The natural products industry lost a natural beauty veteran on Sunday. Burt Shavitz, co-founder of Burt’s Bees, died at age 80 of a respiratory complication in Bangor, Maine.
The company posted on its website:
Burt Shavitz, our co-founder and namesake, has left for greener fields and wilder woods. We remember him as a bearded, free-spirited Maine man, a beekeeper, a wisecracker, a lover of golden retrievers and his land. Above all, he taught us to never lose sight of our relationship with nature. Thanks for everything, Burt. You live in our hearts forever.
In 1984, Shavitz, a beekeeper in Maine, and Roxanne Quimby (Shavitz’s business partner and lover) launched the small natural company that used beeswax from Shavitz’s hives in handcrafted natural candles. Long before natural beauty was a booming business, they were creating a full line based on natural ingredients from the hive, including lip balm, soap and skin care. Fifteen years later, Quimby bought Shavitz out of the company.
Few natural beauty brands have garnered the same level of awareness as Burt’s Bees. The company swiftly went from exclusively being sold in natural retail to infiltrating mass market, and now has 88 percent brand recognition in U.S. households. But, Burt’s Bees started as a humble, two-person business, representing the convergence of skill and passion—the keys to entrepreneurial success.
Over the past three decades, Burt’s Bees’ growth has led the way for the natural beauty space with product expansion and diversification, and broadened distribution, bringing it front and center at big-box retailers like Target. In 2007, Clorox purchased the brand, and by 2010, Burt’s Bees, Tom’s of Maine (owned by Colgate-Palmolive) and the Hain Celestial Group comprised more than 65 percent of the natural and organic personal care market.
While the Clorox acquisition was somewhat controversial and raised questions about the brand’s authenticity, Burt’s Bees has managed to maintain its history and identity, much because Shavitz, the notorious founder, remained the face behind the brand long after he left the company. While the Burt’s Bees model has changed, the story of its founder, a Maine beekeeper selling honey from his truck, will remain near and dear to the natural products industry.
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