1492498087438 - Family-run Manawatu business exports beauty products to Singapore

Family-run Manawatu business exports beauty products to Singapore

A small family-run Manawatu company has gone from a one-room business to the beginnings of a global beauty empire in the space of 25 years.

The Herb Farm’s natural skincare and beauty products were launched in Singapore in April after it secured a deal to supply global chemist chain Watson’s.

Managing director and owner Sarah Cowan said dealing with the chain, which has more than 14,000 stores around the world, was on a completely different level to anything the company had done before.

The deal will fuel the Herb Farm’s expansion over the next few years. A new and bigger factory was planned for the Ashhurst site, and Cowan expected to hire at least five new staff this year.

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Cowan’s mother Lynn Kirkland started making and selling herbal remedies and skincare products from the family’s home in the 1990s.

Kirkland’s products proved popular and gave Cowan a strong foundation to build from when she took over 10 years ago. Now, the Herb Farm is a 25-person operation, which includes a manufacturing facility and on-site shop in Ashhurst. 

Over the past 18 months, Cowan has shifted the company’s focus towards exports to find room to grow and secure the Herb Farm’s long-term future.

The Herb Farm gained some momentum when it entered the Hong Kong market at the end of last year, but the Singapore launch is the keystone of the new strategy, she said.

Cowan said she also hoped getting a foothold in country’s fiercely competitive market would open them up to the booming Asian market.

Cowan said most Singapore shops had extremely limited shelf space, so they were selective about the products they stocked.

That made it a benchmark for importers in other Asian countries, who know a product that does well in Singapore is likely to prove popular in their own stores. 

The Herb Farm was already seeing some wider interest from Asian importers and Cowan had met with some Malaysian companies on her way back from the Singapore launch.

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