Burt's Bees sure has grown up over the past several years and a lot has changed around here, but there are some things that never will: our recipes, our values and our natural way of doing things.
How It All Began
We got our start back in 1984 in Maine, when Roxanne Quimby and Burt Shavitz teamed up selling candles made from the beeswax created as a by-product of Burt's honey business. At the very first craft fair, they sold $200 worth, and by the end of the first year, sales climbed to $20,000. Their fine attention to detail was an integral part of their success. For instance, Roxanne noticed that women always turned a candle over to look at the bottom before purchasing it. Roxanne knew that ensuring that each candle was cut to a fine finish, especially on the bottom of the candle, would signal to consumers that the candles were of the ultimate quality.
Read the whole Burt's Story in Roxanne's words.
The Buzz Started Spreading
Word about our products soon reached New York, and in 1989, the hip Zona boutique ordered hundreds of our candles. So, naturally, we expanded production. We hired 40 employees and set up shop in an abandoned bowling alley. Around this time, Roxanne happened upon a 19th century book of home-made personal care recipes and that's when the Burt's Bees we know and love now really began.
Beeswax Gets A New Use
In 1991, the year we incorporated, we were making half a million candles a year, as well as natural soaps and perfumes cooked up on gas stoves. That's when we got the idea to add lip balm to our line-up. To this day, it is our best-selling product.
Time to Move On
With an ever-expanding product line and more and more orders to fill, we knew in 1993 that we needed to expand. We searched high and low for a new home, and finally decided on business- and community-friendly North Carolina. The area was already home to several other internationally-known personal care products companies. We figured if it was good enough for them, it was good enough for us. It was also at this time that we made the difficult decision to focus our entire product line on personal care.
Growing Into Our New Home
We set up shop in an 18,000 square-foot former garment factory in Creedmoor in 1994, and opened our first retail store the following year in nearby Chapel Hill. By this time, we had 50 products, some of which were even being distributed as far away as Japan. And we were embracing automation, one piece of machinery at a time ensuring all the while that it maintained that homemade quality and feel. In the spirit of recycling, we acquired a giant second-hand mixer from the cafeteria at nearby Duke University.
Smaller Sizes, Bigger Success
By 1998, our annual sales had reached over $8 million and we had more than 100 distinct items in our product line, which were being sold in over 4,000 outlets, including Whole Foods Market and Cracker Barrel. That year, our new travel-sized natural skin care and hair care products became instant best-sellers.
The following year, we introduced our first body lotions featuring natural milk and sugar enzymes, as well as a line of bath products made with sea ingredients.
Over the next several years, product lines grew, profits grew and the space we worked in grew. We relocated again to a 105,000 square-foot site in Durham near Research Triangle and soon expanded that to 136,000 square feet. It was at that time that we launched our eCommerce website, making our products readily available for purchase country-wide. In 2002 and 2003, we launched our first toothpaste and shampoo as well as our incredibly popular Baby Bee product line.
But Roxanne hadn't forgotten the company's roots in Maine. She used some of our profits to buy tracts of forest land in northern Maine to preserve them from development. This purchase marked the beginning of a long-standing relationship with The Nature Conservancy, which over the years, has helped conserve 185,000 acres of Maine forest land.
Leading the Industry, Still Moving Forward
With our sales topping $250 million, we were becoming a household name—in nearly 30,000 retail outlets, including Target, Kroger and Rite-Aid. We launched a sun care line and expanded into body wash. And we began our important work with other like-minded companies to set the standard for what products can be labeled natural. Our efforts were met with overwhelming support from consumers, with over 30,000 signing a petition in support of the cause. Last but not least, we created a public service announcement to raise awareness about Colony Collapse Disorder, which really created a buzz running before Bee Movie.
Busy Making Products and Setting Standards
With lots of great ideas finally coming to fruition, we launched our Naturally Ageless line, as well as a our line of lip glosses, all while expanding our Naturally Nourishing and Baby lines. We also expanded internationally to the U.K., Australia and Japan. Here at home, we were proud to be a part of launching the Natural Seal, which certifies products that meet the stringent requirements set by the Natural Products. The announcement of the Natural Seal drew support from 45,000 consumers, who voted “natural” led by actress, Julianne Moore.
Celebrating 25 Years for The Greater Good™
We never thought 25 years would go by so quickly! We celebrated our 25th Burt Day with our loyal fans by giving them the gift of well-being. For 25 days, we gave away great Burt Day gifts, including 25,000 Beeswax Lip Balms! Over 500,000 fans participated in the fun on Facebook and a special Burt Day celebrity toasts and fun facts about our history. Continuing our growth, we launched in Korea and are honored to have been voted the second greenest U.S. brand. It’s been such an exciting ride—we’re looking forward to our next 25 years!
Explore Our Culture
Take a glimpse inside Burt's Bees to learn what's important to us and how we walk the talk, every day.
Let’s hear it from Burt!
Burt took his love for bees to the masses in 2007 with this public service announcement.