Bye bye multi-product contour tutorials, hello inner beauty. As the modern beauty consumer continues to seek holistic answers from products that are natural, long-lasting and results-driven, the industry is experiencing a seismic change. Rather than arming themselves with a litany of products that camouflage and conceal, women want to glow from the inside out.
Enter WelleCo, an innovative Australian ingestible wellness company founded by serial entrepreneur Andrea Horwood and supermodel Elle Macpherson, built on the tenants of the latter's plant-based lifestyle that earned her the covetable title of “The Body."
The proposition is simple: One drink a day, every day, gives you everything you need to neutralize acidity, support your immune system and promote gut health. Filled with a plethora of plant-based ingredients like pre and probiotics, vitamins and super greens, WelleCo's finely milled powders can be added to water, plant milk or blended into a smoothie for results that many have called “life-changing" on reviews and social channels alike. “One of the brightest parts of my day is when I go and I read the comments from a lot of the people saying that it's completely changed their lives," says Macpherson.
And it's catching on. Showing growth to 20 times the business size from its 2014 launch, WelleCo has expanded to include plant-based Nourishing Proteins, and even a kid's chocolate drink. With an 80/20 direct-to-consumer/retail model, Horwood says the brand's messaging is naturally personal and authentic, which is an important reason consumers are connecting with it. “The modern customer is well informed, educated and prioritizes nutrition and the value of wellness in her life," she comments. “We talk to our customers on an elevated level because we feel they are informed and understand."
“One of the brightest parts of my day is when I go and I read the comments from a lot of the people saying that it's completely changed their lives," - Elle Macpherson
An Organic Match
Just call them modern superwomen. With accomplishments that range from Horwood introducing the world's first non-chemical sunscreen brand, Invisible Zinc; to Macpherson becoming an international symbol of beauty and wellness, the pair are a force to be reckoned with.The two met when Macpherson became the face of Horwood's revolutionary suncare brand, and have worked together for over a decade, with Macpherson also being featured in the pages of Horwood's first venture, Aussie magazine, Australian Style. It was, in fact, a chance moment of intuition that lead them to launch WelleCo. One day during a press junket, Horwood, noticing Macpherson's incredible stamina and energy levels, inquired about the green water she'd been sipping on. “Elle started to talk to me about an Australian nutritional doctor [Dr. Simone Laubscher] who had been working around a highly effective combination of plant-based, whole food nutrients designed to keep your body at a healthy balanced pH level," Horwood tells SWAAY. “It kicked off an interest in me and after many late night conversations with Dr. Laubscher in her Harley St London clinic, I went back to Elle because I knew she wanted to be more than just the face of a brand, she wanted to be in the business, and I explained 'I really think our venture together should be this green supplement'." It was a version of that green supplement that became WelleCo's hero product, The Super Elixir.
And for Macpherson, who had already dipped her toes into the world of entrepreneurship with a lingerie line, the opportunity to be a partner on something she believed in so deeply was a natural fit. “I saw this very considered approach, and that's what I wanted to share with other women," she notes. “So that's how the business started, when I took this product for myself, when I saw the benefits of it, and then I thought, actually, I'd really like to be able to share this with other women."
“After swapping my diet for a predominantly whole-food, plant-based, alkalizing one, and started taking the WelleCo Super Elixir, everything changed for me: my body, mood, skin, hair, they responded so positively and very quickly." -Elle Macpherson
The Magic Inside
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, star products are designed to address personal challenges. WelleCo's Super Elixir is no different, with Macpherson discovering that as she got older, she didn't have as much energy throughout the day as she used to. “I was approaching 50, my lifestyle needed a rejig in order to achieve maximum wellness, and I couldn't rely on my genetics for my well being anymore, so I went to see a nutritionist, [WelleCo formulater] Dr. Laubscher." It was after this meeting Laubscher prescribed Macpherson an alkalizing green powder, an early principal behind the brand's now best-selling Super Elixir Greens.
“Every experience has been different but I've always been interested in disruption. My worlds of independent publishing and brand building have collided with WelleCo - we produce our own content and the brand voice comes from us. We've built a strong team and culture within a brand and its precious to us." -Andrea Horwood
“When she [Laubscher] looked at the average imbalances of an adult, [and the] specific ingredients she could include that would support gut health and balance the body's 11 systems, she included lots of ingredients like horsetail and Omega 3 for healthy hair and skin and nails; probiotics and prebiotics to support the digestion; shitake mushrooms, miyake mushrooms," says Macpherson. “We made a product that was really great for the immune system."
According to Horwood, at the core of the WelleCo formulating process is a direct delivery of everyday nutrients via a highly absorbable finely grained powder, comprised of more than three dozen premium botanicals. “Your body recognizes whole food nutrition, it knows what it is, uses and absorbs it," she says, adding that they are processed gently so the nutrients remain alive. “The traditional argument is you should be able to get those nutrients from your diet, but I don't see any horsetail, aloe or sea algae in my usual market shopping cart. Adding this to a drink once a day is a simple way to give body wholefood nutrients. And this absorbable wholefood nutrition can have a profound effect."
Carving a Niche
To be sure, WelleCo is a radically new proposition in terms of positioning and even describing to retailers where it fits into on the shelf. According to Horwood, being a brand that falls somewhere in between beauty and wellness may have its difficulties, especially in terms of consumer communication, but ultimately serves as an opportunity to do her favorite thing, disrupting.
“We do sit on the beauty floor but our proposition is far deeper because wellness is transformative." -Andrea Horwood
“We were one of the first pioneers of the ingestible beauty category," says Horwood. “We were carving a new territory and talking to customers, department stores, press and distributors about a product that didn't fit neatly in beauty or traditional synthetic supplements. We created a new category of its own. That was our challenge, but I felt quite strongly this was a compelling new space for the modern customer."
The brand's best-selling product, The Super Elixir.
Despite the challenges, growth has been organic, Horwood says. Since launching, the brand has entered over 52 markets including China, the UK, and Europe, and now with a splashy launch in Barneys NY and LA, WelleCo has found its way into the US market, where there's a hungry (well, thirsty) customer waiting for it.
“We found a loyal and growing customer base in the US through our WelleCo.com site, before really touching that bricks and mortar market," says Horwood, adding that more than half the company's global sales come directly from the US. “For us, we felt Barneys is an iconic premium New York department store, and one that is serious about the shift to inner beauty, responding to the profound shift in customer behavior."
Although many beauty brands are clamoring for digital sales, Horwood is of the belief that there must be an accompanying opportunity to interact with the product, especially with ingestibles. To wit, the company's second standalone store will open its doors in downtown New York this summer. The wellness space, which will include consultation areas, in-house demonstration events with blending counters for green drinks and smoothies, is meant to give the whole 360 bespoke wellness experience.
“You can walk in, meet our trained staff, consult with our nutritional doctors, customize your supplementation according to your own needs, and of course taste our amazing plant proteins," says Horwood. “We have one store in Australia and it's shown the value of this customer connection - over 90 percent of the customers who walk through the door purchase our products. The store allows for a deeper appreciation of the brand and its philosophy."
“It is mainly efficacy of the product, driven by word of mouth. People take our Super Elixir, they feel the positive effects, which actually affects how they respond to our brand as well." -Andrea Horwood
A Cult Following
It's no secret that being able to put a face to a name is an entrepreneurial ticket to success. Macpherson, who holds an impressive record of five Sports Illustrated covers, is a timeless figure in the fashion and modeling industry. Her personal brand melds seamlessly with WelleCo and has elicited an excited response across all social media channels by fans ready to buy into anything that will give them even a semblance of Macpherson's enviable vitality and physique.
Going against the social media grain in 2018, WelleCo favors deep and authentic collaborations with like-minded individuals and brands. “We have great fans like Rosie Huntington Whiteley, Cara Delevingne, Jessica Seinfeld, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bobbi Brown and Kate Moss," says Macpherson. “Many people in the fashion industry really love the brand and they're not influencers, or paid influencers, they just really love it. And one of the brightest parts of my day is when I read the comments from a lot of the people writing to us saying how it's completely changed their lives."
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.