Cocooil Q&A: Alistair Duff on success and future plans

  • News
  • February 21, 2017
  • Bri Tither
Cocooil Q&A: Alistair Duff on success and future plans

Cocooil is a luxury natural sun care range formulated with certified fair trade cold pressed organic coconut oil produced sustainably in the pacific Islands that supports local communities. 
The brand has been around since 2011 and is making a stand with its ethical and natural coconut inspired range. 
Bri Tither talked to Managing Director and CEO, Alistair Duff. 

What is your official role within Cocooil?

I am the CEO of Cocooil for want of a defined label, in reality I am one of 6 great people who do what we do to see how far we can go.  

Did the idea for Cocooil come from NZ?

It did. About 3 years ago, one of the founders Max Bowden a New Zealander, moved to Australia. While living in Bondi Beach with his partner they wanted to purchase a suncare product that was organic and wasn’t full of chemicals. Surprisingly, it didn’t exist with any of the major brands, there wasn’t anything natural or organic full stop. More alarming for them through their research was the realization that the suncare products on the market were full of chemicals. In their kitchen at home, further research, a lot of trial and error with formulations, COCOOIL was born. Good kiwi ingenuity.  

Have you appealed to a wide variety of New Zealanders?

Fortunately, suncare is demographically neutral, we all need it. The emergence of the plain old coconut and its inherent health benefits across the board from cooking, hydration, diet, heart health and skin had permeated globally. Therefore, consumers were knowledgeable about the benefits of coconut oil and increasingly also in a global sense, consumers are looking at natural and organic products. Suncare is an ever present in our lives in New Zealand, COCOOIL integrates all three, so yes the appeal of COCOOIL is extremely broad.

Tell me about your success's/failure's so far

The success has been the international demand for COCOOIL. Currently it has 40 international stockists in 11 countries with deals recently concluded and in negotiation that will include Korea, China, Japan, with increased distribution into UK, Europe and the USA. Urban Outfitters was the first international retailer followed by Nordstrom.

The real success is that in every instance to date we have been approached to provide and supply COCOOIL rather than the other way around.

There hasn’t been a specific perceived failure. We deal with the usual day to day ups and downs which is business as usual but if there were moments that we believe had a significant impact at a point in time, one was early in COCOOIL’s life. An approach from the Academy Awards to put COCOOIL into the Academy Awards ‘goodies bag’, the exposure at that point would have been immense and global. Unfortunately, the New Zealand manufacturer was unable to deliver by the requested date so a significant opportunity was missed. Lesson learned, manufacturing is now in Australia to deal with the volume and turnaround. The second thing that I would term unfortunate, in the context of where the brand sits internationally, has been our inability to get greater distribution in New Zealand. It’s certainly an irony for us, most New Zealand brands start here and try and develop an international market, we have ended up arse about face, it’s certainly not a problem in the overall scheme of things however you really want to do well in your own country, because it means a lot.       

In terms of future customer engagement, where do you see Cocooil heading in the next few years?

Fortunately, we can look at the next couple of months rather than the next three years. The range started with Organic Coconut Oil Face and Body, SPF 6, 10, 15 and Aftersun.

We have finalised formulations to extend the range to include Face Oil with rosehip, Body Oil with straight organic coconut Oil, Baby Oil with lavender, SPF 30 and 50 oils, SPF 50 lotion and Ocean Spray for the hair. The next three years is about continuing to increase the distribution globally.


Are you competing with any other large tanning oil corporations? E.g Reef

From a broad perspective we compete with all suncare products, at another level we have a unique advantage in terms of the natural organic nature of Cocooil, a significantly uncluttered market within the suncare offering. We do not promote sun tanning as our main product but more about the qualities of the COCOOIL product to not only ‘hydrate and nourish your skin’ but also to protect your skin with the SPF component. Our SPF 6 product is highly sort after by those who want a tan and this is how it was first marketed. The level of SPF is determined by the tan you want aligned with total protection.

What is your point of difference as a brand?

Our formulation, our innovation patent and the fact that our products contain organic coconut oil from the Pacific Islands. Our packaging, style and look also sets us apart from other leading brands as it is simple and uncluttered.

Where do you stock Coco Oil and how many retailers do you have?

Internationally 11 countries including Australia, USA, UK, Mexico, Caribbean, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Denmark, Norway and Korea with 40 stockists including Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, Royal Hawaiian Luxury Collection, Sheraton Waikiki, O’Neil Surf, Shen Beauty, Boutique by Rory to name a few.

Locally Bed Bath & Beyond and a small number of pharmacies.   

Tell me a bit about your business model.

It’s an extremely simple model, make fantastic product in the first instance and distribute into as many countries as possible building the brand and its value. Social Media is a key to ‘getting the brand out there’ also to capitalize on the success of this channel that we are now experiencing.

What is your advice for any young entrepreneurs?

Firstly, have a go. Everyone will tell you why it can’t be done, a true entrepreneur will see through all that as they will have the vision that the naysayers don’t. Risk and Reward.

There is always like minded people who will be prepared to help as they have often been there done that, including the pitfalls. That’s the great thing about New Zealand, the country is full of people with great ideas that have beaten the odds, so you are not alone.

Make sure there is somebody within the business that has the financial and business expertise and experience in terms of the market you wish to enter. Accountants generally are sales prevention officers, they are good at what they do, the financials, P & L but not necessarily in the day to day business dealings.

In Cocooil’s case one of the directors is fully conversant with negotiating terms of trade with retailers, distribution and manufacturing internationally and locally, the second director’s expertise is in retail and ensuring business discipline, a trait not necessarily prevalent in entrepreneurs, and myself in media and marketing. Unique skill sets that complement each other.          

​ ​

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