Burt's Bees wants to mind its own beeswax, but sting the competition. The company makes and markets lip balm, bath oils, soaps, and about 150 other personal care products made from beeswax, nut oils, and other natural ingredients. Its products are sold through the Burt's Bees website, as well as through some 30,000 health food and grocery stores located in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The company was founded in Maine in 1984 when Roxanne Quimby met reclusive beekeeper Burt Shavitz and they began making candles and lip balm from his beeswax. Burt's Bees is owned by cleaning-products-giant Clorox.
Clorox purchased Burt's Bees for $925 million in cash in 2007 in a bid to diversify and capitalize on the growth rate (about 9% at the time) in the natural products sector. Clorox retained the Burt's Bees headquarters in North Carolina. Burt's Bees is part of Clorox's Lifestyle business segment alongside other big-name brands Brita (water filters), KC Masterpiece (barbecue sauce), and Hidden Valley (dressing). The segment generates about 16% of parent Clorox's total revenue.
But growth at Burt's Bees hasn't met Clorox's long-term projections. Indeed, in the second quarter of fiscal 2011 Clorox took an impairment charge of about $250 million related to the acquisition. Clorox noted that it encountered roadblocks as it attempted to boost sales of Burt's Bees products in new international markets, particularly in the European Union and Asia. As a result, Clorox set out to revise its strategy for Burt's Bees and initiated a three-year financial and operating plan for the natural products business. While Burt's Bees is faced with slower international growth, the company also has been stung by a slow economic recovery among the natural personal care category in the US. – less