Caudalie Cofounder Reveals Secret Sauce to Success

It's always thrilling to hear about how a successful company got its start—both the ups and the downs. Last week Birchboxers got the chance to learn more about the meteoric rise, as well as the stumbling blocks along the way, of French skincare brand Caudalie from one of the co-founders, Bertrand Thomas. To give you some background, Bertrand's family owns a vineyard in Bordeaux (lucky!) and back in the early '90s, he and his wife Mathilde realized that the powerful antioxidants found in grapes called polyphenols could be utilized to create effective anti-aging and complexion-renewing products. The duo launched Caudalie in 1995.

Bertrand cited several critical factors as essential to the brand's success. The first big break was getting picked up and sold by pharmacies across Europe (which are all privately owned and very picky about what products they allow on their shelves). Next, in 1999, Caudalie opened the world's first vinotherapy spa (where wine byproducts are used in beauty treatments) to much fanfare. And in 2005, the company decided to really start publicizing its squeaky clean list of ingredients (the brand has very stringent standards). Consumers applauded their commitment to healthy formulas.

But almost more interesting than hearing about the triumphs, of which there have been many, was hearing about the brand's struggles. In a competitive beauty market where hundreds of new products are introduced each year, Caudalie refuses to hurry along new launches. "Most companies do 10 trials and then launch their product," said Thomas. "At Caudalie, we wait until the product is ready. We've been known to do 200 tests for a formula." While consumers are rabid for Caudalie products because of their efficacy, Bertrand admitted that its hard to tell retailers and vendors about production delays. "It's a tough conversation, we only do it when we have to," said Bertrand. "It's to protect the integrity of our brand."

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