When it comes to personal care items there isn’t a one-size-fits-all product that meets the unique needs of all your customers; they love choices. High Ridge Brands has tapped into this secret and caters to that liking with a compelling portfolio of brands focused in hair care and skin cleansing, including Zest, Coast, Alberto VO5, White Rain, LA Looks, Rave, Salon Graphics, High Beams, Thicker Fuller Hair, and Zero Frizz. OTC Beauty Magazine spoke with company CEO James Daniels to learn more.
OTC Beauty Magazine (OTC): Please briefly describe the history of High Ridge Brands (HRB). How did this company get started and what is it founded on?
James Daniels (JD): HRB was created in January 2011 with the purchase of the Zest brand from P&G by Brynwood Partners, a private equity firm based in Greenwich, CT. The firm typically makes control investments in brands that have latent equity, but have been “orphaned” or under resourced by their prior owners. We have intentionally built a veteran leadership team with broad CPG (consumer packaged goods) experience. This team provides HRB with the ability to rapidly integrate and revitalize acquired orphan brands from marketing to sales and across the supply chain.
OTC: What is the structure of the company like? Are there multiple product types/brands manufactured under this label? Please explain.
JD: Within the categories we compete in, only P&G and Unilever sell more units in the United States than HRB. As a result, HRB has significant influence among key retailers as well as our supplier network. Despite the scope of our sales, HRB is a lean team organized along a classic brand team business model. All manufacturing is outsourced, leading to an asset-light capital model.
OTC: What makes High Ridge Brands different than other companies of its kind in the industry?
JD: While we are blessed with a compelling portfolio of brands, it is the HRB team that is at the core of our competitive advantage. The leadership team has extensive CPG experience and we see ourselves as the David facing the Goliaths. To be successful, we place a heavy weight on analytic rigor, personal accountability and bias for action across all functions. We excel in partnering with customers, suppliers and agencies to create significant value and growth opportunities. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to lead this team.
OTC: Who is the main audience for your products and what steps are you taking to ensure company meets their needs?
JD: For nearly a decade, challenging economic times have seen consumers evolve into savvy and discerning shoppers. These are the core consumers our brands appeal to. They may be among the nearly half of all US households making less than $45,000 per year and are looking to stretch their income. In addition, even more affluent consumers have learned to find high quality products at prices that respect the value of a hard earned dollar. We call roll of these consumers under a general umbrella we call the Value Consumer set.
We work very hard to win the battle on shelf to have the best product at the best price per ounce among our competitive sets. To maintain this commitment, we are constantly working in partnership with our suppliers and customers to reduce waste and improve quality. This philosophy will continue to drive long term brand loyalty and associated growth for our brands specifically and HRB overall. Understanding how hard so many Americans are struggling, HRB has also been a proud sponsor of Family to Family, a charity that helps American families struggling to make ends meet. Our donations help provide these families with high quality, personal cleansing products to start their day off right with confidence and dignity.
OTC: What is the newest product you have placed on the market? What sparked initial interest in creating this item?
JD: Our two “hero” introductions this year are Zest Fruitboost and the Alberto VO5 Solutions line. Zest Fruitboost Revitalizing Shower Gels with bright, innovative, easy-to-grab tube packaging it is the first of its kind in the body wash category. It has a 2x concentrated formula that revitalizes with moisturizers and antioxidant-rich Vitamin C. The VO5 Solutions line provides consumers with solutions for specific hair care typically found in brands that priced at a significant premium.
OTC: How does the company ensure it stays up-to-date with the latest trends in the beauty industry?
JD: In this highly competitive ever-changing category we make every effort to stay on top of trends by getting trade and consumer insights from multiple sources. Beyond standard consumer and market research, we also look to our customers to partner with us to meet unmet consumer needs, and our supply chain partners to bring global insights and technical advances into our product and packaging development process.
OTC: Please explain how your OTC store partners and our readers can benefit from carrying High Ridge Brands’ products and having a business relationship with the company.
JD: Currently, the item most commonly carried by OTC store owners is our Salon Grafix High Beams brand. However, we see significant opportunity to bring to OTC consumers high performance lines under the Thicker Fuller Hair and Zero Frizz brands. We are also developing customized product offerings for OTC stores under our VO5 and Rave brands.
OTC: How do you educate consumers and retailers on product knowledge? Do you utilize a website and/or social media? Why or why not?
JD: Prior to our ownership, our brands had typically been heavily promoted by their former owners, but had been recently “orphaned” with little investment in education and marketing. HRB is dedicated to reconnecting consumers and retailers with these brands, revitalizing the brands with renewed marketing and trade spending, and formulation upgrades to regain lapsed users and attract new users. The vehicles used to communicate to consumers are determined by the definition of the target audience and brand message. Our brands use a full array of traditional media (i.e. TV, radio, print) and digital media (i.e. Facebook, email, search, etc.). We have a robust database of over 1 million active consumers to which we communicate new products, promotion offers and relevant usage tips on a regular basis.
OTC: What do you foresee the remainder of 2016 holding for the company? Are there big plans you can talk about?
JD: On May 16th we announced the purchase of HRB by the esteemed private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. The firm’s experience with corporate carve-outs, deep consumer products expertise and reputation for operational excellence will be invaluable as we continue to scale.
OTC: What is the best business advice you can share with store owners?
JD: Understand that your store is a reflection of you. Know your customer and what makes them want to spend their hard earned money in your store. Go the extra mile to surprise and delight your customer with more value than they expect. Push your suppliers for innovation, strong brands and clean packaging to make it easy for your consumer to shop the store. Finally, make sure you have clear, measurable goals that are regularly monitored to ensure you can quantify your success.