How Native deodorant keeps its direct-to-consumer cool after being acquired by Procter & Gamble and expanding into big-box stores like Target and Walmart

  • Native deodorant has been part of Procter & Gamble for three years.
  • It’s taken sales at physical retailers from nothing to 50% of its business under P&G’s ownership.
  • While it still wants to expand at stores, Native’s traditional online business took off during the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

If you’ve seen Native’s pumpkin spice-scented deodorant or its collaboration with lifestyle brand Jungalow, you’ve seen Procter & Gamble’s influence on the upstart personal care brand.

Working with P&G fragrance team, which creates scents used in a variety of the company’s products, has been a highlight of Native’s time at the company so far, said Meng Li, the brand’s vice president of marketing. It’s one area, along with supply chain management and expansion into brick-and-mortar stores, where P&G has been particularly useful to the brand over the past few years, Li said.

“That’s something that, if we were operating on our own, we would work with a bunch of different fragrance houses,” she said. “We wouldn’t be able to produce as many programs in the short amount of time as we do without the fire-power and resources.”

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Native has been part of P&G since November 2017, when the Cincinnati-based CPG giant acquired it for an undisclosed sum. The purchase added a brand focused on natural ingredients and e-commerce to P&G’s existing lineup. Its other deodorant brands include Old Spice and Secret. 

According to Li, who joined the brand in 2018, Native hasn’t been lumped together with those established brands. “P&G has wanted to keep what is working, especially with our DTC capabilities,” Li said.

“I think it’s been a combination of providing resources where we need it without coming in and saying, ‘You have to do everything by the P&G playbook.'”

Still, Native has made some big changes under P&G tutelage. In a few years, for instance, its sales at traditional brick-and-mortar retailers like Target, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, and Kroger have become roughly 50% of total sales, with the remainder taking place through Native’s traditional DTC operation, Li told Insider. 

Native doesn’t report revenue figures regularly. But in 2019, it passed the $100 million annual sales mark, founder Moiz Ali told the Practical Ecommerce podcast in 2020. That was a significant improvement over its revenue when P&G acquired it two years earlier, which was reportedly between $25 million and $35 million, according to Women’s Wear Daily. Ali founded the company in 2015 but left in 2019. He had previously founded Caskers, a website that sells craft spirits.

At stores, Native has had to adapt to something many of its older counterparts at P&G have been tasking with doing for years: Standing out on a shelf.

Li said that Native has worked with retailers on shelf displays that highlight Native’s products. Over the holidays, it worked with Target on a display highlighting Native’s seasonal scents, such as candy cane and sugar cookie. “Getting out of aisle and on a display has been a huge driver of awareness and growing sales,” she said.

There are still retailers that Native hasn’t tapped yet, Li said. Some, like the dollar stores, aren’t a good fit for the brand. But others, including natural-focused grocers and club retailers, a group that includes Costco and Walmart’s Sam’s Club, could make sense in the future.

Native is one of a few direct-to-consumer and niche brands that P&G has acquired over the last few years. Others include feminine care brand This Is L as well as Walker & Company, which makes shaving and hair care products for people of color. 

P&G also tried to buy shaving brand Billie, but the deal fell apart after the Federal Trade Commission blocked it in December on grounds that it would hurt competition in the razor market. But there are a host of other brands in several corners of the CPG world, many of which came up online, that analysts have said P&G could acquire in the near future.

Like many brands, Native’s online sales got a boost from consumers buying more online. That’s allowed Native to go back to its roots, Li said, since its origins are in e-commerce and DTC sales. 

While the brand still has its eye on doing more at retail, the pandemic made Native’s advantages online clear, Li said. Its online sales allow it to gather more detailed data on consumer buying behavior that often isn’t available through physical retailers. It also has more control over the branding on a website than it ever could on a physical shelf, she added.

“I think it’s actually reinforced our DTC business,” Li said. “It’s made us realize that it is valuable, and we can’t focus 100% on retail.”

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