Sunday, October 15, 2006

Baby skin-care products to the world

Meet the Melbourne businesswoman who has taken baby skin-care products to the world. By Liz Porter.
MELBOURNE baby skin-care entrepreneur Catherine Arfi was at a Hollywood celebrity mothers' event, happily watching Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker's nanny pouncing on creams and washes from the 24-piece Aromababy range of organic baby skin-care products.
"I'm the one who bathes the baby," the nanny told Ms Arfi. "And I'm the one who chooses the products."
Although the businesswoman's campaign to export to the US is still in its early stages, she has already taken a few orders from LA outlets.
But Aromababy's bath gels, hair cleansers, nappy creams and wipes are now on shelves in upmarket department stores and hospitals across Asia — from Japan and Hong Kong to Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea.
In Australia, Ms Arfi's products are supplied in VIP suites in Hyatt and Westin hotels, used in maternity hospital nurseries and sold in department stores and pharmacies.
"I always wanted my products to be all around the world and in hospitals, and I knew I couldn't mix them in my kitchen sink," she says. "So I went to the highest level of manufacturing that we have here, which is Therapeutic Goods Administration-licensed facilities — meaning white coats, masks, hats, clean rooms and stainless steel apparatus. To my knowledge nobody else does that — it gives us an edge. And it is unusual to sell a product to Myer and also to sell it to a hospital."
Certified organic ingredients and a high standard of manufacturing are key selling points of Ms Arfi's products, which contain no petrochemicals, parabens, sulphates, artificial fragrances or animal ingredients. Baby powders, for example, are made using certified organic oat and soy powders, edible-grade cornstarch and pure essential oils.
Ms Arfi is coy about her annual turnover, reported as $3 million back in 2003, beyond saying that it is "under $10 million". She confirms that exports comprise 40 per cent of her business. Her export achievements, particularly in the famously lucrative but difficult market of South Korea, have made her a poster girl for the government trade body Austrade, which features the Aromababy success story on its publicity material.
As a girl, Ms Arfi's aim was not to run her own business, but "to be a fabulous secretary". At the age of 10, and with some help from her father, she bought herself a typewriter and began practising typing at home. By the time she hit her teens she was perfecting her shorthand.

Leaving Huntingdale High School at 15, Ms Arfi took a secretarial job at an aluminium anodising company in Cheltenham — two bus journeys and a 30-minute walk from her Clayton home. But the fledgling secretary threw herself into the job.
"I guess I had entrepreneurial flair even then," she says. "I always wanted to do more, so I quickly went from front-desk reception to working in accounts and then as a PA for the director."
By the time she was 25, Ms Arfi had worked for a South Yarra menswear company and for a magazine, where she wrote the beauty pages. She then took a job with a company that developed and sold accessories to major local fashion retailers — a position that involved regular trips to Europe to check out trends. By her fourth year there, she was developing body-care products.
Then, within a few dramatic days, her life was turned upside down. It was December 1993 and she had finally signed the mortgage on her first flat — an apartment in South Yarra. Then she discovered she was pregnant with a "surprise" first baby. A week later, she was retrenched. The company was closing its accessories division.
"I was absolutely devastated," Ms Arfi recalls. "I thought, 'If I don't pick myself up and move, I will fall in a heap'."
Within two days she had decided to start her own company, registering its business name as CAT Design (Creative Aromatherapy Toiletries). Her original plan involved toiletries for adults — the area she had been working in. But as her pregnancy progressed, a plan for pure, organic baby-care products began to take shape.
"I thought: 'I am the sort of woman who mixes vegetables into face masks in the kitchen. I wouldn't dream of using chemicals on my baby.' So I began exploring ideas. It didn't take long to think of the name. Aromatherapy was already a big trend — and I thought 'baby' and 'aroma'. And off we go.
"By the time I had the baby (her son Beau), I was ready to launch my skin-care for babies."
Even before the new businesswoman had made her first proper sales pitch, she had contacted the Trade Marks Office to secure product names she could use here and overseas.
"Even back then I had a global vision," she says. "I thought if I secure everything upfront I can relax and go about building the business."
This care with registering names paid off later when Ms Arfi had to take legal action to defend her product against a rival US-based skin-care brand which had launched a baby skin-care range called Aromababies and was exporting it to Australia.

"Our US trademark was lodged only days before theirs. Consequently, they were required to remove their product from Myer, and they eventually withdrew from the Australian market."
Ms Arfi chose Myer for her first local sales pitch.
"I took in the baby range with a mocked-up bottle and a mocked-up marketing folder and I remember being asked if I was in marketing. And I thought, 'Marketing! Wow!' I left school at 15 and they thought I was in marketing. I was quite impressed with myself."
The subsequent order from Myer gave the fledgling entrepreneur an enormous confidence boost. She repeated her pitch to some other stores.
But her first visit to a bank manager quickly deflated her. She was married but her husband worked in his family's shoe business. The business was hers, so she went alone.
"I remember going to the bank with the orders — and they just said, 'It doesn't matter, they can always cancel (them)'. I was a young woman, and probably looked younger than I was, and I had this baby with me — and they were looking behind me for a man. So I needed a guarantor for the first loan and I was mortified. I was the kind of girl who had got her own car loan and her own apartment — and I couldn't even get a $10,000 overdraft."
A family member guaranteed the loan and Ms Arfi had paid it back within four weeks.
"The next order was much larger. And we had much more profit and I was OK from then on in," she says.
The experience of not being taken seriously by banks stopped as soon as she began exporting, Ms Arfi recalls.
Aromababy's first major export deal came from Dubai, where two expatriate South African women wanted to set up a small business as exclusive distributors of her products.
A few months later, Ms Arfi was on a plane heading for Dubai, where she was the headline attraction at a huge launch party held at the Wafi Pyramids, a mock Egyptian-themed nightclub and restaurant complex featuring a full-scale model of the Sphinx.
"I was leaving my little boy for the first time, he was four, and I cried all the way to Dubai," she recalls. "There was media there — and nurses, midwives and buyers from different emirates. It was such a big event and I remember thinking: 'Wow, this is all for me.' "
In the meantime, Ms Arfi completed a diploma in aromatherapy,
"I was feeling maybe I'm not good enough to run a business because I didn't study for long enough, and: 'Is it acceptable that I don't have a degree?' I passed with a credit — and it was such a big thing to have a diploma!"

The turning point of her company's fortunes came early in 2001, with a call from two South Korean importers of baby-care products who had seen Aromababy products in Melbourne shops and insisted that they weren't leaving without a contract to import them into Seoul.
Ms Arfi only had one employee at the time and drew up the contract herself.
"I was alone in the office with nobody to celebrate with, thinking, 'Oh my God I've just signed a contract for half-a-million dollars!' "
Selling to Korea, the businesswoman explains, meant paying extra attention to presentation. "I had to invest in repackaging some of our items. I had to develop new product lines, supply individual product boxes and more."
The growing export commitments led her to relocate her business to a warehouse complex in Thomastown, closer to the airport and only 10 minutes from her home at Yarrambat, where she often works in her home office after collecting Beau, now 12, and Jacob, 6, from school.
Ms Arfi now has five employees — all part-time and each specialising in either packing and dispatch, administration, purchasing or export documentation. She is also now producing a second, less-expensive range of baby skin-care products called Pure Spa Baby.
A men's aftershave facial oil is also on her product list, while an insect repellent and a sunscreen are on the drawing board.
Next month, Ms Arfi will be celebrating her business' "official" 10th birthday — counting from 1996 when she moved Aromababy into its first warehouse office in Brunswick, rather than from 1994 when she began the business at home.
In five years' time, however, Ms Arfi isn't sure where she'll be.
"If I keep the business, I'd be looking at a having a retail flagship store and franchises."
But the idea of running a day spa still beckons.
"I developed the Pure Spa Baby range because I thought, 'In my next life, I will have Pure Spa — the salon'. And for that I need to have my own products."
Age 42.
Lives Yarrambat.
Family Single. Two sons, 12 and 6.
Education Huntingdale High; aromatherapy diploma from Australian School of Awareness.
Career 1979-1993: jobs as a PA with a men's fashion business, a magazine and an accessories business. 1994: started Aromababy.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Protect your baby from food-borne illness

Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning because their immune systems aren't fully developed and their lower body weight means they can get sick from a smaller amount of bacteria. Most types of food contamination can't be detected by sight, smell, or taste. So while food left unrefrigerated may seem OK, it may not be safe to eat. To protect your child from contracting a food-borne illness, keep these special precautions in mind in addition to standard food-safety advice. For more information on food poisoning, see "When Bad Food Happens."
If your baby doesn't finish his or her bottle, discard the contents instead of refrigerating them for later. Bacteria from an infant's mouth can remain in the bottle and multiply, even after the bottle is reheated. Likewise, don't feed your infant baby food and refrigerate the remainder, since bacteria from the spoon may have contaminated it.
If milk, formula, or baby food is left unrefrigerated for more than two hours, throw it out. "That half-eaten jar of baby food that has been sitting in your hot car is more of a bacterial incubator than lunch," says Alfred Sacchetti, M.D., of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
Follow the "use-by" dates on formula cans. It's the manufacturer's way of warning you that the chemical composition may not be the same after a certain time period, Sacchetti says.
Don't give infants or young children unpasteurized milk, food that contains unpasteurized milk, or unpasteurized juices, since they may contain harmful bacteria. In September 2006 California health officials recalled unpasteurized milk and milk products from the Fresno company Organic Pastures after four children were sickened with E. coli bacteria.
Don't feed honey to a baby under 12 months old. It harbors bacterial spores that can cause botulism, a rare but potentially fatal disease. Many bacterial spores are typically harmless to adults and older children but can have a deadly effect on a baby.
For complete Ratings and recommendations on appliances, cars & trucks, electronic gear, and much more, subscribe today and have access to all of

Monday, September 25, 2006

organic baby products are a hot commodity

Organic baby products are a hot commodity, with stores such as Wal-Mart getting into the mix. But are all of these items really better for your child?

By Maria Longley/staff

Parents are seeing green up and down baby food aisles at grocery stores.
Even Wal-Mart has entered the organic foods market, having rolled out late this summer a selection of organic foods, including baby foods, which are those certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to have been grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.

But food isn't the only product retailers nationwide are offering to appeal to parents' willingness to spend a little more to keep their babies' world as pure and additive-free as possible.
While organic baby food has developed a strong following throughout past years — a $206 million industry last year, according to the most recent figures available from the Organic Trade Association — interest in organic clothes and cleansers is growing as quickly as the kids they target. Sales of organic personal care products, including baby care, rose 34 percent to $26 million from 2004 to 2005.
Many experts, including area pediatricians, say clear evidence doesn't exist to suggest organic or natural products carry any health benefits over conventional baby products.
But many parents are motivated by an intuitive desire to ensure that most of what touches their babies' skin and what their infants ingest are free of additives and chemicals.
Dan and Kim Johnson of Staunton buy as many organic baby products as possible — or at least what they consider natural — for their 13-month-old son, Kileigh.
Those products include baby formula, yogurt and finger foods such as dried fruits and cookies, yogurt, as well as personal care products, including diaper rash ointment, wipes, lotion and body wash and shampoo.
"Dan and I do a lot of organics ourselves," Kim Johnson said. "We're pretty holistic minded. With Kileigh, I was breastfeeding, but I also had to supplement with formula. When he was on the (nonorganic) formula, he was irritable and had a hard time with diarrhea and constipation."
But all that improved after the Johnsons switched Kileigh to an organic formula a friend found online, she said. "From there we started ordering other (natural and) organic products."
The Johnsons even tried organic disposable baby diapers, but it didn't take long for them to go back to conventional diapers. "They smelled like a wet paper bag and weren't very absorbent," Johnson said.
Dr. Meg Keeley, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia, said parents are one of the groups most vulnerable to marketing because so much information comes to them from every angle, and they are driven to do what is best for their babies.
"Organic products do tend to be more expensive overall, although I'm seeing more organic baby food at more affordable prices," she said. "My feeling is that there aren't any real health benefits to those products, but that there may be some environmental benefit. If they want to and can afford them, it can't hurt."
More parents ask about organic baby foods than any other product, Keeley said. "I recommend baby foods that don't have additives, fillers or sugars, but most conventional baby foods don't have those," she said.
Kathleen Stinehart has stocked several shelves full of organic food and toiletries for babies and children at her Cranberry's Grocery & Eatery in Staunton since she opened her natural and organic food store more than three years ago.
Stinehart, who tries to stock items that retail chains don't offer, doesn't carry organic jarred baby foods anymore since Wal-Mart and other grocery chains like Martin's and Kroger entered the organic food business.
She offers other harder-to-get foods, such as cereals, finger foods and vitamins. She also sells lotions, soaps, diaper ointments and skin creams, some of which are made with organic ingredients, while others are simply labeled "natural."
"Right now what I carry is small, but it's what local parents who shop here want," she said. "We're willing to expand it, if I start getting requests for more or different products."
Baby clothing made from organic fibers is also a fast-growing section of the market. Sales of organic fibers for infant clothes and cloth diapers rose 40 percent between 2004 and 2005 to $40 million, and fiber for the child-teen market grew 52 percent to $3 million.
At the infant and children's clothing store Grandma's Bait in downtown Staunton, owner Shirley Robinson hasn't had many requests for clothing made from organic cotton. But she does make an effort to stock more cotton clothing rather than clothing made from synthetics.
"The organics are much more expensive, and I try to sell high-quality clothes at reasonable prices," she said of her upscale shop.
As organic clothing becomes more mainstream — even price-conscious Wal-Mart and Sam's Club now stock organic-cotton baby clothes under the Baby George brand — prices will come down. But until then, and until her customers start to request it, Robinson doesn't plan on expanding her stock in that direction.
"It would have to be more affordable than it is now," she said.
— The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

parents turn to organic baby food

More parents a returning to organic baby food. Turning from the traditional store bought foods ARE BEING IGNORED. organic baby food has jumped from 60 million to 90 million since 2001.
Of course since this market is booming parents should be cautious about how they interpret the labels on the packaging. Everyone wants to cash in on this cow, so be wary of organic labels that are not truly organic. Look for the labels like the USDA.

organic bobobaby

Bobobaby products in Thrifty Foods
Bobobaby of Burnaby, the first frozen, organic, age-appropriate baby food, is now available at all 20 locations of Thrifty Foods.
Bobobaby is the first company to offer the concept of certified organic age-appropriate meals for babies. It was recently named one of Food in Canada Magazine’s top 10 innovators of 2006.
Company founder Kalpna Solanki said the North American baby food category is worth $4 million annually and her specific niche, the organic baby food category, is currently at $180 million (US) with expected continued growth of 20 per cent per year.
Bobobaby is also the first to offer baby meals that contain no added salt, preservatives, sugar, colour, peanuts, nuts, soy, wheat, sesame, dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish, poultry or meat. It’s baby meals are now available at more than 250 stores.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Boo. Skincare scare. Trick or treat?

Are you scared? Most people are not aware of the personal care products that are used on the body. Unfortunately I didnt realize myself until I educated myself by reading many articles and analyzing the shampoos, lotions, and skincare products that inundate my shelves.

Did you ever wonder why dandruff is such a problem? Maybe the chemicals such as laural sulfate causes it? There are more than 10,000 chemicals that are used worldwide that are applied to our scalp and body.

As we grow older we use a daily regime of jarred potions that accumulate. Babies are being helplessly victimzed. Since the growth of our children rests on our shoulders, if we educate ourselves on the harmful environmental impacts that assault them, we can make steps to avoid costly mistakes. Feeding babies and children wholesome organic foods and applying organic bodycare products is the responsible choice we should all make. After all we are here to protect our children, this is what makes life worth living. Marketing hype influences our thinking, be informed and make decsions that can influence not only our babies but maybe the future of irresponsible large corporations out to make a fast buck at the expense of our health.

The exerp below come from the ewg at

At the Environmental Working Group we have researched and advocated on personal care product safety for five years now, and consider it an integral part of our work to strengthen our system of public health protections from industrial chemicals. Here's why:
Industrial chemicals are basic ingredients in personal care products. The 10,500 unique chemical ingredients in these products equate to about one of every seven of the 75,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S. Personal care products contain carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, endocrine disruptors, plasticizers, degreasers, and surfactants. They are the chemical industry in a bottle.
No premarket safety testing required — this is a reality of both the personal care product industry and the broader chemical industry as a whole. For industrial chemicals, the government approves an average of seven new chemicals every day. Eighty percent are approved in three weeks or less, with or without safety tests. Advocating that industry have an understanding of product safety before selling to the public finds common messages, common methods, and common gains whether the focus is cosmetic ingredients or other industrial chemicals.
Everyone uses personal care products. Exposures are widespread, and for some people, extensive. Our 2004 product use survey shows that more than a quarter of all women and one of every 100 men use at least 15 products daily. These exposures add up, and raise questions about the potential health risks from the myriad of unassessed ingredients migrating into the bodies of nearly every American, day after day.
No safety testing. According to the agency that regulates cosmetics, the FDA's Office of Cosmetics and Colors, "...a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA" (FDA 1995). The industry's self-policing safety panel falls far short of compensating for the lack of government oversight. An EWG analysis found that in its 30-year history, the industry's self-policing safety panel has reviewed the safety of just 11 percent of the 10,500 ingredients used in personal care products. FDA does no systematic reviews of safety. And collectively, the ingredients in personal care products account for one of every seven of the 75,000 chemicals industries have registered for commercial use with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Eighty-nine (89) percent of the 10,500 ingredients FDA has determined are used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety by the CIR, the FDA, or any other publicly accountable institution

Parents go green: Moms and dads embrace organic baby products

The hot thing in the children's market these days is green.
Parents increasingly are excited by the idea of organic products - clothing, creams and food made without chemicals, which they feel are too harsh to be used on their pristine and delicate children.
While organic baby food has developed a strong following during past years - a $206 million industry last year, according to the most recent figures available from the Organic Trade Association - interest in organic clothes and cleansers is growing as quickly as the children they target.
Sales of organic fibers for infant clothes and cloth diapers rose 40 percent between 2004 and 2005 to $40 million and fiber for the child-teen market grew 52 percent to $ 3 million.
Meanwhile, organic personal care products, including baby care, rose 34 percent to $26 million.
Whether organic products offer any sort of health benefits is unclear; most experts say only the most sensitive children could have a problem with conventional clothing or personal care products.
But parents seem more motivated by a desire to keep their kids untainted from some of the harshness and artificiality of the world for as long as they can.
"This is the first time - and I've been in business 10 years - that we're catching up to organic food," says Janice Masoud, founder of Under the Nile, an organic clothing company based in Milpitas, Calif., that specializes in children's items.
Under the Nile will launch a test program in 150 Target stores this coming holiday season with towel sets, swaddle blanket sets, a sherpa two-piece cardigan set and flannel footies.
"It gives me chills that people are realizing organic cotton really is something special," she says.
From her regular collection, the most popular items are bodysuits, buntings and sweet baby gowns that can be worn home from the hospital - Masoud thinks that's because they're all pieces that are right next to a baby's skin for long periods of time.
She says she cringes at the thought of the pesticides and insecticides used to grow some cotton rubbing against a newborn's skin.
She also notes that formaldehyde is sometimes used in fabric's finishing process and as is polyvinyl chloride, known as PVC.
"Cotton is supposed to be a 'natural fiber,' " says Masoud, who obtained "fair trade" certification for her brand, meaning that the co-op of Egyptian farmers that grows her cotton are paid more - and they, in turn, put the investment into their land.
"A mother would rather spend some dollars on her baby than herself. There are so many pollutants in the society today that moms are worried about for the kids, moms are trying not to add extra chemicals to their babies," she says.
However, by going mainstream, the price of organic products is decreasing, Masoud says, noting that even price-conscious Wal-Mart is embracing organic baby clothes.
That said, manufacturers still pay 30 percent to 50 percent more for organic than conventionally grown cotton, according to Anne Dorsey, merchandise manager for Hanna Andersson's baby apparel. "It's not as easy to come by, farmers take a greater risk and there is a smaller yield," she explains.
Hanna Andersson, a Portland-based kiddie clothier, absorbs most of the additional cost because, when the company decided to shift toward organic cotton in 2003, it did so out of a sense of responsibility to the earth and its customers, not necessarily to immediately make big bucks, Dorsey says.
Organic cotton's share of the collection continues to grow each season.
"It's a sense of pride for us - and it distinguishes us in the marketplace. It's a long-term investment," she says.
Hanna Andersson extended its commitment to being green by adopting a European ecological certification process called Oko-Tex, which tests trims and fasteners for more than 100 substances.
"We have a group of customers who are interested in being stewards of the Earth," Dorsey says.
Jessica Iclisoy, founder of California Baby, an all-natural line of bath and skin products, went into business 15 years ago after talking to the farmers she'd meet at markets when she was buying organic produce.
She says she learned from them that there were botanicals that could accomplish the same thing as the chemicals in personal care products - lemon eucalyptus in place of DEET for insect repellent, for one.
It was as she was preparing to give birth to her first child that she decided to make a lifestyle change to be green.
"Women are told to clean up their lifestyle before they have kids," Iclisoy says. "You're told to stop drinking coffee, eat healthy. I read some books then that really scared me. They talked about pesticides and hormones in meat. ... I looked at everything in my life. I looked at the skin care ingredients, a lot were allergy triggers or known carcinogens."
Iclisoy's son is now 15 and still uses the products that she created with his best interests in mind. "He loves them," she says, "but I will tell you he takes the labels off the products. He doesn't want it to say 'baby' on them." what does 'organic' mean?
Food or textiles certified "organic" by the U.S. Department of Agriculture must meet this definition:
"Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation."
Before a product can be labeled "organic," a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is produced to ensure the department's organic standards are met. Companies that handle or process organic food must be certified, too.
The department doesn't claim that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food.
For more information on organic baby clothes and personal care products:
Organic Trade Association:
Under the Nile, an organic clothing company based in Milpitas, Calif.:
Hanna Andersson, a Portland-based kiddie clothier:
California Baby, an all-natural line of bath and skin products: make it count
Here are a few tips to make sure your eco-spending matters:
- Shop local. The environmental benefit of organic grapes is offset by the energy consumed when they are shipped from afar.
- Use trusted brands and products that are certified green (such as "organic," a term which is government regulated).
- Coordinate with others to get the most impact from your spending.
- Use green products, but don't use them as an excuse to indulge. Consume less overall.
The Associated Press