A few steps from the bustling Apple Store and the whizzing rides at Mall of America is an oasis.
Customers take in aromas tailored for their body temperatures and heartbeats, as they retreat to a room with soothing hues and sound-blocking walls.
This novel chamber of calm is part of the new Intelligent Nutrients flagship store at the Mall of America, the first retail location for the organic beauty products maker. The company is busy updating formulas, adding products and opening stand-alone stores to catch a wave of consumers who are increasingly concerned with the environmental and health effects of their purchases.
“They’re not buying the marketing gimmicks from the big conglomerates,” said Intelligent Nutrients President Tyler Heiden Jones. “Consumers are becoming very savvy, very skeptical.”
The aromatherapy sessions at the store, for instance, are free of synthetic ingredients. The only things inhaled are essential oils and water, both of which are certified organic.
Intelligent Nutrients — the creation of Aveda founder Horst Rechelbacher — is beginning to hit its stride. The Minneapolis-based company opened its Mall of America store in November, and this fall will open a second retail location on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The line will soon triple its skin care offerings and delve deeper into makeup.
Heiden Jones said the products, already offered in high-end salons across the United States, will arrive in several big-name specialty stores in 2014.
“We’ve had a pretty dramatic increase in business for the first 12 months I’ve been here,” said Heiden Jones, who declined to disclose the names of the specialty stores. “A very healthy increase in business.”
Intelligent Nutrients’ growth spurt comes at a time when consumers’ pockets are deepening, as is their environmental consciousness. The organic foods industry has jumped from $1 billion in sales to $37 billion within in a decade, Heiden Jones said.
“Think of the Whole Foods-shopping, Lululemon consumer that is really striving for a healthy alternative lifestyle,” Heiden Jones said. “That is a growing, large group and not defined by age. It’s more of a psychological change and saying, ‘Something’s wrong with the world and I’ve got to make changes.’ ”
Those consumers were few and far between during the Great Recession when Intelligent Nutrients got its start. In 2009, its partnership with Edina-based Regis fell apart as its hair products sold poorly in Regis salons. Some items were considered too pricey or didn’t have a long enough shelf life.
“A lot of their products kept going rancid,” said Kassie Kuehl, who owns a salon in Minneapolis and was an early tester of Rechelbacher’s line.
But Intelligent Nutrients has vastly improved its line since then, said Chris Lutz, the manager of the company’s Mall of America store. The company has increased product shelf life and improved how they work on hair and skin.
“These products are performing so much more effectively than what we had originally seen,” he said.
Heiden Jones said it’s tough to create products that perform as well as traditional beauty products. Intelligent Nutrients relies on all-natural formulas that often don’t lather and cleanse the same way as products that use synthetic ingredients.
‘Make that difference’
But Intelligent Nutrients founder Rechelbacher, who sold Aveda in 1997 for $300 million, is willing to keep working toward his mission despite the challenges.
“I’m a businessman, but at the same time I’m an environmentalist, and I’m in my 70s now,” Rechelbacher said.
“What else do I have to do than prove to myself that you need to do it? It’s an environmental responsibility, it’s a social responsibility, for us who know that a difference can be made to make that difference.”
Katie Flora, who visited the store on Friday, has become a repeat customer of the Intelligent Nutrients since she first stopped in a few months ago. She said the shampoo and leave-in conditioner have made her hair much cleaner.
“It’s super soft and smooth, and it stays that way throughout the day,” said Flora, who manages the Papyrus store in Mall of America.
An experience for customers
Intelligent Nutrients’ goal is to keep providing an experience that turns shoppers into devotees. The Mall of America store has tea for every customer, as well as walk-in salon services, including aromatherapy for a dollar per minute.
“We make it about getting to feel the products, seeing how they affect you on a physiological level,” Lutz said.
Prices range from $12 for lip balm to $125 for an orange blossom-based essential oil.
Lutz said the store sees about 25 to 100 customers a day, but it recently sold 500 LivingSocial deals for reduced-price salon treatment. Intelligent Nutrients relies mostly on word-of-mouth to draw customers in.
“[Consumers] are eager and yearning for transparency,” Heiden Jones said. “And that is really what we’re based on.”
The green movement is also catching on with consumers.
Kuehl, who sells her own line of all-natural products at Kasia Organic Salon, said she has seen her customer base grow from hard-core environmentalists to a larger group, especially moms-to-be and others concerned about chemicals in their hair products.
“When I started out, it was the greenies,” she said. “Now it has gone mainstream.”