Primavera: The time is ripe for change

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The specialist for ethereal oils in the Allgäu has “shed his skin”: since the beginning of 2009 the products have been re-designed and all now carry the Natrue label. In the spring of 2010 Primavera will move into new premises, a futuristic surrounding for a natural cosmetics pioneer with the highest of standards.

(Picture: All Primavera products carry the Natrue label)
Sulzberg in the Allgäu – you can see the mountains in the distance. From the present location of Primavera Life GmbH you don’t have the pleasure of seeing the mountains, but from the new building in the neighbouring village of Oy-Mittelberg there is nothing to block the fantastic view. From the top floor, with its big windows and a terrace that runs around the futuristic building, you can gaze into the distance. The building is flooded with light, looks a bit like a temple, and has been built according to Feng Shui principles. “It was high time for us to create our own environment in keeping with our business activities and so that we can live our vision,” explains the co-founder of the firm Ute Leube. The old buildings that Primavera has occupied since 1988 are bursting at the seams. Most of the cosmetics production had to be shifted elsewhere. All this will change with the move to the new building, which is scheduled for May 2010: everything under one handsome and befitting roof – that was the aim. The only exception is the logistics department, that moved into its own premises in 2008, since it wouldn’t really be appropriate in such a prestigious building (about 8,000 m²). (Picture: Primavera’s company headquarters built according to Feng Shui principles)

“We’re coming out of hiding, we want people to see what we’re doing.” Ute Leube is thrilled with the building that her business partner and Feng Shui expert Kurt Ludwig Nübling was largely responsible for developing. The atmosphere that will prevail in this building is literally in the detail, in the truest sense of the word. For example, seven tons of rock crystal in the cement will give the environment a positive charge, and an experience zone with a shop and stage in the foyer creates new possibilities for shopping, training, art and culture. The second floor from the top is for offices that have been designed according to the nest and network principle, that encourages communication and should cut down the number of meetings by 30 %. From right at the top under the flat roof you get a fabulous view. This is where the creative department and discussion rooms are located. The heart of the building has similarly been charged with precious stones to influence positively the company’s holistic nature and synergies. A green roof, light-deflecting systems and energy from wind and sun are details in keeping with building biology and energy-saving principles, all of which are essential today if, as an organic manufacturer, you claim to operate sustainably. (Picture: Ute Leube and Kurt Nübling look forward to the move)

The Primavera vision of developing products that enhance the quality of life, have meaning and make a difference is at home in the new building. But it’s not only the outer “skin” that is being renewed, because the 130 employees have been working hard at the substance and the philosophy of the firm, with every principle being subjected to the test: are we living our vision? Are there any discrepancies? This effort is worthwhile – today as it was years ago,” says Leube. The cohesion of Primavera was worked out jointly as early as 1990-1992 and expressed in the form of the company philosophy, and it is endorsed today by every employee when they sign their contract of employment. (Picture: Marketing department team)

The co-founder of the firm arrived ethereal oils and aroma therapy in a roundabout way. She came from Berlin and wanted to study medicine. During a lengthy stay in the USA, she came into contact with herbal medicine and, as she became increasingly fascinated by it, studying conventional medicine was abandoned. After returning to Germany, she ran a wholefood shop in Munich and learned on the job. “At first I found the idea of scenting rooms with ethereal oils rather disconcerting,” she recalls, “but then I fell in love with them. We tried out an incredible number and were thrilled by the sensuous experience and the astonishing effects.” She says that modern research corroborates her experience and is discovering new possibilities all the time. Aromatherapy is becoming increasingly science-based. “And the potential of plant active agents has by no means been fully exploited. Plant extracts and the ethereal and fatty oils still have great potential to heal and help,” says Ute Leube, expressing her conviction and pleasure at so many mysteries still to be explored. (Picture: Lavender oil)

Almost 25 years ago, after she took the decision to devote herself to aromatherapy and ethereal oils, she realised that the raw materials had to be organic and top quality. At first, not much suitable material was available. “We set out and looked for growers, from the roof of the world in the Himalayas to South America.” Today, many projects have passed their 20th birthday with Primavera – like the rose project in Turkey or the project in Nepal where tulsi, lemon grass, palmarosa and citronella are grown organically and ethereal oils are produced. Ute Leube is pleased to have close relations with these projects at a time when there is a run on organic raw materials. She says that some bottlenecks are pre-programmed. So she regards looking after the projects and ensuring her supplies of raw materials as a vital activity. Production manager Gerhard Benz has had a lot of experience abroad and is the link with the projects. There is one positive aspect to the boom in demand for organic raw materials: “Now that big companies are getting into natural cosmetics, more and more organic land is needed, and a vision we had 30 years ago is just about becoming reality today,” says Ute Leube. “It’s had a great effect.” (Picture: Rose-growing project in Turkey was one of the first)

At the same time, she is convinced that partnerships in the organic sector are not possible without Fair Trade. In her experience there is more to the relationships with the suppliers than just business. People often become friends, with positive results for intercultural understanding. The customer trips offered by Primavera help in this direction too. “That’s a highlight for our customers and our producers. People learn a great deal about each other, understand the product and the other culture better.” She says that retailers who have gone on one of these trips are afterwards the best ambassadors for the company. Customer trips are the icing on the cake among the many training and further training opportunities offered by the company. About 5,000 people attend courses or training on location in Germany and Austria every year or complete their training as an expert in aromatherapy. In Austria this training leads to an officially recognised qualification. “Today, enthusiasm alone is not enough; we need professionalism,” says Ute Leube. (Picture: Ute Leube)

“Unfortunately, people often associate us only with ethereal oils,” she says. They do continue to be their core business (around 600 products), but their cosmetics range has grown from 60 to about 120 products since 2005, and that’s not including the products sold to people like beauticians. The new approach since BioFach 2009 has been an important step to structure the whole product range better and to adapt it to the needs of sales outlets and the end consumers. For the first time, Primavera has used the results of its own market research in the re-launch. The research revealed, for example, that consumers associate natural cosmetics with simplicity, a plain, simple bottle, with a minimum of packaging and also a minimum of glamour. So this is how Primavera has re-launched itself: plain, simple, environmentally friendly but nevertheless high-quality. To make the whole product range clearer, it has been divided into three categories: Beauty, with face care, special care and body care; Health and Wellness, that brings together the ethereal oils and aromatherapy; and Home, with aromas and air sprays. (Picture: Different kinds of shelf display reflect the wide Primavera portfolio)

The new structure means it is easier to communicate the message: “We have a clear programme for different outlets,” explains Leube. For selected members of the specialist trade (wholefood stores and health food shops), for example, they have developed a shelf presentation with beauty, revitalising and health & wellness products. Primavera also insists on creating more expertise across the board and an even stronger partnership with the trade. “We advise any retailer who does not have the right expertise not to stock our products,” says Leube. The German-speaking countries account for most of the company’s turnover (around 75 %). About 25 % of the target of 20 million euros for 2009/2010 (financial year from July) will come from business with other EU countries, Asia and the USA. (Picture: Products)

At the same time as re-launching its packaging, Primavera undertook another bold step. As a founding member of Natrue (International Natural and Organic Cosmetics), all Primavera products were the first to carry the Natrue label. 46 % have the Natrue face with three stars for organic cosmetics, 27 % have two stars (minimum of 70 % organic contents) and 27 % have one star. “We wanted to influence legislation in Brussels to ensure the supply of natural raw materials and to have an input in developing a European and worldwide standard for natural cosmetics,” says Ute Leube, outlining the situation in 2007. “As manufacturers of natural cosmetics, we have a responsibility expressed in the Natrue guidelines to see that the bar was raised really high and that they would not go for the lowest common denominator.” She admits the three-level system is somewhat complicated and demanding, but it is transparent. The positive response of many trade partners, including those abroad, is confirmation of this standard. At first they wanted to set up industry representation only for Europe, but it very soon became clear that there was a real need for a label that could be used internationally. “In a short space of time, we’ve attracted a lot of attention and we’re on the right track,” explains Leube, who is a member of the Natrue board. (Picture: The Natrue logo is on every bottle)

Leube considers the high standard associated with the Natrue label to be essential in view of the fact that more and more companies are jumping on the natural cosmetics bandwagon. Many of them have plenty of finance available and also market power in international business. “The years ahead will be exciting, and we have to position ourselves and be prepared,” says Ute Leube who, however, is looking to the future with confidence. We’ve come full circle: new start, new products, new building. “We’re taking some bold steps,” she concludes, “they’re pointing to the future. The time was ripe for change.”

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