Celebrating 30 years in the beauty business, KMI Brands is an esteemed brand and beauty creator. Indeed, the company works with renowned global retail partners such as Boots, Sephora, Waitrose, Tesco, The Perfume Shop, Ulta, Shoppers Drug Mart and Douglas. KMI Brands’ mission is to create unique beauty and wellbeing brands to enhance the lives of its communities around the world, all while protecting the planet, every step of the way.
Explaining what fulfilling that mission entails, CEO, Rachel Parsonage says: “We take care of everything from research and development to exploring brand innovation in the beauty categories in which we operate. Our role does not include warehousing or manufacturing of our goods, as we always use third party manufacturers. Most of our manufacturing partners are British and over the last decade, 85 percent of our production was carried out in the UK. The reason we’ve opted not to manufacture our own products is that there are already manufacturers that are highly skilled and specialize in making body care, fragrance, and beauty products across all the categories we serve. Thus, we can focus on developing innovative goods that allow us to stay ahead.”
Building innovative brands
KMI Brands’ legacy as a leading beauty business in the UK began in 1993, when Herbie Dayal, co-founder of men’s shaving brand King of Shaves, launched into the beauty and personal care industry. Rachel discusses how the company has evolved since then and during her tenure as CEO.
“Before I joined KMI Brands in 2009, the business was very different. We owned numerous small brands across multiple categories including fragrance, men’s styling, bathing, mother and baby, cosmetics, and foot care. While we were turning over around a healthy £9 million, we realized that in terms of our strategic vision, we were stretched too thin and engaged in too many different categories. Subsequently, we decided to focus on building innovative brands that bring real value to the customer. Our brand line-up then began to change as we ventured into licensing, with Ted Baker as our main license partner. Moreover, our current portfolio comprises several brands, such as Noughty, which is primarily hair products, and Plantopia, our newest brand in the wellbeing sector. In short, we specialize in brand development within the beauty sector, which we then sell to end retailers, online or direct-to-consumer. In terms of internal expansion, we started to focus on that between 2013 and 2014. Over the last ten years, our global partnerships have developed and although branching out internationally can be quite challenging, I believe finding great partners who genuinely understand us and our desire to deliver exceptional experiences for our customers is crucial,” she enlightens.
Working in the beauty industry globally is a challenging endeavor in today’s landscape, where beauty products are readily accessible. This has led to an over-saturated beauty market where it is difficult for brands to differentiate themselves amidst fierce competition. Rachel shares how KMI Brands’ approach and unique selling proposition (USP) empowered it to set itself apart. “When it comes to supply chain, we systematically follow regulations in-house to ensure that we are compliant. As a global brand that creates products that are applied on skin, it is essential that we comply with all regulations for each and every territory, which is very thorough and strict in its inspection of the ingredients we use. We passionately believe that we need to stay ahead of the game due to the ever-evolving nature of ingredient data. For example, we reformulated any products containing microbeads in 2015, well ahead of the relevant legislative bans on the product. We anticipated this would happen because we keep up with upcoming cosmetics directives and scientific reviews on certain ingredients. We tend to simply stop using them early and find a safer alternative. I view this as a testament to our ethos, as we pride ourselves on being ahead of the curve in terms of using safe and efficient ingredients, even if it may sometimes result in additional costs.
“We are committed to staying true to ourselves in terms of innovation and refuse to go down the path of greenwashing, which can be tempting in today’s digital landscape. Now that everything can be done instantly online, our stance on how we try to be different is about remaining honest and transparent, both across the brands that we work with but also as a business. This is especially vital within the beauty industry, considering the challenge many brands face in identifying their USP due to the widespread accessibility of beauty products. We must connect with the customers and how our products can meet their needs. There are brands in the beauty industry that are specifically targeting a problem, be it related to hair or skin. These problem-focused brands cater to a specific customer and aim to resolve the exact issue they are experiencing. In other words, our aim is to deliver differentiation in our products, enabling our customers to love life beautifully,” she informs.
Passionate about sustainability, KMI Brands began a partnership with sustainable fragrance supplier, CPL Aromas in 2014. Today, some of its products utilize CPL Aromas’ unique fragrance concentration technology, EcoBoost. The technology uses only ten percent of the normal fragrance dosage with no compromise on strength or quality. This way, the business creates enticing fragrances while drastically reducing its impact, packaging, transport, energy, and disposal costs. In addition, KMI Brands began investigating B Corp certifications, which serves as a guarantee that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency.
“When I first learned about B Corp, I thought it aligned perfectly with our aspirations at KMI Brands. In 2019, we decided to pursue B Corp certification. However, the pandemic disrupted our plans as we needed to focus on keeping the business going. It wasn’t until 2022 that we began looking at getting the accreditation again. My primary motivation was to establish an internal benchmark, not just for our brands, but for our entire business. I wanted to be sure we were doing everything right. Achieving that accreditation was a very challenging process. After being audited, we achieved the accreditation a year later in May 2023. This accreditation encourages us to measure our progress and set goals for the business, however, most importantly, it provided us with invaluable insights into how we can better drive business performance around sustainability, the environment, and the wider community,” Rachel ends.
Through its commitment to ethical practices and giving back to communities, KMI Brands is poised to further strengthen its presence within the beauty industry.