Yves Rocher: little wildflowers for an international destiny 

Récolte manuelle de fleurs de camomille dans un champs Yves Rocher/ Crédit : Thierry Creux / Ouest France

The creator of plant cosmetics, Yves Rocher (La Gacilly), whose group is present throughout the world, has its own agronomy department to produce the plants that go into the formulation of its products.

 

Local production of plants for cosmetics

At Gacilly, you will find growing, over more than 55 hectares, various varieties: cornflower, Roman chamomile, matricaria, calendula (marigold)… of flowers with different properties. Though some plants are picked with an automatic harvester, several varieties are picked by hand, one by one. Since the production is conducted using organic agricultural methods, the weeds are also removed by hand before the flowers are harvested. In peak periods, the picking team can count up to 45 people.

To fully benefit from their properties, the flowers are harvested as they bloom, that is to say in the middle of the day when the sap has risen and the flower has benefited from the sun. This is the exact time when the flower’s active substances content is optimal. To pick a kilo of cornflowers, about 6,000 flowers, it takes about 4hours of work, whereas for a kilo of calendula it takes half the time, the flower being bigger. As soon as they have been picked, the flowers should be left to dry, spread in a thin layer on a rack, in a place away from light and well ventilated to preserve colour, fragrance and properties.

Every year several tons of plants are harvested from the fields. “A third of Yves Rocher’s products are made from plants grown here. We are talking about the “original” sector since we have been farming since 1979, seeking to respect and promote biodiversity”, Cécile L’Haridon, head of the agronomy department. Other plant sectors were born later, in partnership with suppliers who respect the commitments of the brand, concerned with sustainable development and biodiversity. In addition, several tens of tonnes of dried flowers are stored, representing 24 months of advance stocks to protect against climatic hazards.

Since 1997, the agronomy department of the brand has carried out experiments in agrology and biodiversity and relies on the R&D department and its 150 researchers. New plants are under observation. For example, Yves Rocher has 4,500 m2 of cold shelters where the Ice plant grows, which has properties that make it suitable for anti-aging treatments. “It took 9 years of studies, observations and tests to fully understand how the plant works before proceeding to formulation”, says Cécile L’Haridon.

 

Distribution around the world

These Gacilly flowers are found in many cosmetic products distributed by Yves Rocher in more than 110 countries around the world. Faced with the cosmetics giants, the group is still strengthening its position as a plant-based and authentic brand. Recently, the brand launched a shower gel that reduces plastic consumption by 50%.

The group does not plan to buy innovative brands, but relies on local partnerships to develop its brands internationally, as in Africa where several stores were opened recently: Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Brazzaville and Pointe Noire (Congo-Brazzaville).

In recent months, the group has also made two acquisitions. Yves Rocher acquired Arbonne International, a specialist in the direct sale of natural cosmetics and food ingredients in the United States (2017 turnover: €470 million). The key is a production site in California, four integrated distribution sites and a network of 250,000 independent sales consultants. This operation will also strengthen its presence in English speaking countries where Arbonne is already very present (Canada, England, New Zealand…).

In July, the Rocher Group finalised the acquisition of the entire capital of Sabon (480 people), an Israeli specialist in natural cosmetics based on ingredients from the Dead Sea, which has a network of 180 shops across the world, particularly in Israel, Japan, the USA and France.

The objective pursued by Yves Rocher is very clear: to achieve 50% of its turnover outside France within 10 years.

 

Sources : Ouest France – 08/08/2018, Les Echos – 05/01/2018, Entreprendre – 31/05/2018

Photo credit : Thierry Creux / Ouest France