Alterna Haircare (a subsidiary of Henkel AG & Co. KGaA) was founded in 1997 as a “luxury” hair care brand marketed to professional stylists for use with both male and female clientele. The brand has since grown to over 100 employees operating from its Culver City headquarters, which it shares with several Henkel hair and beauty brands.
The brand’s rise in prominence in the hair care industry is largely linked to the leadership of former CEO Joan Malloy who oversaw the company’s growth from 2009 to 2016. In 2014, the company was purchased by the Henkel group, which later merged the brand operations with its other beauty care brands in a shared headquarters in Culver City, California. This move led to a number of leadership and strategic changes including the hiring of a new general manager for the brand and a refocus on the professional stylist market.
The brand has been associated with a number of A-list celebrities and is widely covered by beauty and hair care news agencies, magazines and blogs. Alterna has previously partnered with actress, Katie Holmes, and has currently engaged celebrity hairstylist, Andrew Fitzsimmons, as its official brand spokesperson.
The brand is known for its high-quality ingredients and generally ethical approach to sourcing its ingredient in a sustainable and cruelty-free way. This includes sourcing products from organic farms and a guarantee that the products are never tested on animals. The Caviar Collection (for professional stylists) is the brand’s marquee collection of hair care products with a suite of high-end hair care products designed to meet various shampoo, conditioner, hair treatment and style needs. The Bamboo Collection also provides a complete suite of products for consumer needs at a more accessible price point. The smaller Ten collection rounds out the offerings with a shampoo, conditioner and masque featuring ten hair-nourishing ingredients.
Alterna performs clinical studies on all of its products at Henkel’s German-based hair clinics. Products must meet strict criteria before they are approved for mass-production. Training is also provided for stylists and industry professionals on the latest product and industry innovations as a part of the Academy of Hair hosted at the Culver City Headquarters.
The brand is expected to continue to see steady market growth for the foreseeable future, mirroring growth trends in the overall hair care industry.
Early History (1997 to 2013)
Alterna was founded by the late Don Crystal in 1997 with the Hemp brand: a natural, paraben-free product for health-conscious consumers. Experiencing consistent growth since its launch, the name was eventually changed to symbolize the company’s mission to provide a natural alternative to the synthetic products on the market at the time (Elyzabeth, 2015).
In 2009, Joan Malloy was hired as the brand’s president and CEO. Malloy would go on to use what she dubbed the three P’s to run the company (People, Product and Place), which included the installment of an entirely new leadership team. This move was accompanied by a major push for research and innovation in the company’s product lines. These changes led to the reinvention of the company’s Caviar luxury line and the promotion of “accessible luxury” with the company’s Bamboo line of products in 2010. Malloy would also emphasize the multi-channel distribution of the company’s products that were only sold in hair salons at the time, launching a partnership with industry-leader, Sephora, in 2011 (Elyzabeth, 2015).
Partnership with Katie Holmes (2013)
This emphasis on high-quality, well-researched ingredients and increased market presence coincided with increased consumer demand for premium hair care solutions and year-over-year increases in the global hair care market with continued growth projected over the next few years (“Rise in Online Sales of Hair Care Products to Boost Growth,” 2018).
Seeking to leverage a known celebrity to further spur its growth, Alterna announced actress Katie Holmes as its new spokesperson and co-owner in January of 2013 (Snead, 2013). In a joint statement, Holmes identified the company’s dedication to natural ingredients as one of the key factors that sparked her interest in the partnership (“Katie Holmes' Named Co-Owner, Spokesperson for Alterna Haircare,” 2013, para. 2).
The widely reported move catapulted the growing company into being a household name with increased media exposure and coverage from top media houses due to its association with the celebrity.
Henkel Acquisition (2014 to Present)
The following year the company’s growth culminated in a sale to the family-controlled, Henkel, as a part of the German company’s continued expansion into the hair care industry. The acquisition, which included the purchase of two other hair care brands, was estimated to have cost Henkel over $370 million dollars (Burger, 2014).
Within the next two years, Malloy would be replaced by brand General Manager, Raphaël Grange (Moratto, 2016). More personnel changes would soon follow as the company refocused its efforts on the professional market with the launch of its Caviar Style line of products in June of 2016 (Thomas, 2016) and the announcement of the Beauty Care Hair Professional headquarters in Culver City, California (Brown, 2016): a move that brought all of the parent company’s hair care brands under one roof. Celebrity hairstylist, Andrew Fitzsimmons, was later named as the brands new spokesperson(Thomas, 2017).
The Alterna brand touts its use of scientifically-proven, ethically sourced ingredients as the basis for its competitive advantage in the hair care market. The company also claims to exclude chemicals and additives that are commonly found in other products, such as parabens, sulfates and dyes. Its proprietary healthcare formulas are based on over 15 years of clinical, consumer, and in-salon testing that the company claims places it at the forefront of hair care technology (“Our ‘free-of’ Journey,” n.d.).
The Caviar Collection
The Caviar Collection is Alterna’s flagship line of products. The collection gets its name from the omega 3-rich caviar extract in each bottle. The collection includes various oils, creams, masques, balms, sprays, shampoos and conditioners that are designed to give users a healthy, balanced hair and scalp. The sub-brands in the line include: Caviar Moisture, Caviar Bond Repair, Caviar Anti-Frizz, and Caviar Volume.
The Bamboo Collection
The Bamboo Collection represents Alterna’s attempt at offering a more consumer-accessible line of luxury products. The signature bamboo extracts in each bottle are claimed to strengthen hair from the inside out along with other botanical ingredients, such as Kendi oil, Kalahari melon, maca root and gooseberry. Like the Caviar Collection, the Bamboo Collection is separated into various sub-brands based on intended use, including Moisture, Repair, Anti-Frizz and Volume.
The Ten Collection
The Ten brand was launched in 2007. The product line gets its name from the ten exotic hair care ingredients used in the products. The ten ingredients include white truffle oil, cacao extract, caviar, quillaia, frankincense, hyaluronic acid, grape seed oil, arnica flower, primrose, and its patented color hold complex. The products in this line include Ten-branded shampoos, conditioners, and masques.
Alterna bases its claims on a number of clinical studies conducted internally before bringing its products to the market. Through these studies, the company’s researchers validate claims associated with use of its products. New products are evaluated in Henkel’s Test Salons in Hamburg and Dusseldorf, Germany, where findings from the Research and Development department are observed through comparative half-side application tests allowing researchers to compare the product’s effect on the same subject. Approval is only given when the product has met the company’s established benchmarks (”Research and Development,” n.d.). The brand also claims to research and source all of its ingredients in ethical and sustainable ways, including a ban on using animals in its trials.
The products contain a number of ingredients associated with benefits to the health and appearance of hair.
A limited body of research suggests that caviar can be beneficial when applied topically. Proponents claim that caviar extract, which is rich in a number of nutrients and micronutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin B-12 (“Fish, Caviar, Black and Red, Granular Nutrition Facts & Calories,” n.d.), is clinically proven to increase the shine, moisture and smoothness of hair follicles (Marotta, 2012). According to company statements, the caviar is sourced sustainably from Siberian sturgeon farms in France according to the CITES convention’s standards for protection of animal populations (Campbell, 2013).
There is a growing body of research that silica, which is found in high concentrations in bamboo extract, can promote follicle health and thickness (Araújo, L. A., Addor, F., & Campos, P. M., 2016). Alterna utilizes bamboo extract, amongst other botanicals, as the featured ingredient in its Bamboo line of products. It is claimed that the sustainably harvested plant extract enhances the hair’s natural flexibility and strength.
Hyaluronic acid has been associated with improvements in hair dullness and dryness in clinical studies. This compound has established anti-aging properties for the skin (Yagoda, Gans, 2012) and Alterna is positioning their hyaluronic acid containing products as providing those same benefits for hair.
Topical administration of grapeseed oil has been linked to the growth and regrowth of hair (Takahashi, T., Kamiya, T., Hasegawa, A., & Yokoo, Y., 1999). Grapeseed oil has also been found to be beneficial for the skin; this has implications for scalp care as well.
Other ingredients found in Alterna products that are associated with hair health and/or growth include sea silk, primrose oil, cacao extract, frankincense and quillaia. However, more research is needed on the benefits of these ingredients for hair application.
Alterna has enjoyed generally positive media coverage. The brand has been heavily covered by top fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines and websites over the past few years. It has been associated with a number of celebrity hairstylists and their clients.
About Henkel (Parent Company)
Henkel AG & Company, KGaA, is a German owned company with major investments in the areas of adhesives, laundry, home care, and beauty care. Top brands currently under the Henkel umbrella of companies include Persil, Dial, Loctite, and AkzoNobel. Headquartered in Dusseldorf, Germany, Henkel is a multinational corporation with over 50,000 employees worldwide and 20 billion in gross annual revenues (“Company Profile,” n.d.).
Its purchase of Alterna in 2014 was part of a $370 million acquisition of three US-based hair care companies as the German corporation sought to expand its foothold in the US beauty industry (Burger, 2014).
In 2018, Henkel merged all of its beauty industry sub-brands under one roof: The Beauty Care Hair Professional Headquarters in Culver City, California. Over 200 employees from various beauty and hair care brands call the new headquarters home (“Under One Roof: Henkel Opens Professional Hair Care Headquarters in Los Angeles Area.,” 2018). At the headquarters, Henkel’s hair care brands provide support and training opportunities to professional hair stylists and other hair care professionals to ensure that they are aware of the latest developments in the Henkel product line. This training is facilitated by Henkel’s Academy of Hair to build capacity in the use of the latest Henkel beauty and hair care products (“An Inside Look at the New Henkel Academy of Hair in Los Angeles,” 2018).
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