Garden Is a Seedbed for Green Cosmetics
Rolf Oeser for The New York Times

Joscha Huter, 40, cultivates the plants and flowers used to make the popular line of German natural cosmetics, Dr. Hauschka.

ECKWÄLDEN, Germany — You know you are not in an ordinary garden when a man in dirt-covered trousers, tending witch-hazel plants, describes his work in words that could come from Nietzsche.


Rolf Oeser for The New York Times

Dr. Hauschka products are made by WALA Heilmittel at its headquarters and have sales of nearly $150 million.

“It demands a higher level of consciousness and a force of will to garden at this level,” said Joscha Huter, 40, who cultivates the plants and flowers used to make the popular, expensive line of German natural cosmetics, Dr. Hauschka. “There’s a point where gardening becomes an art.”


There’s also a point where it becomes a crackerjack business: this rarefied garden in a southern German valley is the seedbed for an environmental marketing phenomenon that has captivated Hollywood.


Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Richard Gere and Robert Downey Jr. are among the celebrities who have publicly extolled Dr. Hauschka’s skin care products. While the stars may not express themselves like 19th-century German philosophers, their devotion has helped to win Dr. Hauschka a cultlike following from Beverly Hills to the Upper East Side.

Sales of WALA Heilmittel, the maker of Dr. Hauschka, have more than doubled in the last five years, to nearly $150 million, about 8 percent of that from the United States, where it also sells herbal remedies. The 73-year-old company, which labored for decades in obscurity, now finds itself in the sweet spot of a booming market for green cosmetics. Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, and other giants are pushing all-natural brands.
五年來, 「德國好世家」製造商WALA Heilmittel的營業額增加一倍以上,達到將近15,000萬美元。這家已有73年歷史的公司,現在突然成為綠色化妝品在市場暴紅的知名品牌。雅詩蘭黛、萊雅等化妝品巨擘都推出純天然的品牌。

“Dr. Hauschka is shining because they’ve been doing this for a long time, and now everybody wants to do it,” said Joe Smillie, the senior vice president of Quality Assurance International, a San Diego firm that certifies the organic content of food, fabric and other goods.

WALA is one of dozens of German companies — from windmill manufacturers to organic beverage producers — that are benefiting from a growing global appetite for environmentally friendly products. Germany’s recent economic renaissance has had an unmistakably green hue.

Even in this Birkenstock land, WALA is uncommonly chaste/rigorous. Visitors to the garden are asked to switch off their cellphones, for security reasons and to avoid disturbing the harmony of nature.

The fact that WALA’s green label comes with a dash of Hollywood glitter makes its German managers squeamish, given that they run the company almost as a collective, with all the profits either plowed back into operations or handed out to the 700 workers.

“If celebrities like Dr. Hauschka, we’re happy, of course,” said Philip Lettmann, WALA’s chief financial officer. “But we’re even happier if an ordinary person with a skin problem finds help by using our products. Our philosophy was here long before the green trend began.”

Indeed, the company’s roots are in herbal medicine. WALA was founded in 1935 by Rudolf Hauschka, a Viennese chemist who sought to develop remedies using only natural ingredients. In 1967, it added the skin care line, named after the founder, who died two years later. 

The company’s name — an acronym that stands for Warmth and Ashes, Light and Ashes — suggests a crystals-and-karma sensibility more suited to Northern California than southern Germany.

But WALA is based on a school of early 20th-century European philosophy known as anthroposophy. Developed by the Austrian theorist Rudolf Steiner, the philosophy is predicated on the existence of a spiritual world that can be accessed by the human intellect.

Mr. Steiner’s thinking was also influential in more down-to-earth matters. He championed biodynamic agriculture, a rigorous form of organic farming that shuns pesticides and uses no fertilizers that were not already present in the garden.


An acolyte of Mr. Steiner, Rudolf Hauschka planted a biodynamic garden in this town, 28 miles west of Stuttgart, in 1955. There, a team of eight gardeners cultivates more than 150 plants, flowers and trees, ranging from Echinacea to monk’s hood. They are harvested by hand, then crushed and dried. Extracts are taken with water, never alcohol. 

For the company’s rose cream, one of its signature products, it buys large amounts of rose oil from suppliers in Turkey, Bulgaria, Iran and Afghanistan. The trade allows WALA to engage in more planetary good works. In Afghanistan, it is encouraging farmers to plant roses in place of opium poppies, said Antal Adam, the chief spokesman.

A public relations executive who used to work in Cologne, Mr. Adam took a pay cut to join WALA. Like so many of the employees, he seems to have drunk the organic Kool-Aid — only in this case, it is bitter elixir, a foul-tasting herbal remedy that he cheerfully swigs after lunch to aid digestion.

The same fervor, Mr. Adam said, applies to WALA’s celebrities, who get free samples but no money for their endorsements. “We could always buy a face,” he said. “Our celebrities do this because they are convinced of the product.”

Dr. Hauschka’s success in the United States owes much to Susan West Kurz, a beauty expert and author who transformed a tiny import business into a franchise. The key was introducing Hollywood makeup artists to the products, which she did with the help of her first husband, the character actor J. T. Walsh.

“Right up until the end, he was talking about it,” Ms. West Kurz said of Mr. Walsh, who died in 1998 after a career playing memorable villains in films, including “Pleasantville.” “There was a mystique around it.”

Even today, Dr. Hauschka clings to its image by shunning department or convenience stores. It is available in natural product stores, pharmacies and from licensed skin care specialists. 

In 2007, it left the Sephora chain of cosmetic stores, which is known for thoroughly training its saleswomen, because it says Sephora balked at training them adequately to sell Dr. Hauschka.

The company has also refused to sign on to industry certifications in the United States for organic or natural products, because it says its methods are more rigorous than competitors that claim to be organic or all-natural. “Over the last 30 years, every major brand has usurped some of our language,” Ms. West Kurz said.

While Dr. Hauschka’s image is powerful, it is not bulletproof. Sales in the United States have sputtered in recent weeks, after a strong first quarter. Executives chalk it up to the soaring price of gasoline, which they say has discouraged shopping for cosmetics.

Perhaps the fullest expression of WALA’s philosophy is its unorthodox ownership structure. The original owners gave up their stakes in 1986, creating a foundation that is legally owned by the German public, and hence cannot be sold. A similar legal arrangement in the United States makes it impossible to sell the American distribution rights.

Many suitors have tried. In 1997, Estée Lauder paid $300 million for Aveda, a maker of natural beauty products, while L’Oréal paid $1.1 billion for the Body Shop in 2006.

“I get called by private equity firms every day,” said Mirran Rephaely, the chief executive of Dr. Hauschka in the United States.

In Eckwälden, Mr. Lettmann also gets calls. Before joining WALA, he worked for a private equity firm in Munich. Now he keeps a bottle of bitter elixir next to his desk, and sounds less like a finance whiz than a soul mate of Mr. Huter, the philosophical gardener.

“WALA exists in the economic world, but we don’t work for profits,” he said. “Our primary impulse, from the beginning, is healing.”

The fact that WALA’s green label comes with a dash of Hollywood glitter makes its German managers squeamish, given that they run the company almost as a collective, with all the profits either put back into operations or handed out to the 700 workers.

“If celebrities like Dr. Hauschka, we’re happy, of course,” said Philip Lettmann, WALA’s chief financial officer. “But we’re even happier if an ordinary person with a skin problem finds help by using our products. Our philosophy was here long before the green trend began.”




在環保行銷(environmental marketing, green marketing)的時代,從生產、定價、促銷到運送,均需謹守環保原則,本文所提的綠色化妝品(green cosmetics)品牌(brand)「德國好世家」,即是奉行環保行銷,且在當紅的環保行銷現象(phenomenon)中扮演要角的廠商之一。


「德國好世家」的護膚產品(skin care products)因標榜純天然(all-natural),而獲得名流(celebrity)加持,「德國好世家」並因而有了類似教派(cultlike)的死忠愛用者(following)。






此一學派主要理念為以科學方法研究和解釋人類的性靈世界(spiritual world)與本性(nature of man),而人類可透過本身的智能(human intellect),接近與進入(access)這個世界。


這一派信徒同時相信人與大自然存在一種責任意識(consciousness),因此必須以生物機能(biodynamics)互動、不干擾大自然和諧(avoid disturbing the harmony of nature)的方式耕種食物。


郝世家因此大力鼓吹(champion 生機農耕法(biodynamic agriculture),亦即以嚴格的方式(rigorous form),從事有機種植(organic farming),讓自然時令、節氣、土壤、動物、人類於生態系統中自然運作,完全不使用農藥(pesticide)與化肥(fertilizer)。


除了使用天然成分(natural ingredient),「德國好世家」也有別於一般護膚產品,並不在百貨公司或便利商店(convenience store)販賣,只在天然產品商店(natural product store)、藥妝店(pharmacy)、有照護膚專科醫師(licensed skin care specialist)處販售。



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