Natural Foods Merchandiser

Q&A with Bob MacLeod/Steve Byckiewicz

Q: How has the industry changed since you started Kiss My Face in 1981?

A: Steve Byckiewicz: It's bigger and much more competitive, which has allowed for a lot of interesting raw materials to be introduced into the marketplace. For example, all of the new essential oils, surfactants to replace sodium lauryl sulfate and new natural fragrances.

Bob MacLeod: The Internet has also changed things. People are more interested in what's in everything because they're bombarded with so much ingredient information on the web.

Q: What do you think is going to happen to natural and organic PC in the future?

A: SB: Down the road, I think everyone from Procter & Gamble to the small players will formulate with natural ingredients. In five to 10 years there won't be much else but natural and organic in the PC marketplace. I also think we'll see companies transition from using a couple of natural ingredients to being 100 percent natural.

BM: I think there will be a bigger interest in efficacy. You can have a shampoo that is really pure and clean, but if it doesn't leave your hair looking great, you won't buy it more than once.

Q: What are your thoughts on the various organic and natural PC standards that are cropping up?

A: SB: It's sort of a mishmash right now, but once everyone agrees on a single standard, I think it will be good. The Natural Product Association's Natural Seal is pretty good but a little restrictive, especially for shampoo. If you want to create a shampoo with the NPA standard, it's not going to be what most people expect from a shampoo because it won't contain the surfactants and polymers that soften hair and add shine. But the NPA standards are not impossible—almost all of our new products pretty much adhere to the standards. BM: We desperately need standards for both natural and organic, but I don't want to see a set of standards geared to one company's particular skill set. The standards shouldn't be so restrictive that everybody's products are all the same.

Q: How are your products performing in this economy?

A: BM: The first quarter of this year was the biggest in our history. Consumers are looking at the cost per ounce of our products and realizing they're half the price of something they would have bought in a department store. We've trademarked the phrase "economically friendly," and we're getting a lot of new customers.

Q: Are the days over when guys like you could load up their Volkswagen with soap and start a natural personal care company?

A: SB: Yes. With so many companies and products coming up through the market, trying to get shelf space now is so much more competitive than it used to be.

BM: I don't want to go on the record as disagreeing, but if someone has an innovative enough item, a niche product, there are enough stores that would give it a shot.

Q: Kiss My Face is one of the few natural PC companies that is still independent. Why aren't you "selling out?" How many offers have you had to be bought?

A: BM: Ah, we can't tell you who's knocking on our door. We're not selling because it's still a lot of fun for us. We don't even have an exit plan. All we know is that we're not planning to pass Kiss My Face on to our families—they're not that dumb.

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