Business Time

The evolution of Evolu

Janie Cameron 07 April 2017, 8:08AM
The evolution of EvoluKati Kasza

One of New Zealand's most beloved botanical skincare brands will soon grace the shelves of more Kiwi pharmacies, after partnering with a new distributor. 

Evolu, which boasts a range of natural skincare products for face and body, has teamed up with McPherson's Consumer Products, a health and beauty distributor, to expand its reach across the country. 

Like many Kiwi inventions Evolu rose from humble beginnings. The products were first made in the kitchen sink of Kiwi-born Hungarian Kati Kasza and her "partner in crime", Paul Westlake.  

Over the past 20 years, the pair have turned the small-scale natural skincare start-up into a flourishing business, which currently sells in around 120 pharmacies nationwide. 

But the time is right to take Evolu to the next step, says Ms Kasza, who is clearly excited about the new relationship with McPherson's. 

"We have been a small, perfectly formed business with a really strong sales force, but it got to the point where the brand is ready to explode and we just can't do that on our own," she says. 

"It was really important for us to find the right partner, and we think [McPherson's] is the perfect fit. They've got such a great culture." 

This year is the company's 20th anniversary, and a good opportunity to reflect on the growth of the brand from those early days in their Grey Lynn villa. 

The daughter of Hungarian refugees - her father a winemaker, her mother a herbalist - Ms Kasza grew up in Napier, with "everything natural", she says. She began her career as a French and English teacher, before becoming an international flight attendant. 

"It was fantastic for my French, but absolutely terrible for my skin," she says. "There wasn't anything natural around in those days, so one thing led to another and I started making my own products, and I guess the rest is history." 

While Evolu may have started in the kitchen sink, it certainly isn't there anymore. The brand, which takes its name from the English word evolution and the French word évolué (evolved), has always been a step ahead when it comes to natural products. 

"The natural category was in its infancy when we started, but right from the outset, we wanted to be one of New Zealand's best and well-known skincare ranges," says Ms Kasza. 

"We've done it all ourselves and never had any funding, so we probably didn't grow as fast as we wanted to, but that has its benefits - you really get to understand the market. 

"It's given us a great integrity be­hind the brand, it's very true to its values. It's authentic and really about clean skincare that feels amazing, smells amazing and does amazing things." 

Evolu is a carbon zero certified business, with all products still proudly made in New Zealand, and Ms Kasza says the company lives its ethos. 

"We use local products as often as possible, we recycle, live locally and walk if we can." 

And unlike other natural skincare brands, Evolu products are surprisingly affordable and cover a range of skin conditions. When Ms Kasza first started the brand, she told Mr Westlake, co-founder and creative director, that she wanted the range to be available to "everyone with skin". 

"We all have skin and we all have the entitlement to beautiful skincare. It shouldn't be an elitist thing at all," she says. 

One of the biggest challenges for the business has been encouraging people to believe that natural products really work, says Mr Westlake. 

"In the early days, we had to spend a lot of time convincing people that the reason these plants have existed for so long is because they have incredible benefits," he says. 

Now that consumers are more savvy and well educated about natural products, Mr Westlake says Evolu has had to keep pace - researching ingredients and continuously refining and developing the range. And in order to continue focusing on product development and strategy, it's time for McPherson's to take the distribution reins. 

Ms Kasza says she would like to double the number of pharmacies that stock Evolu within a year. 

"It's a really high target but I think it's possible. The pharmacies that do have it, love it. 

"Our goal at the moment is growth and scale, and that's what McPherson's will bring to [us] - a bigger footprint in the market, the right resources, and a really good reputation and relationships with retailers." 

The pair says their focus is on New Zealand, but it would be wonderful to be a globally recognised brand one day.


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