The Albanian cosmetics industry has potential to grow, but first the appropriate conditions must be created. Mikena Çako and Ada Kastrati, co-founders of “ADA Herbs” that produce in France, say that, even though the idea was born in Albania, the realization is difficult. In our country, according to them, there are no microbiological tests for cosmetic products, either in private or state laboratories, so the creation of cosmetic products in Albania requires multiple services from abroad, which increase the costs extremely. That is why even though the idea is “Made in Albania”, the production is “Made in France”, which has positively influenced the image of the company.
How did the journey of “Ada Herbs” start and can you give us some details about the profile of the company in the range of products you offer?
“Ada Herbs” was born 10 years ago from the daydreams of two sisters, when we were still students. Growing up in a family engaged in family business, the sparks of entrepreneurship were ignited since childhood. Fascinated by a world full of shine, that of beauty, with a lot of love we created “The Oil Combination” that today is the most sold beauty product inside and outside Albania. There is no Albanian girl who does not have a “magic” bottle on her shelves. Without neglecting the boys who care more and more for themselves every day. Starting from one product, but without stopping on this journey, today we offer a much larger and more complete range of products on the market. We have processed and launched complete lines of care for hair, face and body. 10 years show a lot for successes, but also for sacrifices. Even though the oil combination is the product “par excellence”, personal care needs different products, shampoo, heat treatment, creams, serums, different cleansers for face, body creams and even lip balms.
When we started 10 years ago, the big companies had just started to develop organic products and that is exactly what has distinguished us in the market. From the first day onwards we have produced only certified organic products. We have even taken the chain effect to the end, using recyclable and reusable glass and paper packaging.
How do you select the raw material that you use in your products? Are these materials also available in the Albanian market, or only in the foreign one?
The creation of each formula starts from Albania, because this is where we are. Our products are formulated, created and then produced in France under safety and patenting conditions, after passing all the necessary stages of standardization of the certifications they carry. The raw material is obtained from all over the world, mostly from the South of France, where our laboratories are also located. The necessary filters for the safety of our products are passed with EU standards and French production excellence.
Albania is not directly involved for the simple reason that the trade and production of raw material for cosmetics is difficult. This is also one of the reasons that led us to move our production to France, the world center of quality cosmetics and standards. This is a strategic decision of the company to be in the European and American market. To launch a product “Made in France” carries the seriousness and responsibility of one of the largest superpowers in the world.
Where is the production of your products and what is the strong point that you market?
The products are produced in France, which is a guarantee for quality, standard, expertise, full transparency in production. We market strongly the quality of the products, the unique organic formulas, which have passed the necessary certifications for the claimed effects. But the best marketing comes from our customers.
How have the production costs changed, considering the pandemic situation that has increased costs in every segment?
Extremely much. We were affected from the beginning of the pandemic by the increase of the transport price almost 5 times and it has been and continues to be a daily challenge, both in securing the raw material, packaging or even realizing the production on time. Many countries, sources of raw materials for organic cosmetics, are limiting their imports and this makes us very sensitive to price increases, or delays in accessing it. Since the situation of the war in Ukraine, many packaging factories in Europe have been suspending their productions until 2023, due to high energy costs. The cosmetics industry, in a large global market, which we are now part of, works with large stock. This has favored us to support and protect as much as possible our buyer, avoiding large increases in prices for the first two years. The future does not look calm, so little by little even at our consumer are reflected the price increases that until now we could cope with in our costs.
How easy is it for an Albanian cosmetic brand to penetrate foreign markets? How has your progress been in the domestic and foreign markets?
It is difficult because of the language limitation that we face from the beginning since not all Albanian consumers can communicate in an international language such as English. This limits us to the rest of the world.
In terms of products, it is easy if the whole brand has a unique identity, that is easily communicated and reflected in very good and result-oriented products. After 10 years in the market, we have adapted to every type of buyer and have penetrated the international market with the help of our customers. A long and difficult journey awaits us, but absolute belief in the products we put on the market gives us strength for the battles ahead.
What are your business plans going forward in terms of expanding the range of products and entering new markets?
We always create, it is what we like the most, but we move forward, listening to our users and the market. Our future will be very ecological, always more pro-nature.
The whole cosmetics market is moving towards being “sustainable”. We have chosen this path since our beginnings and we will continue to do so. It is not only with formulas, and raw materials that respect nature and its laws, but also with our packaging, which are glass and paper. The important fight to protect the planet is everyone’s duty and we have put our stone in it.
How challenging is the integration into consolidated sales networks such as Sephora, Douglas, or other networks and have you thought about being part of similar networks?
The fact that our journey started in Albania, in a very small market, makes our journey towards the international market difficult. Being part of a sales network like Sephora, Douglas, etc., requires not only a long and successful sales history but also many standards in the product.
We have started this journey and we have been appreciated by prestigious magazines “Vogue”, “Glamour” and “Health & Wellbeing” for our products, their quality, and the benefits they convey to users. The other steps towards the international consumer are ready, the company is consolidated to be in step with its peers in the large market of choice.
Do you think there is room for developing the cosmetic industry in Albania and what are the advantages and disadvantages that affect this development?
Albania has a lot of human potential, an extraordinary climate, and diverse and rare vegetation. But it becomes very difficult when we face the pronounced lack of technological and laboratory infrastructure in the country. Albania, currently, does not offer microbiological tests for cosmetic products, either in private or state laboratories, so the creation of cosmetic products in the country requires multiple services from abroad, marking extreme cost increases, which do not justify the standard.
How has the consumer trend for cosmetic and care products changed, and where are they oriented more?
The consumer is very intelligent and improves the quality of buying every day, from understanding the label of the products to the real qualifications of the offering companies. Organic cosmetic products, more and more, are getting the appreciation of the Albanian consumer, turning them into an informed consumer with a lot of desire to be strict with the quality of the products they choose to use on their hair and skin.