First it was a fraught relationship with color cosmetics, then a more solid relationship with hair care and now Kourtney Kardashian has her fingers in honey-fueled skin care. Manuka Doctor has turned to the reality TV princess to generate buzz for its treatment products, and she did her part Wednesday evening by headlining a party for the brand.
Like many familiar with Manuka Doctor, Kardashian discovered the brand through honey offerings that predate its launch into skin care five years ago with a collection of topical products for U.K. health retailer Holland & Barrett. Speaking to WWD prior to the event at Gracias Madre in West Hollywood, she recounted members of the production crew on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” initially introduced her to the honey.
“They would be taking spoonfuls since we are all around each other every day. I asked, ‘Why are you guys all eating this honey?’ They told me how great it is when you are getting sick,” recounted Kardashian. “Once I had Mason [her son], I started getting really more into natural things, and I loved learning about more natural stuff. I really don’t take medicine.”
Kardashian mentioned Manuka Doctor’s honey on her app, prompting the brand to reach out to her about the possibility of being a global ambassador for its skin-care assortment spanning 46 products priced mostly from $20 to $40. “I really liked the ingredients, and I love that the products are available at a lower price point. All around, I felt that it fit in with my lifestyle. That’s really what drew me to the brand,” Kardashian said. “I love to use as natural skin-care products as I can. When I use harsh products, my skin breaks out. It’s [Manuka Doctor] really something I can feel good about believing in and using.”
Kardashian incorporates Manuka Doctor products into a simple skin-care routine. “Every morning, I only use face wash and sunscreen. The sunscreen that I like is from Elta. There is one for hyperpigmentation, acne skin. At night, I use the face wash, the toner and, once in a while, I will need cream, but I normally don’t. I use the cream probably once every two weeks. I use one of the oils. I go between the Brightening and the Replenishing Oil, and I put them on my eyelids and under my eyes, and I rub them on my hands and under my neck,” she detailed.
Through a publicist, Kardashian declined to discuss the robbery in Paris of her sister Kim Kardashian, but told the Australian television program “Today Extra,” “I have personally been taking time to just digest everything and, you know, I’m still shaken up.” Asked whether the incident and the Kardashians’ subsequent social-media slowdown affected business at Manuka Doctor, brand owner Matthew Pringle said, “I don’t know how that really has any relevance to retail. That’s a Kardashian family issue. I don’t really want to be drawn into it.”
Based in New Zealand, Manuka Doctor’s skin-care products have amassed a distribution of 3,000 doors in the U.K. at retailers such as Holland & Barrett, Superdrug and Boots, but it’s been a challenge for the brand to find its sweet spot at stores in the U.S. skin-care segment. In the last two years, the skin-care products have bounced in and out of Sephora and CVS, where Pringle suggested Manuka Doctor was handled by a several buyers with varying levels of commitment to its success on beauty shelves. Its honey has had better luck in the U.S. and has rolled out to roughly 12,000 doors in the country.
“What we found in the U.S. [skin-care] market with the broker, buyer and importer model, it is incredibly difficult to get face-to-face with a buyer. In other markets, you have greater access to retail because you have easier channels of communication to make contact with a buyer. The U.S. market has so many different layers of buyers and connectors that it becomes depressing,” Pringle said. “You know you have a great product, but it is so hard to get to the right channels.”
Manuka Doctor has decided to give Amazon’s U.S. prestige beauty site a go. The brand’s skin-care items are already available on Amazon’s platform in the U.K. “We can control the business better. At a lot of the retailers here, you pay for every service under the sun, and it doesn’t really generate sales. This is a model where we can have more influence,” reasoned Pringle. “The [American] retail market works well for the honey side, but the skin care is a whole different beast.”
Six months after announcing Kardashian as ambassador for its skin care, Pringle described Manuka Doctor as gaining traction. He hasn’t bet on the reality star’s role with the brand spurring immediate profits. Pringle elaborated, “We went for a two-year contract rather than just a flash in the pan couple of months. [When it comes to] return on investment, I don’t believe you can see that within the first year. Obviously, with the number of retailers we have and online, it takes a long time to get presence, and it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to expect to take a hit on your bottom line for the first year, but you have to have a longer-term focus.”
Kardashian seems to have a long-term mind-set as well. She’s looking to possibly evolve her responsibilities with the brand as her contract matures. “It would be cool to create some products,” she said. “I have a list that I always keep on my phone of things that I think are missing out in the universe.”