Verve chats to the founder of skincare brand, Susanne Kaufmann, just before her launch in New Zealand.
What was your relationship with beauty growing up?
I’m the fifth generation to own and operate the Hotel Post Bezau, established in 1850 by my great, great grandfather. It was here in the Bregenzerwald, a really picturesque valley in the Austrian Alps, where I first began cultivating my family’s special approach to hospitality, and embracing the beauty and healing power of regional herbs and plants so beloved by my grandmother. I grew up with this culture of taking care of your skin, of your hair, your body. I always loved it. We grew up in nature—we made healing tonics, marigold cream, and arnica schnapps, and my grandmother used to rinse my hair with beer, eggs or chamomile. It was a two-hour weekly ritual. I carry on these traditions with my family to this day.
How did you get your start in the industry?
In 1994, I formally assumed management of the Hotel Post Bezau and made it my mission to create a modern destination spa that combined the natural bounty of the Bregenzerwald with a strong focus on treatment results and efficacy. Our treatments include facials, massages, wraps, baths and body rituals, as well as therapies tailored for pregnant women and men. My idea was to create a space where wellbeing stood in the foreground. I wanted to offer a holistic and clean approach that placed prevention as the focal point of health. At that time, I couldn’t find a beauty brand that fulfilled my expectations: high quality ingredients, clean, green and natural, sustainable. That’s why we started to develop our products. In 2003 we launched Susanne Kaufmann™ with a curated range of 24 skin and body care products. Originally developed exclusively for use in our Susanne Kaufmann Spa at the hotel, the hand-bottled products quickly became a favourite of our guests. Since the brand’s creation, we partnered with Ingo Metzler, a pioneer in organic and natural beauty, for all production and manufacturing needs. His place is located only 15 minutes from our headquarters in Bezau. We are dedicated to maintaining an eco-friendly production and manufacturing process.
How does sustainability play a role in your brand and why is it so important to you?
The most important thing for me is that we really keep the Susanne Kaufmann philosophy in place—wherever we are. It’s not just about maintaining the high quality of our products, but ensuring they remain grounded in where we come from and what we believe in. We are dedicated to maintaining an eco-friendly production and manufacturing process and believe in complete transparency.
Sourcing active ingredients in the rich environment of Bregenzerwald around us. Ensuring that the majority of our packaging is easily recyclable glass. If we use plastic it is recycled and comes from the nearest sources of Germany and Austria. All our outer cartons are recyclable and produced in nearby areas to support local employment. We reduce our carbon footprint by using regional suppliers close to home. Our production methods are energy self-efficient using solar power. We do not test on animals, nor do we sell in markets that do.
What are your hero ingredients?
For me it is Ectoin and cardiospermium halicacabum, because those ingredients I discovered when my son was sick and had some major skin problems. Ectoin is to accelerate cell regeneration and cardiospermium halicacabum has great anti-inflammatory properties. But of course, we have many more and I love to discuss new intelligent active ingredients with our developer.
What does clean beauty mean to you?
Beauty products should contribute to our beauty and to our health as beauty does not only come from outside but also from inside. We all like fresh air, we all know the benefit of healthy food so why we should choose something non-healthy when it comes to beauty products. Furthermore, we also think that it is important to be aware where the ingredients we use come from and where they go to when we wash them of.
Which products are you most proud of?
Our Pollution Skin Defence System—ampoules has been a dream of mine for a very long time. Our Obsidian Face Roller—it’s handcrafted by skilled, local artisans in the Bregenzerwald. The roller is consciously made from locally-sourced materials, personally selected by myself. Eye Cream Line A—it’s still one of my favourite products. I never found another eye cream that is more effective.
Talk us through your current skincare regime. How do you change this up in the spring?
In the morning I use the Cleansing Milk then the Tonic Soothing to get my face clean before I apply the Eye Cream Line A and our advanced anti-ageing Day Cream. Under the day cream I apply our Hyaluron Serum—it supports the skin cells in retaining moisture. With the body care I always find my personal favourite of the day, either one of our oils when I need more nourishing care or something refreshing with a gel. I love the fact that our products are tailor-made for all skin problems. For spring I switch to lighter textures, but I do not change my complete routine as I adapt my products for my skin’s need frequently.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching your eponymous skincare line?
There have been different challenges, such as creating a marketing system that works worldwide but without having to bend. In the USA, hymns of praise about yourself are common, I find it really hard to talk about my brand that way. Building the sales force is another challenge, to keep control of the brand image it is important to do the sales yourself and not to give it into other hands. On the other hand, the markets in Asia or the USA are very different and foreign to us. Here we work either with a distributor who also owns stores in Hong Kong, for example, or with permanent employees in the USA. It is also important to question our philosophy again and again when the next big growth steps are due. Does that suit us? Can we cope with this in our structures, for example with production in the neighbouring town? The same applies to the development of new products, where there are always new trends that are sometimes not feasible in the clean beauty sector.
What excites you most about the range launching in Australia and New Zealand at Mecca?
Mecca revolutionised the retail beauty market in Australia and New Zealand and I have the highest respect for this. Jo Horgan’s concept is 100 percent focused on Australian and New Zealand women and not a copy of whatever. She was one of the first ones to recognise the huge potential which lays in e-commerce. And now my brand coming from the Alps in Austria made its way there. How can I not be proud and happy?