Kiwi deer milk skin care founder sees potential for beauty brand in Asia

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

The founder of Kiwi deer milk skin care brand, kōtia, has set his sights on expanding to Asia, after initially launching in Australia and New Zealand. ©kōtia
The founder of Kiwi deer milk skin care brand, kōtia, has set his sights on expanding to Asia, after initially launching in Australia and New Zealand. ©kōtia
The founder of Kiwi deer milk skin care brand, kōtia, has set his sights on expanding to Asia, after initially launching in Australia and New Zealand.

The company claims to be “the world’s first New Zealand deer milk skin care range”​ and has been clinically proven to condition the skin with the nourishing powers of deer milk.

Its founder, Graeme Shaw, recently entered into a joint venture with Australian cosmetics firm McPherson’s.

The partnership will see kōtia on the shelves of large pharmacy chains in Australia and New Zealand, such as Priceline and Unichem, as well as New Zealand department store, Farmers.

McPherson’s will also help expand kōtia into the Asian Pacific market, where it has offices in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Shaw believes that kōtia has huge potential in the Asian market, especially in China.

“Deer have been linked to wealth and longevity for thousands of years. Anything to do with deer is highly respected in China. The Chinese value New Zealand-made products, especially once they know our animals spend their time on the lush green meadow surrounded by mountains and lakes.”

He added: “We know that New Zealand and Australia will enjoy learning about it and our Asian friends are going to be very close behind them. And who knows, the rest of the world will discover how special the ingredient is. The plan is to have kōtia all around the world.”

Deer milk: The superior milk

Shaw told CosmeticsDesign-Asia​ that kōtia started with an “accidental discovery”.

The New Zealand native was trying to make deer milk cheese when a milker pointed out that her hands were becoming visibly smoother and younger despite the hard work on the farm.

Intrigued, Shaw engaged AgResearch to analyse the deer milk. The research confirmed that deer milk was high in essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A and E.

The research also highlighted that deer milk contains about three times more protein than cows’ milk.

“Of all the farm animals deer milk has by far the highest protein percentage. Protein is very important for skin care. It is the basis of cell formation and regeneration. I think anyone in the skin care industry can appreciate the amount of protein deer milk has,” ​said Shaw

Shaw spent the next two years working with Sigrid Vorwerk, a leading skin care formulator and cosmetic chemist, to develop a skin care range.

Aside from deer milk, the range of products also contain active ingredients.

“We've taken the best active ingredients and added them to complement deer milk’s nourishing and hydrating effects. Combined with other effective active ingredients, we have us a balanced and highly effective skin care range,” ​said Shaw.

He added: “Everything we put into our skin care range has to be scientifically proven and clinically tested. We haven't added anything that doesn't have scientific proof.”

Animal welfare first

Animal welfare and sustainable farming is an important part of kōtia’s story, said Shaw.

The does are milked under strict conditions in farms that operate under strict rules.

For instance, the farmers do not separate the mothers from their fawns when they are being milked, a practice that is common in the dairy industry.

“The babies are taken away from [cows, goats and sheep] after two days. We don’t milk the deer until the baby is old enough to run next to their mother. The babies follow the mothers to the milking shed and they go back out to the pasture together,” ​said Shaw

Kōtia insists that mothers are not separated from the fawns so they will not be stressed, ensuring a steady and good supply of milk.

“The less stressed the mother is, the more milk she gives us. A mother that has lost her fawn is likely to be more stressed than one that's with her fawn every day. So when the mother comes to the milking shed she knows that when she's finished being milked, she'll go back and join her baby,” ​said Shaw.

The future of dairy

Shaw is not the only person to see potential in deer milk. Last December, state-owned farm Pāmu signed a deal with South Korean pharmaceutical company Yuhan to supply deer milk for its range of cosmetic products.

Shaw added that the industry “could not be more excited”​ about the potential of deer milk.

“This is the first new dairy industry the world has seen for hundreds of years. We started this project some years ago and only in the last 12 months have we been 100% certain that we could make very unique and special skin care products. We do believe the deer milking industry will grow very quickly.”

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