From: Dave Dewitte, The Gazette
Published July 22, 2005 12:00 AM

Eco Lips' Business Booming, Naturally

A specialty manufacturer of organic lip balms in Cedar Rapids expects to hit the $1 million annual sales mark this year with the recent introduction of three new products.

Eco Lips, a 2003 startup, is probably best known for putting lip balm in containers that clip onto backpacks and clothing with a carabiner attached to the cap. A carabiner is a heavy metal clip used mainly in rock climbing.

The unique package appealed to Eco Lips' target market of health-minded outdoors enthusiasts. Products sporting the ''eco clip" are the company's top product in foreign markets that make up half of overall sales.

''The carabiner clip put us on the map," Eco Lips President Steve Shriver said. ''Now it's being copied extensively." Shriver said the business is also riding a wave of popularity for organic products. While the company wasn't the first to market organic lip balm, its founders decided to be the first to focus entirely on the organic market.

Eco Lips recently introduced three new organic lip balms to capitalize on its strength in the category.

Bee Free targets the vegan market with a formulation that substitutes candelilla wax for bee's wax, shunned by vegans as an animal-based product. Eco Lips Medicinal targets cold sore sufferers with a formulation that includes tea tree oil and camphor. Eco Lips Gold is a premium moisturizing lip balm using jojoba oil.

The additions bring the company's product lineup to 13 offerings, which range in price from $1.99 to $4.99.

Eco Lips was the brainchild of Jim King, who co-founded the business with Shriver. Both are former contract manufacturers of privately labeled lip balms.

Shriver says the company has embraced high-quality organic ingredients, including moisturizing hemp seed oil and Iowa-grown organic soybean oil.

The company doesn't shy aware from marketing hemp seed-based products, believing it's a huge potential market.

''People like it," Shriver said. ''For it to be such a controversial subject, people sure are buying it." Eco Lips developed its international trade contacts through organic product trade shows and through its Web site,

Shriver said demand for organic products is strongest in Europe, Canada and Japan.

Source: Knight Riddder/Tribune Business News

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