We like to have inspiring discussions about cross-border e-commerce over a nice cup of coffee (or tea). In this article, we are focusing on the importance of sustainable products. Marina Vasilara is the Global Communication & e-Business Director at APIVITA SA. The story of APIVITA is a story of passion, commitment and vision, which led a small company in Greece to establish its presence globally.
Coffee or tea? When and how?
That is a great question! Although I know it is a question that all interviewees of coffee corner are asked, in my case, it is not only a personal question but is also linked directly to APIVITA and our products. The choice is Greek Mountain Tea, as we have a Greek Mountain Tea infusion global patent to use in our products for its local antioxidant, anti-ageing, protective against cellular ageing, as well as hydrating and photoprotective action. Also, Greek Mountain Tea as a beverage has many health benefits and is naturally caffeine-free, so it can be enjoyed at any time of the day and throughout the year (hot in the winter and ice-cold in the summer).
Can you tell us a bit about APIVITA and yourself?
APIVITA (which means “life of the bee”) offers effective natural beauty products for the face, body, and hair. Our formulas harness the power of Greek nature with key ingredients derived from value-added bee products and medicinal plants, enhanced by cutting-edge green cosmetology. In March 2017, APIVITA SA joined the Spanish group PUIG, which is active in the fashion, perfume and cosmetics sectors, with an international presence in 150 countries. PUIG’s investment in APIVITA was of strategic importance as it enhanced the company with resources and expertise to develop internationally to an additional 26 countries over the past three years with great success, reaching a total of 38 countries globally and aiming to expand in 60 countries in the following two years. At the same time, APIVITA headquarters and production line remain in Greece, fully utilising the potential of the company’s research laboratory and state-of-the-art facilities.
APIVITA understood the importance of digitalisation earlier compared to other cosmetics brands. Since I had a strong background in e-business, I joined APIVITA in 2011 to build its digital presence, and at the moment, I lead the development and implementation of e-commerce, digital communication, social media, and PR. Since 2011, we have developed our own e-shops that specialise in cross border e-commerce in Europe and the USA.
What distinguishes APIVITA from other beauty brands?
The idea of APIVITA SA was conceived when two young pharmacists (Niko and Niki Koutsiana), who were passionate about bee society and inspired by Greek nature’s biodiversity and fascinated by the amplifying power of science, created their first natural cosmetics company in Athens, Greece. The story of APIVITA is a story of passion, commitment and vision, which led a small company in Greece to establish its presence and gain loyal customers all over the world. This evolution, as well as our dedication to natural cosmetics, distinguishes APIVITA from many brands. Also, another important fact is that sustainable development is deeply etched in APIVITA’s DNA, which will be further explained below. APIVITA also offers a very strong and distinguished mix of clean formulation, traceability of renewable & low footprint cultivations & harvests, green packaging and production, and efficacy and safety.
Last but not least, it is innovation that has always been central to APIVITA philosophy and is supported by our own laboratories staffed with a team of experts in the fields of chemistry, cosmetology, pharmacology, biochemistry, and chemical engineering. Our specific research fields are extraction and stabilisation of products from the beehive, Mediterranean flora and seabed, and skin molecular biology. As a result, we own seven patents to date, while we also maintain partnerships with the international academic community, with the aim of conducting extensive research on beekeeping products, indigenous medicinal and aromatic plants, elements of the Mediterranean seabed, and new efficacy assessment techniques. We are currently working closely with 74 research institutions in 23 countries.
Sustainability seems to be a very important aspect of APIVITA. Can you tell us a bit more about the importance of sustainability within APIVITA?
Sustainability, as I have already mentioned, is in APIVITA’s DNA and is testified by our B Corp certification. Thanks to its numerous ecological initiatives, as well as social action at a local level (creating jobs for the local population, fighting corruption, developing partnerships with more than 41 philanthropic associations, etc.), the brand is the first and only Greek company to obtain B Corp certification, which recognises companies that meet the highest social and environmental standards. In 2021, APIVITA started the re-certification process of B Corp! We are committed to maintaining our status as a member of the international network of purpose-driven companies that use business as a force for good. For APIVITA, being re-certified as a B Corp has strategic importance and will serve as an inspiration and example for all, as it is not enough for our company to be “The Best in the World”, but to become “The Best for the World”.
B Corps meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability. Currently, the B Corp network consists of more than 3,400 companies from 150 industries and 70 countries, including companies such as Patagonia, Natura, Danone North America, Ben & Jerry’s, Pukka, Dr Bronner’s, etc. Our evaluation and re-certification process is expected to be completed in 2021, aiming to score higher in more evaluation pillars but also to re-enter – for the 3rd consecutive year – in the “Best for the World” list of B Corps regarding environmental performance.
Obtaining this international certification for the second consecutive time will strengthen our commitment to sustainable and socially responsible operation, in conjunction with the Sustainable Development Report to be published in the near future, which will be externally secured and certified by GRI standards.
And how much do your customers value sustainability?
APIVITA’s sustainability also includes sustainable growth, meaning that we never go after short-term customers, but we want to create our own tribe that consciously chooses our products. From the beginning of our establishment, we always communicate clearly to customers our formulations and processes, and that’s how we know that our customers value sustainability as much as we do. Moreover, APIVITA often runs environmental projects that require people’s involvement. Our customers always participate actively in our events and actions, and that proves that they also want to be a force for good. Lastly, it makes us really happy that the number of people that choose products from sustainable and certified companies is growing every year. For us, this is a really positive sign for a more sustainable future, and we are really proud to contribute to this as much as we can.
Lastly, what are the most important trends within your industry?
The trends and changes for 2021 are connected, on the one hand, with technological developments and, on the other hand, with the basic shift of the beauty and fashion market to sustainability. In this environment, we see many interesting changes
The pandemic will accelerate the investment of beauty companies in technology and digital transformation. We will see more intense integration of AI and AR technologies in diagnostic tools (e.g., skin diagnosis) and personalised applications (makeup selection). We can verify this trend by the fact that big beauty companies acquire technology companies as part of their group. Moreover, many brands will develop a multi-channel approach to e-commerce with the development of their own DTC, a trend that has been slow in the beauty market compared to others. In addition, in this complex environment, retention of the digital customer becomes the centre for a sustainable development strategy as competition makes profitability more difficult in e-commerce. The complexity of the new environment requires the digitisation not only of the front end to the customers but also of all the internal processes of a company, where the speed of transition is vital.
The importance of user-generated content will also be strengthened as never before. This includes content creators where entire communities and platforms will build their content (even the products themselves will integrate content creators into the product, as Peloton did). An additional reason why this trend will become even more important is that we are at the beginning of technological [and regulatory] developments that will require the development of digital advertising in a cookieless environment.
Finally, the pandemic will further strengthen the shift that has begun in recent years towards a healthier lifestyle, the protection of the environment and people’s need for safety at all levels. In the cosmetics market, the term “clean beauty”, the biggest global trend in cosmetics in recent years, is attributed to the products that are designed based on the principles of sustainable development, contain safe ingredients for the skin and are friendly to the environment. This is a trend that promotes the concept of environmental ethics and responsibility. It is no coincidence that global e-retailers have now added the term sustainable products to search filters. According to a survey (IMB), 57% of respondents are willing to change their shopping habits based on the impact on the environment, and 70% are willing to pay more for a brand that promotes sustainability.
This article was previously published in Cross-Border Magazine 18.