back. 

Extreme Beauty International

Extreme Beauty International is best known for its Okay Pure Naturals line of shampoos, conditioners, leave in conditioners, oils, hair color, facial treatments and lip balms. The Miami-based company also produces body lotions, soaps, butters, bath bombs, foot scrubs, fragrances as well as personal care products targeted to men and babies. All of its products are created, manufactured, and shipped from Miami.

“We offer a healthy, natural alternative for beauty and regular care,” said Osman Mithavayani, vice president and co-founder. “We fill voids within categories and as a privately-owned business, we can quickly develop and release products based on demand.” Making its products in the U.S. gives the company a further advantage against many of its competitors, note officials.

Calling innovation an essential of its business, Mithavayani said since day one in business the company has been inspired to develop and create a brand that can appeal to consumers of all ethnicities. To do this means having its finger on the pulse of consumer trends. Given that Extreme manufacturers its own products which are formulated by an in-house chemist, it can create innovative products with the highest quality natural ingredients. Being able to innovate and be ahead of the market is a key part of its success.

“The inspiration starts at the top with our CEO, co-founder and my father, Ali Mithavayani,” notes  the younger Mithavayani. “Without him giving the initial push we would not be able to continue our momentum which has catapulted us into this brand we are today.” When the family took over the company in 2010 it had one SKU and today it has hundreds.

Recently, Extreme expanded its Men’s Professional line to include castor oil–infused beard and hair care products. They’ve also launched an organic and all-natural baby line and recently created new lip balm products featuring flavors such as coconut, watermelon, honey and mango. The company also introduced a hair gel collection featuring coconut, argan, olive and Black Jamaican Castor Oil as well as a number of moisturizing and curling products designed to hydrate and style multicultural and curly hair.

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