Sustainable body care brand Uni has entered its first retailer, Erewhon Market — the Los Angeles County luxury supermarket chain with a cult-like following.
Launched direct-to-consumer in February 2022 by tech entrepreneur Alexandra Keating, Uni will be found in all eight locations. After three years in development, following a $4 million seed investment (that includes Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures), industry sources value Uni at $10 million.
Erewhon’s reusable glass bottle program inspired her and creative director Marc Atlan as they developed the body care brand, when the Australian native first moved to L.A., Keating said. Using a reusable dispenser with sleek packaging, all Uni products are bottled in recycled aluminum, made to be continuously used and recycled.
“It gave us the confidence to really pursue that model,” she said. “When I realized how seamless it was, I realized that we could do that with Uni. And if people were, like with the milkman, bringing bottles back, then we could start to shape that behavior as related to beauty and personal care.”
About 38 percent of Uni shoppers are subscribers, returning empty bottles and receiving a package of new goods every 60 days. (The brand developed a technology to track returns, cleans and refills bottles.) Offering discounted prices to subscribers, products include a hydrating shampoo and conditioner, at $34 each, a $33 body wash and $43 body serum. The latter is Uni’s bestseller, followed by its $31 exfoliating hand wash.
“If you look at who our customer is, they’re definitely Erewhon goers,” Keating said, sharing that consumers are typically 25 and older, living in major cities, “a little bit more affluent” and “very educated in terms of ingredients.”
Uni utilizes sustainably sourced, reef-safe ingredients, a “Marine Complex” (blend of actives for hydration), as well as bladderwrack seaweed to promote cell turnover, Australian kakadu plum for vitamin C and caviar lime as a citric acid exfoliator. The brand has a give-back element, contributing 1 percent of online sales to coral restoration projects and is a participant in the United Nations’ Climate Neutral Now initiative — aimed to achieve a climate neutral world by 2050.
“The sustainability factor and innovative approach to refills is what impressed us, we don’t have anything like that,” Maren Giuliano, Erewhon’s vice president of health and wellness, told WWD in a statement. “We also really appreciated the sleek design and aesthetics of the brand.”
Erewhon will be the first to unveil Uni’s latest product, the Restoring Hand Wash, exclusively for the month of December. The product won’t be available on Weareuni.com until January. (More stock keeping units are coming next year.)
Giuliano continued: “Our strategy is to continue to be a place of discovery in clean beauty and wellness. We also like partnering with [direct-to-consumer] brands and bringing them to life in store, Uni was a great example of a brand that aligned with our values in terms of ingredients and sustainability and also offers something unique in terms of the bath and body category.”
“I really believe in retail,” Keating said of future plans. “So, you’ll see Uni grow a lot over the next two years in retail both in the U.S. and abroad.”
There’s also a b-to-b market, partnering with restaurants and hotels: “We’re very fortunate in the sense that single-use plastic bottles are being banned from hotels as of January next year in California and that’s really changing the entire hotel industry.”
Keating sees Uni in “everyone’s home,” she added. “I’m quite an ambitious individual.”