Beer-based hair brand Bröö is expanding into new product categories while broadening its reach from the natural grocer channel to wide mass distribution.
Bröö — a family-owned label that launched in 2012 with a tiny distribution in regional natural grocery chains — is on a growth trajectory. The company would not discuss financials, but industry sources say the brand is set to triple its sales in 2018.
This month, it’s shipping its new Bröö Moods aromatherapy lotions to 3,000 Walmart doors — Bröö’s hair-care line launched in 800 of the retailer’s stores last year. CVS has also signed onto the brand in a big way, and began rolling out Bröö hair care to 6,000 doors in February. In January, Albertsons-Safeway put Bröö in 1,000 doors. In 2017, Bröö expanded internationally, shipping products to Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea and Vietnam.
Bröö Moods are priced at $7.49, the same as the brand’s shampoos and conditioners, and are available in three varieties — Unplug, Reboot and Sleep — and are formulated with essential oils, hops and shea butter. Another new product, the Connect Touch Hand Crème, also $7.49, launched on walmart.com in February and is rolling out to Walmart stores this month.
Husband-and-wife team Sarah Duran and Brad Pearsall founded Bröö after moving their family to Asheville, N.C., leaving behind their maritime injury law practice. Inspired by their new city’s deep roots in wellness — George Washington Vanderbilt II built Asheville’s Biltmore Estate in the mountains for his mother, who was chronically ill — the couple sought an entrepreneurial venture in the natural space.
“Once we moved, I tried to be more aware of being healthy and started shopping at the local natural foods stores,” said Duran. “I would bring home [natural shampoo] and the family hated it. It didn’t lather and my teenage daughter wouldn’t use it because of the smell.”
At first, Duran and Pearsall struggled to come up with a point of differentiation. “We [thought] it’d be cool to start a natural products company like Burt’s Bees, but the world doesn’t need a 17th lavender shampoo,” said Pearsall.
The couple found their point of differentiation in another Asheville cultural staple: craft beer. After learning that both their mothers rinsed their hair with beer to maintain volume and shine in the Sixties, Duran and Pearsall got to work contacting local microbreweries and finding a cosmetic chemist who could formulate a natural shampoo with beer. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could have all the lather and salon performance we expect in America, but without having to turn the ingredient list to the corner of the shower in shame?” said Pearsall. Bröö’s products are free of a host of ingredients considered to be potentially toxic or irritants, including parabens, silicones and phthalates.
It took two years, but Duran and Pearsall found a formulation that worked, and dropped off a basket of the final product at the corporate offices of Earth Fare, a North Carolina-based regional natural grocer chain with 46 locations. “The hair buyer called us and said, ‘I love this product,’” said Pearsall. “In 2012 we were in four stores, and then we went nationwide, going little by little in the natural channel. By 2015, we’d spent several years perfecting the ingredient list and packaging.”
Bröö’s big break came in 2016 when Walmart selected the brand to participate in its Made in America initiative, which highlights products made by American manufacturers. “We always wanted to branch and out and go mass,” said Duran.
Since the beginning of this year, Bröö has shipped to 9,000 new doors — including Walmart, CVS and Albertsons-Safeway.
The next major focus is product development. Duran and Pearsall eschew focus groups in favor of solving real consumer problems. For instance, when their teenage daughter paid $300 to dye her hair blue, and her shampoo at home stripped the costly dye job of its color, the couple developed a color-safe line called Color Crazed. Another new product, the Craft Beer Bar Shampoos — $5.99 — were inspired by Pearsall’s outdoor-loving brother-in-law who needed a solid product to take with him on camping trips. The Connect Touch Screen Hand Crème was designed to dry quickly so as not to transfer onto mobile device screens. And customers can download via the iTunes store a Bröö Moods app that offers relaxing songs and sounds to pair with Bröö Moods lotion applications. “Buyers are looking for innovation and creativity,” said Duran. “Between legacy brands and me-too products, there’s nothing new out there. So the fact that we come out with all these [innovations] and we have a real ingredient — beer, or malted barley — we’re not just the flavor of the month.”