Monday, March 27, 2023

Erewhon’s Grocery Aisles Are Iconic. Now It’s Taking on the Beauty Industry.


Los Angeles upscale grocery store chain Erewhon has launched its own clean beauty range as it expands its status as the most influential market in the country.

Erewhon is a Los Angeles mainstay, with seven stores and growing. Known for its not-exactly-cheap tonic bar, emphasis on fresh, local, and organic ingredients, it’s a beloved destination, and a top trend predicted to influence 2022. It seems to be making good on that responsibility with the launch of its new vegan skincare range.

Plug “Erewhon” into Google’s search bar and you’ll see stories covering celebrity after celebrity spotted at the market. Like the celebrity-filled town, Erewhon is a star in its own right, so it only makes sense that it’s capitalizing on the latest celebrity trend: launching a clean skincare line.

Erewhon’s new six-piece skincare range is wildcrafted, organic, and vegan, and features two cleansers, two serums, a toner, an exfoliant, and a moisturizer.

Erewhon skincare

“All ingredients are non-toxic and free of harsh chemicals and synthetics, sulfates, artificial fragrances or colors, animal products, or gluten,” the company said in an email.

“The Erewhon Skincare line is handcrafted in small batches, using wildcrafted and organic ingredients such as buddleja extract, hyaluronic acid, sea buckthorn berry oil and yerba santa.”

The company says the products are all bottled in Miron violet glass bottles and jars to protect the botanical ingredients.

The move builds on “the Erewhon effect”—the chain’s ability to dictate trends and tastes that change the way consumers shop as well as how manufacturers produce.

“The store seems tailor-made for today’s influencer culture,” Max Berlinger wrote in the New York Times last year. “Its fastidiously curated assortment, where foods are lit like fashion editorials and are often some combination of organic, gluten-free, biodynamic, free-range and vegan, makes it ripe for snarky quips.”

Berlinger gives Covid credit for elevating Erewhon’s profile as bars and restaurants were shuttered, the supermarket, especially ones with outdoor seating, became places to socialize and feel normal. But Erewhon was retail celebrity long before the shutdown, having expanded from its original West Hollywood location to Venice and Santa Monica and filling the void left in the wake of the Amazon takeover of Whole Foods. (It’s been around since the 1960s, first opening in Boston before coming to LA in 1969.)

Los Angeles is known for its healthy food scene—California grows most of the fresh fruits and vegetables in the country—and the year-round warm weather is conducive to fresh food. And while farmers’ markets in the town can be a who’s who destination in addition to the best place to do your weekly produce shopping, they’re not in the same place every day. They don’t sell designer laundry detergent or biodynamic wine. Locals need a local market. And for the pseudo-spiritual or health-obsessed consumer, that’s Erewhon.

“Erewhon has a slightly Moon Juice quality about it,” Farley Elliott, an editor at Eater LA, told Berlinger, “where everything is so over-the-top, but in an earnest way that makes it feel only possible in Los Angeles.”

It’s succeeded in being both true to its roots—a small health food store focused on eclectic products—and feeling completely modern. “It’s a paradox for a health food store to be cool,” Jason Widener, a vice president at Erewhon, told the Times.

“You see, Erewhon isn’t just a one-stop shop for the gluten-and sugar-intolerant; it has become the physical incarnation of our cultural cascade into virtuous eating,” Naomi Fry wrote for Vogue in 2019.

Celebrity beauty

Clean beauty brands founded by celebrities are popping up left and right. In just the last several weeks there have been launches from former No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani, Scarlett Johannson, and a new sunscreen brand from supermodel Winnie Harlow, to name a few.

winnie harlow
Image courtesy Cay Skin

Like Erewhon, the celebrities are driven to provide their customers and fans with something distinct—the feeling of being niche even if it’s a product widely available.

That virtue factor itch, though, is still in need of scratching, as consumers seek out the Oatly or Impossible Burger equivalent for their skin.

There’s Dr. Bronner’s, of course—certainly an Erewhon staple—but the search is still on for a skincare brand with an unwavering cool factor like Erewhon.

There’s Tata Harper, or Fenty Beauty—both empires in their own right—but for the uber-sustainable LA set, it seems the jury’s still out on identifying the hip, conscious, and clean skincare brand. So, why not make it Erewhon?


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