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Snowberry: Trusting the process to develop skincare that can be trusted

This article was published on Jun 29, 2019, 2:37 PM

Reading time: 5 minutes

With a heavy R&D investment, Kiwi skincare company Snowberry has put the focus on scientifically-backed, natural skincare that customers can trust. They've also trusted Callaghan Innovation to help along the way.

What's in this article

    At a glance

    • Skincare company Snowberry set out to develop natural, science-backed skin care products that customers could trust to actually do what it said.
    • Supported by Callaghan Innovation, significant investment in R&D and efficacy trials for its products has set Snowberry apart from competitors.
    • Snowberry has successfully developed world-first peptide delivery systems, meaning its serums are proven effective by gold standard clinical trial, and have been recognised internationally.

    They [Callaghan Innovation] made the difference between doing the R&D and not. We simply could not have completed our science without that support. 

    - Mark Henderson, Operating Manager, Snowberry

    Developing science-backed skin care

    ‘Premium’ and ‘natural’ are words that get thrown around a lot in the world of skincare. But for Kiwi skincare company Snowberry, these words hold weight, the business ensuring its products are clinically-proven safe, and comprise of high quality, active ingredients.

    “Our mission, and core business, is to create skincare that will help anyone’s skin to look and feel better,” says Mark Henderson, Snowberry’s Operating Manager.. “And that doesn’t happen by mixing up some nice ingredients and simply hoping for the best.” 

    Central to this has been Snowberry establishing its own biodiscovery operation, centred on Snowberry Gardens. It is this 25-hectare plot where the team cultivates thousands of native plants of selected varieties with potential cosmeceutical applications, based on either rongoā Māori (traditional Māori medicine) or through scientific assay. 

    “Snowberry Gardens is a biodiscovery operation. The purpose of biodiscovery is not simply to produce raw ingredients or simple extracts, instead it’s about identifying active compounds that will benefit the skin in specific and clinically verifiable ways,” says Snowberry founder, Soraya Hendesi.


    Snowberry founder, Soraya Hendesi

    Snowberry founder, Soraya Hendesi

    Risks and rewards of R&D

    The drive to ensure Snowberry’s products are backed by science has seen the company invest heavily in R&D, even in the early days when it came at the cost of investing in other areas of the business.

    "For any new company, investing in original science is really challenging, because it's money that isn't going into communications, the rent or even salaries. And because it's original science, there are no guarantees anything useful will come of it. It's a real gamble,” says Hendesi.

    Enderson says Callaghan Innovation’s support of their R&D has been essential, both in terms of helping the company shoulder some of the costs and providing valuable advice.

    “Whilst the sums were not large, given our own very limited resources, they made the difference between doing the R&D and not. We simply could not have completed our science without that support.”

    Callaghan Innovation’s Customer Manager Health, Andrew Paterson, highlights the scientific expertise Snowberry received also. “They also worked with our Research and Technical Services to develop extraction techniques from plants to be used in their skin care range.”

    Henderson adds that the support also provided validation during the challenging periods for the business.

    “Having the support of Callaghan Innovation meant that we always had a science-and-business-savvy organisation on our side. Entrepreneurial business is lonely business. It is fraught with risk, and it requires a great deal of perseverance, often in the face of strong headwinds. Knowing that your R&D aspirations have been reviewed by a science-based organisation and then actively supported, helped us to retain confidence and momentum.”

    Doing things their way, a different way

    Snowberry is definitely holding up to Hendesi’s goal of being a skincare brand people can trust. 

    The company successfully developed world-first peptide delivery systems after five years of intensive research, meaning its serums are proven effective by gold standard clinical trial, the only standard accepted by dermatologists. As well, they were internationally recognised by The World Congress of Dermatology and the International Journal of Aging Science.

    Another huge milestone for Snowberry came in 2018 when consumer goods multinational Proctor & Gamble acquired the business. And, since then Auckland-based Apex Brands has gone on to acquire Snowberry, the business joining a portfolio of well-known and trusted personal care brands.

    Being part of Proctor & Gamble especially came at the perfect time, allowing Snowberry to enter overseas markets again. After being distributed in many markets since 2007, due to a lack of capital the business had to pull back and consolidate domestically focussing on completing and commercialising their science, says Henderson. 

    Despite these major milestones, Hendesi and Henderson say their greatest satisfaction has come from creating the company and products they set out to develop and doing it their own way.

    “Setting out to do something quite different entails a great deal of risk, belief, capital and a capacity to roll with the punches,” says Henderson.

    “We’re really proud of creating skincare products that do what we say they will.”

    Snowberry Operating Manager, Mark Henderson

    Snowberry Operating Manager, Mark Henderson

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