1969 was an eventful year: the moon landing, Stonewall Riots, Vietnam War protests, Woodstock festival. It was a year of political and social uprising, but also new beginnings. One of which was the founding of Heritage Store by Tom Johnson. A former computer engineer for M&Ms candy who had turned his back on the 9-to-5 life, Johnson was inspired to start the store after reading clairvoyant Edgar Cayce’s book The Sleeping Prophet. The retail space was originally dedicated to producing the recipes recommended by Cayce, who is deemed by some as the father of holistic medicine. Shortly thereafter, the company started creating their signature product, Rosewater, which remains a two-ingredient recipe of Damask rose and Vor-Mag water, expanding the product range as the decades went on. Another addition was the Aura Glow collection, a line infused with crystals that are cleansed in the ocean under a full moon and set with an intention before processing. There is also a Castor Oil range using the cold-pressed ingredient, use of which dates back to Egyptian times for moisturizing, wound healing, anti-inflammation, acne healing, and hair and scalp care.
The company celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019 with a sustainable packaging upgrade, coincidentally in a year when, much like in ’69, consumers are seeking solace in time-honored and spiritually focused solutions in a malaise-stricken world. Redesigns for brands with a long lineage can be challenging: stay stagnant and sales will diminish over time, go for too drastic of an overhaul and alienate your loyal fan base. Under the guidance of Maura Cannon Dick—who, prior to becoming CMO of Nutraceutical’s skincare brand portfolio, held global marketing positions across Estée Lauder Companies, working with the Origins and Clinique brands—Heritage Store is taking the plunge. The brand has already expanded to retailers such as Cult Beauty in the UK, Amazon, Urban Outfitters, and Target in the US, with further expansion plans on the horizon.
Dick talked to BeautyMatter about customer base evolutions, the rise of the spirited individualist consumer, and upholding the Heritage Store legacy while modernizing it for a new generation.
It was said that after 50 years it was time to update the brand. Was there any other reasonings behind the rebrand?
We reached out to our consumers, conducted some research, and checked in with them about what other products they would like to have available in our line. That led us into a skincare regimen space, so we are evolving our Rosewater line into a full skincare regimen, which is what’s happening this spring. That was truly consumer led, and to do that we had to evolve our packaging to give it a more skincare point of view, with clear sub-lines, benefit statements, ingredient callouts, as well as skin typing. That was part of the whole evolution as well.
Has your customer changed? If so, how?
We have different buckets of consumers. We definitely have that cult follower who is a health food shopper who has been using us for years, or they used us when they were younger and rediscovered us recently. We’re also a fan favorite with makeup artists and aestheticians, and that, along with our cult followers, has been a great fan base for us. But now we are really attracting the 18- to 34-year-old consumer who we dubbed the spirited individualist. She is a diverse woman and is looking for and learning more about clean beauty, making good choices for what she puts in and on her body. She’s confident, comfortable, a leader amongst her friends, trailblazer, really comfortable with a bare face and no makeup, and just wants to ensure she is using good products. We have a multidimensional and multi-age consumer. Our products are so versatile and at such an attractive price point that all ages can afford it. We’re also really resonating with British women as well.
The brand has such a long-lasting legacy, and now it’s transformed from being in health food stores to being at a mass retailer like Target. Were there any challenges in terms of the rebrand?
I would say it’s really about education and ensuring that we’re educating our consumer, online and through social media, through digital advertising, and as much as we can at a point of sale like Target or Whole Foods. It’s truly educating her and providing information, whether it’s on our blog, social posts, ads, etc. Our two main pillars are Rosewater and Castor Oil. Castor Oil is a really trending ingredient right now, but not all women know that you can put it on your brows, spots on your body, your scalp, your hair, and you can also do therapeutic Castor packs. Going into more mainstream food/drug mass retailers, we’re also ensuring that educational piece. We’re developing more and more product-in-use videos. We actually shot some in New York this past week that I’m really proud of and excited to put out, going step by step and how to use our products.
We also have a healthy male following—about 15% of our consumer is male, and he is posting and excited about our products. It’s wonderful, every day I am hearing about someone’s boyfriend, brother or father who really enjoys our Rosewater or Castor products.
Having kind of been a pioneer of the clean beauty approach, do you have any thoughts on that current landscape in the industry?
I spent the majority of my career at Estée Lauder Companies, and clean was emerging in the past five to seven years in a big way. It’s really special to be working on a brand that has always been truly clean. Our number-one product, Rosewater, is only two ingredients. The Glycerin is only three ingredients, Castor Oil is a single ingredient product. We source for the best ingredients that are time tested. We also strive for any plant-based ingredients first and foremost.
It’s exciting to get a brand that’s 52 years old and has always been this way; there were no tweaks to the formula. That’s a beautiful thing, and it’s really resonating with consumers too, because they not only want clean right now, they also want time tested. For the younger generation, there are so many new brands out on the shelf that are making specific claims and touting different types of products. We’re more focused on a tighter lineup and making something that’s going to last, that consumers are going to love for years. The clean beauty space is a Pandora’s box and moving target, but we feel really proud to be vegan, cruelty free, free of dark dyes, alcohols, harsh preservatives, phthalates, etc.
The star ingredient is this Vor-Mag water. Could you explain how that is created?
In our manufacturing facility in Ogden, Utah, we have the equipment that treats the water before adding it to the formula. It adds a basic molecular structure by creating a vortex within a magnetic field. That’s what imparts the energy to the water. Most cosmetic products have water as the number-one ingredient, and we’re very proud that ours is this energized and vortexed water, to elevate not only your skin, but your mood and disposition.
How do you see the demand for brands that have a more holistic, spiritual approach resonating, especially in turbulent times like these?
We consider ourselves a state of mind. We’re more than just a beauty brand. Every spritz of a Rosewater immediately transports you, resets you, can calm, can energize—it does what you need when you need it. Our therapeutic products like the Castor Pack for gut health are about the ritual and taking that time. Or if you want to do your brow treatment at night, it’s really about taking that moment, being intentional. Everything we do is with intention. Our formulator has been with the company for 30 years, and every ingredient we hand-select is a long discussion. Our brand stands out in that capacity. It was started as a community and is something that we continue to foster now through digital.
Does the company have any strategic process when it comes to that sphere of online representation? Or have you kept it as before where it’s predominantly word-of-mouth recommendations?
The word-of-mouth aspect got us our first 30 years in business. Then we started to get PR in the early 2000s, there was a breakout Lucky magazine article about the Lavender Water in 2000 that the original team remembers so fondly. We started to get more callouts as well from makeup artists and aestheticians, which really helped, but our strategy moving forward is to get out in front of the consumer more. We want to gain more consumers, grow, and accelerate the business in a bigger way. We’re a private equity-backed company and have some great goals, but the brand is resonating with consumers right now more than ever. We have some exciting distribution that’s happening in the middle of the year and we are growing internationally. We’re small enough that we’re not paying people to tout our brand by any means, but we definitely have that word of mouth continuing through Hollywood celebrities, makeup artists, aestheticians, and then we are doing more messaging, digital media, and really putting a focus in our social media.
Are you experiencing any difference in the reaction of the new generation versus the original generation?
Our products are pretty ageless. The new consumer who is discovering us is really excited about the beautiful formulas, the attractive price point, the accessibility. Our original consumers are happy that we haven’t changed anything except the packaging. We’re continuing to evolve and have more innovation launching: a moisturizer, an oil, and a cleanser next month, then some masks, and a beautiful Castor serum for brows and lashes. We have those products that will definitely attract the new consumer. Our existing consumer has told us through research that they’re excited to have more products within the line to shop it for their daily skincare needs, in addition to the original therapeutic products. To offer not just a toner and a mist, but a full regimen of a cleanser, moisturizer, facial masks. We took our time to create some truly beautiful and unique formulas. We have this beautiful clay mask launching in June and it’s ultra detoxifying yet hydrating, which I never knew you could create. I’m excited to bring my skills from having been in big brands like Clinique and Origins to this smaller brand, to really create whole product offerings for our consumer to shop within the line, to elevate the packaging and marketing while keeping our existing beautiful formulas.
Last but not least, what about your sustainability strategy?
We are going to be in all PCR and glass bottles by this month. That’s an amazing pillar. We’re also continuing to think about ways to give back. This month is Women’s Month, so we’re donating 5% of proceeds to Girls Inc. We’re continuing to think about other ways to partner with different foundations to support women. We also work with a Haitian women’s cooperative to source our black Castor Oil. That’s something that we’re looking to expand in the coming months, to develop a new co-op in two separate Haitian villages. That giveback component is very important for us, and to continue to find other unique opportunities like that in the future.