Painting The Town Red With Rooibos!
Fairlady|February 2017

These entrepreneurs found new ways to take one of our national treasures to market – and turned their businesses into major brands, not just locally, but internationally.

Marli Meyer & Kristen Birch

Business : Africans Extracts Rooibos

Owners : Rob Tiffin and Sarah Hetherington

Start-up Costs : 'The seed funding for African Extraxts Rooibos was about R250 000, because the business was already well established as a supplier of bath and body gift ranges.'

Turnover : 'The annua turnover is now about R60 million

Just one pinch of this could make 10 cups of strong rooibos,’ Rob Tiffin says, showing us a large barrel of amber-coloured rooibos powder used in all of the African Extracts Rooibos skincare products.

Back in 2000, Rob was approached to develop rooibos-based skin products for the European market by his UK agent. His company, Scentpac, had already been manufacturing various bath and body products, potpourri and toiletry gift sets. After a few years, he and his wife, Sarah Hetherington, former beauty editor of Femina magazine, decided to focus on the South African market and capitalise on existing knowledge of the health benefits of rooibos. And so African Extracts was born.

Today the brand has grown to become one of SA’s most popular skincare products, making appearances in stores such as DisChem, Clicks and all major supermarkets.

‘We wanted to develop an FMCG product,’ says Sarah – ‘a fast-moving consumer goods item that is easily accessible and, most importantly, affordable!’

This caffeine-free tea has been consumed for years, not only for its refreshing nutty taste but because of its exemplary health benefits due to its high levels of antioxidants. Research has shown that drinking rooibos can effectively reduce cholesterol levels, help prevent some cancers, relieve hypertension and, because of its anti-inflammatory effects, decrease the risk of heart-related diseases. However, very little research has been done on the topical benefits of South Africa’s most popular fynbos plant.

The University of Stellen bosch recently began studying the effects of products that contain rooibos extract on the skin and found them to be effective in limiting the replication of precancerous skin cells while also effectively treating eczema, psoriasis and inflamed dry skin. ‘Studies on well-researched skin products have shown that topical application is more effective, as the product is easily absorbed when it’s directly applied on the skin,’ says postdoctoral fellow Dr Tandeka Magcwebeba.

Rob and Sarah not only wanted to make use of this wonder plant, but also to intensify the proportion of antioxidants available in each application. The rooibos used in African Extracts is dubbed bioactive because of the way it’s extracted.

‘Rooibos turns red from green only once it’s oxidised. In green extraction, steam is used to produce an unfermented extract that contains as much as 20 times more antioxidants than regular rooibos used in the tea,’ explains Rob.

The company continually studies trends in the skincare market to develop their products to suit the lifestyle of South African women.

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