'Best of both worlds': Singaporean entrepreneur launches superfood-inspired skin care range
Rooki Beauty was launched online early in May by founder Hayley Teo.
Before Rooki, Teo founded a natural beauty brand Into The Wild which sold homemade balms, body butters and clay masks using ingredients like coconut oil, avocado oil and mango butter.
As the brand grew, Teo realised her brand had difficulties standing out as a natural beauty brand.
“I realised that many of [my customers] have this idea that natural beauty products are safe but not necessarily effective,” said Teo.
“It’s sort of implicit because many of them tell me that the only reason they are into natural products now is either because they’re pregnant or because their skin is extremely sensitive to certain ingredients. Very few of them tell me that it’s because they can actually see tangible results.”
Eventually, Teo gave up Into The Wild to develop a brand inspired by superfoods.
“The concept behind Rooki is actually “High Performance Superfood Beauty”. We believe that you shouldn’t have to choose between what’s safe and what works. But combining clean, healthy superfoods with high performance, clinically-proven active ingredients, we can blend the best of both worlds to create results that meets the high standards of Asian consumers.”
A ’treasure trove’ of ingredients in Asia
Teo believes that differentiating her brand with superfoods will resonate with Asian consumers.
“Asia is crazy about food ingredients. We also have a long history of approaching health and beauty through a holistic lens. Food as nourishment is something that is culturally accepted in Asia - and having superfoods as one of your skincare ingredient isn’t really a very big mental step for most Asian consumers.”
For instance, she has observed many mainstream beauty brands using a traditional Asian ingredient, tremella fuciformis, known more commonly among Chinese as snow fungus.
“This ingredient is actually something that the Chinese have been consuming for a long time, even in Singapore - we call it Snow Fungus Soup. So the question I have is: why must we always look to the West to tell us what’s the next big superfood ingredient, when it’s already right in our own backyards?”
According to Teo, snow fungus has strong hydration properties that some claim can rival hyaluronic acid.
Rooki products currently consist of more ‘high-profile’ antioxidant-rich superfoods like honey, kale and chia seeds.
However, its next line of products will feature indigenous Asian ingredients, such as starfruit, which works similar to vitamin C.
She believes there is a lot of potential for Asian superfood ingredients in the skin care space.
“Asia still has a treasure trove of ingredients that aren’t mainstream yet, but once Asian consumers see it, I’m sure they’ll recognise it.”
She added that it may not be so important to have clinical data for such ingredients in Asia.
“Some of the bigger brands may feel that there isn’t enough clinical data for these ingredients, but I think we should not forget that the reason why many of these indigenous ingredients are time-honoured by Asians is because they really work.”
Expanding beyond Singapore
Rooki is currently available globally via its online website and Teo is actively working to give the brand a physical presence.
It is currently available in a local boutique located in downtown Singapore and Teo is currently in talks with more local players in the beauty scene.
“We’re trying an omni-channel approach with a digital focus. Because it’s hard to communicate things like the texture and scent of a product through purely digital means,” she said..
She added that it is important for Rooki to find its way into brick-and-mortars or pop-up events.
“Many people forget that skincare products are emotive purchases, and emotive purchases tend to be guided by the sensory experience. That’s why it’s important for us to be in stores and pop-ups, so people can readily try our products.”
However, the immediate challenge Rooki faces is brand awareness, said Teo.
“We don’t have the budgets of big brands, so making an impression is hard. We don’t pay influencers to talk about our products either because authenticity is important in this day and age. At most, we let them try the products gratis - and they usually do, either because they’ve heard good things about Rooki from their friends or because our philosophy resonates with them.”
Further down, Teo hopes to see Rooki expanding beyond Singapore as is essential to the survival of the business.
“Singapore is small but dense, so things can get really viral very fast. This makes it a good launchpad for small brands and for testing proof of concept. However the biggest limiting factor is its size. You need to have a global mindset right from the beginning because you won’t make it if you only depend on the local market.”
Her goal is to establish Rooki in the US, where there is a large market that already understands the benefits of superfoods in skin care.
“Superfoods and plant-based products are well-established in the US, there is a lesser need to spend marketing dollars on educating consumers about the benefits of superfoods. It’s already accepted, they’re past that point and you can even see that little niches in the superfood wave are already beginning to sprout up.”