Juice Beauty Founder On Tapping Gwyneth Paltrow And Breaking $100M

Juice Beauty Founder On Tapping Gwyneth Paltrow

And Breaking $100M

Although organic beauty may conjure images of sap and colloidal oatmeal, according to Juice Beauty Founder, Karen Behnke, there’s glam in the world of natural artisanship. Behnke would ultimately team up with Gwyneth Paltrow to create a line that would both challenge and dwarf these notions.

2017 turned out to be a year of roaring success for organic beauty. No longer the ineffective brainchild of hippies, it’s instead the cool new up-and-coming arm of the billion dollar industry. And one company that majorly capitalized on this upward momentum was  Behnke’s brainchild.

SWAAY spoke to Behnke and Paltrow about their lucrative partnership and how Juice has managed to set itself apart in the race to make the most of this organic and sustainability growing trend. The business-minded pair who came together has formed an impenetrable and empowering twosome focused solely on delivering on a health-first mission.

Behnke and Paltrow have proved a winning formula

Ten or fifteen years ago with organic food, people didn’t understand it, and now we have this mass movement. People are really understanding now how absorbent an organ the skin is – how when we put toxic chemicals on our skin, that it’s not good for you.

-Gwyneth Paltrow

Before the Paltrow partnership and in the beginning of the company’s journey, Behnke faced a lot of doubt when it came to the efficacy of her organic product. “A lot of press said, ‘we know it’s good for us, but it doesn’t work’,” she remarks. And it was only after she sent out her now famous peel to magazine editors that the word began to spread of the authenticity of the natural ingredients. “They finally said, ‘holy crap, it burned my face off [in a good way]. I didn’t know organic could do acids.'” And the positive reviews began to roll in. 

This was back in 2005. In the thirteen years since, the brand and its reach has grown exponentially, and has evolved from purely skincare to a robust cosmetics and skincare brand, further broadening its appeal and its target consumer. To be sure, the company is in expansion mode. It is currently available in more than 2,000 doors in North America including Bloomingdale’s, Belk and Whole Foods.

“I didn’t come from beauty, which worked in our favor,” notes Behnke, whose background in fitness and nutrition has helped to shape the brand’s ethos of health-first. With this mindset, Behnke set herself to research and uncovered the ludicrous levels of toxins and chemicals contained in most skincare formulas, Behnke made it her mission from the outset to start creating products that were healthy for your body. “It cracks me up when I see a big brand say, ‘We’re using recyclable paper.’  Is that the best you can do? It’s crazy,” she notes.

And while identifying and harvesting the all-natural ingredients to pack them into the products was no easy feat, she remained steadfast in her goal to create effective, enduring skincare that would stand up to legacy beauty brands. “The goal was to meet or exceed the efficacy of conventional chemical skincare,” says Behnke, who knew that at the time, releasing an organic line would raise eyebrows, but foresaw a shift in convention that would indeed come in the future. “It oddly never occured to me that I would fail. When I got the name Juice Beauty and launched on to this effort, it never occured to me that I would be afraid to compete with Shiseido, Estée Lauder and L’Oréal.”

This attitude indeed proved a winning one, with organic and sustainable ingredients becoming more readily available and intuitive for the modern consumer. Now, Behnke is on a greater crusade to broaden the implement a farm-to-consumer impact of the brand. She is currently leasing farmland on which she grows the organic ingredients used within the products, and will eventually open a Juice Beauty organic farm to expand on the idea that has worked so well for restaurants focused on “farm-to-table.” These ingredients, like the apples pictured below, are packed into some of her best-selling products, like the Green Apple Brightening Emulsion. And it was with this focused and niche-driven mindset that Behnke approached her next big business acquisition, which was investing in Paltrow’s Goop. The agreement meant in turn that the actress and entrepreneur would invest in, and become Creative Director of Makeup of, Juice Beauty.

In the future, there will be an entire Juice Beauty farm for growing organic ingredients

I am not competitive with anybody else. I help everyone I can, especially other women. All of you are a community and you can all help each other.

-Gwyneth Paltrow

Beyond their business partnership, Paltrow and Behnke have evidently grown close. When we asked Paltrow why she initially wanted to get into organic beauty she had this to say: “I think there’s a myth around organic (and to be fair, it’s definitely true of some brands), that because it’s not loaded with hard-hitting, taxing chemicals, it can’t possibly work. Juice Beauty is one of those all-too-rare companies that’s really living up to its promise to consumers — sourcing really beautiful, organic ingredients and doing the research and development to create powerful formulations, all while being incredibly kind to the environment. And I think in the next 20 years, Juice will be referenced as, hopefully, the first mass-market organic high-performance makeup and skincare,” she continues.

We aren’t L’Oréal, we are a small brand. That’s one reason we’re so excited having Gwyneth as a partner. We trust her judgment.

-Karen Behnke

And in essence, Paltrow’s words have proven keenly prophetic, as the brand has proven a serious monetary success story, having just recently broke the major $100M milestone. With a very clear outlook for Juice BEauty’s continual proliferation, one can only imagine more in the way of this profit.

When it comes to the color portion of the line, distribution is everything to the ladies. “We get calls all the time for natural stores, but we really want to hold on to the prestige,” Behnke remarks. Hence why, the now 70 makeup products available are exclusive to select stores such as Ulta, and you won’t be finding them down market anytime soon. With the time and effort that goes into being sustainable and organic to boot, Juice products not cheap, but it’s evident consumers are willing to make up that price difference to purchase what they believe to be the best products for their skin’s health.

The company, which is growing 40 percent year on year, is one that is sure to be emulated and its ethos encouraged as we look further into the future of ethics and sustainability, and what goes into the products we know and love. 

Karen Behnke’s Quick 10


1. What app do you most use?
Instagram and Facebook on my oversized iPhone

2. What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
Exercise—I run, bike or swim every morning for an hour 

3. Name a business mogul you admire.
Oprah Winfrey

4. What product do you wish you had invented?
Tesla

5. What is your spirit animal?
Racehorse

6. What is your life motto?
Go for it with passion!

7. Name your favorite work day snack.
Organic blueberries and organic nuts

8. What’s something that’s always in  your bag?
Juice Beauty Hydrating Mist, Phyto-Pigments Lip Crayons (at least 5 colors); PhytoPigments lip Creams (at least 5 colors); Stem Cellular Eye Treatment, Green Apple Firming Hand Cream

9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve traveled to?
I’ve been to some  pretty exotic places BUT my favorite inspiration comes from all parts of Italy—particularly the lake regions

10. Desert Island. Three things, go.
Juice Beauty’s SPF Sport 30, Juice Beauty SPF Lip Moisturizer, Stem Cellular Overnight Cream

Amy Corcoran

Head of Content at SWAAY: Amy is an Irish writer, avid foodie and feminist with an insatiable appetite for novels and empowering women's writing. She has enjoyed calling Dublin, Paris and now New York her home.

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