An Interview with Elizabeth Barbalich, CEO and Founder of Antipodes Skin Care
I first met Elizabeth 6 years ago when she visited London from New Zealand, after the products were introduced into UK stores. I was fortunate enough to have her explain the wonderful product range to me and once I tried the Antipodes Joyous Serum, I was hooked.
Antipodes is a certified organic skincare brand, that bottles the best ingredients directly from New Zealand nature. The natural range includes ultra-hydrating skincare products made from avocado oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, macadamia nut oil and exotic New Zealand plant extracts including their star ingredient, Vinanza Grape®, a potent antioxidant extracted from the seeds of Marlborough Sauvignon blanc grapes that in an independent study in New Zealand, had scientifically shown to have the world’s highest level of antioxidants. We all know how great antioxidants are for us!
I recently caught up with Elizabeth, at the Natural and Organic Products Show just before she was given the Natural Beauty Award for best Body Cream for the Antipodes Joyful Hand and Body Cream.
Danielle: Antipodes is 10 this year! What inspired you to start your own skin care brand?
Elizabeth: I saw a gap in the market for a lifestyle brand that was natural, sustainable, organic and also had scientific validation. In New Zealand there were a lot of skin care brands that were cheaper looking but there was nothing that ticked all the boxes in terms of a really cool lifestyle brand. I was really inspired by Aesop which is a very strong Australian brand, so I wanted to create something that was a strong look and a distinctive style. It’s not for everyone, it’s not everyday beauty, it’s a real niche brand.
I heard that you started in your kitchen?
I started with ideas because I’ve got a background in Chemistry and Biology so I started with concepts of how formulas would work but we never manufactured from home.
You have received many well deserved awards for your products (See them on Pinterest) What has been the most rewarding part of creating and developing Antipodes?
I think the most rewarding part is when you have someone come up to you and says the products are life changing and I absolutely love the brand. When it’s not a celebrity, but someone who’s put their hard earned money to buy the product, and for me that’s the most rewarding because that’s the person who I developed the products for. We get lots of people saying how much they love it and for me that’s the best thing because that was my vision. It’s nice to get the awards too but you find people can get emotionally attached to the products describe in detail the fragrance and how they use it. It’s great, that’s the most rewarding.
At Panacea, we love that Antipodes ingredients are organic, ethically sourced and use recyclable packaging. Why is “Green Beauty” so important to you?
Well in nature you have the answers to everything. All Pharmaceuticals and drugs are inspired by nature. I think the reason green beauty is important because you don’t need to use chemicals on your body. I’m not pro synthetic ingredients. I think if you want to be in the best possible health you need to eat natural raw foods and if you go back to cave men or paleo times they ate raw foods, and it’s the same in skincare, getting as close to the earth as possible.
So we have to look after the earth for it to look after us?
Absolutely. At Antipodes we source all of our ingredients through sustainable sources, we know where they come from, we work closely with suppliers, we’ve got great relationships, we understand what they’re doing and that’s part of the journey. So as a brand we’ve created a sort of eco community in terms of all our suppliers. Our key suppliers come from New Zealand. It’s cool. We’re growing, they’re growing, everyone is benefitting.
You mentioned raw foods – Besides skin care what other tips do you have for beautiful skin?
Raw juice is a big one, lots of sleep if you can get it. No alcohol. But Raw juice yes – beetroot, ginger, carrot, parsnip, parsley all that kind of thing. My daughters are really big on juicing too. As little animal fats as possible, raw ingredients and be happy with what you’ve got.
We know you are against animal testing, but so much so you refused to sell in China because of their animal testing requirement. Antipodes also recently donated an amazing NZ$60,000 to WWF-New Zealand. How did you get involved with the WWF?
We were looking for an organisation who were aligned with our ethos. We’re very pro animals and the environment that they live in. We looked at lots of different organisations but we thought the WWF were the best in terms of alignment. They are the world’s best and largest independent conservation organisation, very altruistically focused, and they’ve been around for 50/60 years so quite reputable. I was quite lucky to have met the CEO of the WWF in Wellington where I live, so that gave me the opportunity to start talking to them, which is amazing because they are a giant organisation. We had to work really hard to get a licencing agreement with them though because they’ve got a brand to protect. They are very particular who they work with. They’ve never worked with a beauty brand before and they wanted to make sure everything we did was aligned with what they do. So it’s fantastic. We’ve donated a significant amount of money, well for us its significant, but for them it’s probably small, but in New Zealand it’s helping with native birds and the Maui dolphin, which is a rare species, so it contributes towards something that is meaningful.
Going back to animal testing in China, we don’t sell in stores in China because you have to test on animals to go in stores but we do sell online on an across border ecommerce company who don’t have to test on animals to sell there. A lot of brands have “sold out”, like Jurlique and L’Occitane* are in China. We’re waiting for those laws to change and there’s been talk for a few years. We tick all the boxes, but we’re not prepared to change our brand for that, animals don’t wear cosmetics.
You must have a busy life with your husband and 3 teenagers as well as running a successful company. What advice do you have for mums who are balancing a busy work and home schedule?
You can’t do everything. Get as much help as you can possibly get. You have to sacrifice something, so my focus is work and my home life. My kids and husband. I’ve got good friends but I don’t socialise that much, these women who think they can do it all and go to parties 5 times a week – you just can’t. You’ve got to look after what’s important first
What is your naughty (edible) indulgence?
Well the chocolate over here (there is a large selection of raw chocolate at the show today) That Booja Booja chocolate! Have you tried it? That stuff is amazing! And I really love Lamingtons. I do like cakes. Cakes and biscuits.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what Antipodes product could you not do without?
Hosanna Serum, Ananda Toner, Grapeseed Butter Cleanser, Avocado Night Cream. All of them.
Do you have any predictions for Natural Skincare in 2016/17?
It will become more high tech. A lot of brands will drop off. The market is too saturated and the consumer is too savvy. I think the good brands will get better and a lot of brands will fall by the wayside.
What’s next for Antipodes? Are you launching any new products for your 10th Birthday?
Yes, we are. We have 2 new products launching in July
Panacea keeps a wide range of Antipodes skincare products including the Mineral Foundation. Visit our stores to try these luscious products and you too will be hooked on natural beauty
* the companies mentioned don’t personally do the testing, but they do allow their products to be tested on animals to be able to be sold in stores in China.