CULTURE

Natural cosmetics for the world

When Marie Cecile feels worn out, Apivita’s Stressed Skin Face Cream with magnolia, lavender and green tea takes care of her fatigue. When she’s sleeping, Apivita’s Dream Skin Face Cream, rich with the essential oils of lavender, rice and green tea, relaxes and nourishes her skin. A character created under the Greek sun by Spanish painter Carmen Garcia Bartolome, Marie Cecile believes that beauty is based on the harmony of body and soul. It is this credo, combined with her natural cosmopolitan air, that landed this hip cartoon character with a globetrotting mission: to promote Apivita’s aromatherapy products all over the world. Named for apis (bee) and vita (life), the Greek natural cosmetics firm was founded by the husband-and-wife team of pharmacists Nikos and Niki Koutsiana in 1979. With a leading role in the domestic pharmaceutical market (the company owns local pharmaceutical unit Remek), Apivita was initially inspired by the qualities of propolis (bee glue) and the power of Greek herbs – an innovative idea which came about 23 years ago. «Cosmetics are not medicine, but we believe that nature does offer solutions. When a mother rubs her little boy with eucalyptus, she is passing on her energy and love. Lavender, on the other hand, makes you sleep better; it’s that simple,» said Niki Koutsiana, president of Apivita. Using natural local bee products (honey, wax, propolis, pollen, royal jelly), herbs like thyme, calendula and rosemary, natural by-products (Kozani saffron and mastic gum from Chios) as well as top-quality essential oils and plant extracts, Apivita takes full advantage of its geography and history. Another key player is green tea, imported from Japan, which is used exclusively in all the aromatherapy products for its anti-aging, skin-strengthening and anti-inflammatory qualities. Divided into two main divisions, Propoline and Aromatherapy (which also includes Aromatherapy Express products), the company is currently producing more than 150 products, which are available in 4,000 Greek pharmacies. All items are scientifically developed and prepared in accordance with the European Union’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for cosmetics – while the company also invests in research. The Propoline line offers numerous solutions for health and hygiene matters, concentrating on hair (the anti-dandruff shampoo’s formula has remained unaltered for the last 20 years), oral, face, sun and hand care, not to mention first aid. In the Aromatherapy section, the holistic approach is reflected in products that fall into such categories such as Euphoria, Energy and Harmony, ranging from energy scrubs to age management serums and aqua face oils. The company is constantly developing its product range. New arrivals include Propoline’s throat pastilles with eucalyptus or black currant, among other flavors, as well as traveler-friendly Aromatherapy Express sachets, including Firming Face Mask with Grape Seed or Hydra Firming Body Mask with Seaweed. When Nikos Koutsianas began taking courses in Japanese culture seven years ago, he was essentially taking his first steps into the Japanese market. He was also getting over the fear of going against global mega-brands, firmly believing in his company’s ability to offer something unique. These days, Apivita products are increasingly making their mark abroad, traveling to Japan, China, Taiwan, Pakistan, France (products are available at the hip Parfumerie Generale in Paris and, beginning in September, at the landmark Au Printemps department store), Cyprus, Britain (they will be available at Harrods beginning on March 1), Saudi Arabia, the USA, Russia and Austria, with markets such as Spain in the works (a deal was recently signed with El Corte Ingles), while the company websites (www.apivita.gr and www.apivita.com) are currently under reconstruction. One of the reasons behind Apivita’s success in the international arena was a recent, award-winning packaging revamp for both Propoline and Aromatherapy lines. Carried out by Red Consultants (also behind the Athens 2004 Olympics symbol of the wreath in collaboration with Wolff Olins), emphasis was placed on clearer lettering and a bright color palette – in addition to the emergence of Marie Cecile as a symbol for in the Aromatherapy range. «Design is important in order to approach consumers, but above all, the importance lies with the product’s quality,» said Koutsiana. «Consumers are now looking beyond the brand, packaging and fragrance and are beginning to recognize the product inside.» For Apivita’s staff of 120 (with 50 percent in the scientific department), it all comes down to the ancient Greek belief that when we neglect the natural balance, we are deprived of energy. «People are going back to nature, so as far as the company goes, the timing is right for both Greek and international market expansion,» said Koutsiana. «These are good times and we have ideas; what we are interested in now is growth, but at the same time keeping our vision and our values intact.»