From humble beginnings at a craft fair, Burt’s Bees has grown and changed through the years to become the beloved brand that it is today. At Ayablu, we were excited to join their family by creating Burt’s Bees Baby™, an independent licensee. Here, we respect and reflect on the extraordinary road already traveled by Burt’s Bees and look forward to creating our own story, the next chapter, Burt’s Bees Baby.
1984 How it All Began
Burt’s Bees got its start back in 1984 in Maine, when Roxanne Quimby and Burt Shavitz teamed up selling candles made from the beeswax created as a by-product of Burt's honey business. At the very first craft fair, they sold $200 worth, and by the end of the first year, sales climbed to $20,000. Their fine attention to detail was an integral part of their success. For instance, Roxanne noticed that women always turned a candle over to look at the bottom before purchasing it. Roxanne knew that ensuring that each candle was cut to a fine finish, especially on the bottom of the candle, would signal to consumers that the candles were of the ultimate quality.
1989 The Buzz Started Spreading
Word about Burt’s Bees products soon reached New York, and in 1989, the hip Zona boutique ordered hundreds of their candles. So, naturally, Burt’s Bees expanded production. They hired 40 employees and set up shop in an abandoned bowling alley. Around this time, Roxanne happened upon a 19th century book of home-made personal care recipes and that's when the Burt's Bees we know and love now really began.
1991 Beeswax Gets A New Use
In 1991, the year Burt’s Bees incorporated, they were making half a million candles a year, as well as natural soaps and perfumes cooked up on gas stoves. That's when Burt’s Bees got the idea to add lip balm to their line-up. To this day, it is the best-selling product.
1993 Time To Move On
With an ever-expanding product line and more and more orders to fill, Burt’s Bees knew in 1993 that it needed to expand. They searched high and low for a new home, and finally decided on business- and community-friendly North Carolina. The area was already home to several other internationally-known personal care products companies. It was also at this time that they made the difficult decision to focus their entire product line on personal care.
1994 Growing Into Our New Home
Burt’s Bees set up shop in an 18,000 square-foot former garment factory in Creedmoor in 1994, and opened their first retail store the following year in nearby Chapel Hill. By this time, Burt’s Bees had 50 products, some of which were even being distributed as far away as Japan. And they were embracing automation, one piece of machinery at a time ensuring all the while that it maintained that homemade quality and feel. In the spirit of recycling, Burt’s Bees acquired a giant second-hand mixer from the cafeteria at nearby Duke University.
1998 Smaller Sizes, Bigger Success
By 1998, Burt’s Bees annual sales had reached over $8 million and they had more than 100 distinct items in their product line, which were being sold in over 4,000 outlets, including Whole Foods Market and Cracker Barrel. That year, Burt’s Bees new travel-sized natural skin care and hair care products became instant best-sellers.
The following year, Burt’s Bees introduced their first body lotions featuring natural milk and sugar enzymes, as well as a line of bath products made with sea ingredients.
1999 Worldwide Expansion
Over the next several years, product lines grew, profits grew and the space Burt’s Bees worked in grew. They relocated again to a 105,000 square-foot site in Durham near Research Triangle and soon expanded that to 136,000 square feet. It was at that time that Burt’s Bees launched their eCommerce website, making their products readily available for purchase country-wide. In 2002 and 2003, Burt’s Bees launched their first toothpaste and shampoo as well as the incredibly popular Baby Bee® product line.
2002 Environmental Conservation
But Roxanne hadn't forgotten the company's roots in Maine. She used some of our profits to buy tracts of forest land in northern Maine to preserve them from development. This purchase marked the beginning of a long-standing relationship with The Nature Conservancy, which over the years, has helped conserve 185,000 acres of Maine forest land.
2007 Leading The Industry, Still Moving Forward
With Burt’s Bees sales topping $250 million, they were becoming a household name—in nearly 30,000 retail outlets, including Target, Kroger and Rite-Aid. Burt’s Bees launched a sun care line and expanded into body wash. And Burt’s Bees began their important work with other like-minded companies to set the standard for what products can be labeled natural. Their efforts were met with overwhelming support from consumers, with over 30,000 signing a petition in support of the cause. Last but not least, Burt’s Bees created a public service announcement to raise awareness about Colony Collapse Disorder, which really created a buzz running before Bee Movie.
2008 Busy Making Products And Setting Standards
With lots of great ideas finally coming to fruition, Burt’s Bees launched their Naturally Ageless® line, as well as a their line of lip glosses, all while expanding the Naturally Nourishing and Baby lines. Burt’s Bees also expanded internationally to the U.K., Australia and Japan. Here at home, Burt’s Bees was proud to be a part of launching the Natural Seal, which certifies products that meet the stringent requirements set by the Natural Products. The announcement of the Natural Seal drew support from 45,000 consumers, who voted “natural” led by actress, Julianne Moore.
2009 Celebrating 25 Years For The Greater Good
Burt’s Bees never thought 25 years would go by so quickly! Burt’s Bees celebrated their 25th Burt Day with their loyal fans by giving them the gift of well-being. For 25 days, they gave away great Burt Day gifts, including 25,000 Beeswax Lip Balms! Over 500,000 fans participated in the fun on Facebook and special Burt Day celebrity toasts and fun facts about their history. Continuing their growth, Burt’s Bees launched in Korea and were honored to have been voted the second greenest U.S. brand.
2012 Welcome Baby!
As parents, it is our commitment and responsibility to care for and nurture our children. At Ayablu, we are first and foremost parents. And as we ourselves welcomed babies, we looked to the marketplace for natural and organic clothing and homewares, soft and snuggly, free of chemicals and pesticides, to be near our children’s skin. We didn’t find what we were looking for. So we set out to create it ourselves, with mindful consideration of the world we live in, and that our children will grow up in. We found our partner in Burt’s Bees, and we are thrilled and grateful to have the opportunity to envision and create Burt’s Bees Baby™, as an independent licensee. This year we start with clothing, gifts and bathwear. Stay tuned for the next chapter - we hope you’ll share it with us. Nurture Naturally™.