From the Leaf to the Bottle, Quality Your Family Can Trust

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-By Aleisha Parr

“We’re one of the oldest brands in Australia,” says Tegan Abbott, Executive Director at FGB Natural Products. “Most people likely have a bottle of our eucalyptus oil in their cupboards already; it’s more familiar for people to buy the label with the red parrot on it.”

That red parrot label has in fact been a symbol for quality Australian eucalyptus oil since 1852.
The brand was first marketed by Felton Grimwade & Co in 1867 and has been an integral part of the company’s portfolio since. Now known as FGB Natural Products, the company has a long and rich history in Australia stretching well back to the early pioneer days, involving a number of talented and influential pharmaceutical chemists.

Today, the company continues to serve the health and wellbeing needs of families globally with a comprehensive range of quality products including essential oils, cough and cold remedies, nutritional supplements, home health devices and more.

“We’re very excited to celebrate our one hundred and sixtieth anniversary this year!” Ms Abbott enthuses, “It’s a real achievement for any brand – particularly in Australia – to reach a hundred and sixty years.”

“It’s a privilege that Australians have had our products in their homes for so long,” she continues, “often with grandmothers passing it down to their daughters and their daughters’ daughters. We’re really noticing that people often refer to the tradition of people using the product in their home and that generational use, which is pretty exciting.”

While eucalyptus oil production has historically been a distinctly Australian market, in recent years soaring demand and competitive pressures from overseas manufacturers have combined to create challenges for the industry. Through a variety of scientific and technological developments, however, FGB has been working to reduce its bottom line and increase its capabilities in a bid to ultimately revitalise Australian production.

Ms Abbott says the company will be continuing to introduce a variety of new promotions this year, building on the history of the company while also moving forward with a fresh approach and modern marketing techniques. In addition to these new marketing techniques, the company has also invested significantly in updating its packaging to be more environmentally conscientious, with a recent conversion to PET plastic bottles for its essential oils.

“I think even more exciting is that we’re really re-invigorating the brand, taking it to the next level,” she says. “We’re giving people more ways to use our products in their homes – from their laundry to their bathroom to their kitchen – as well as for the more therapeutic uses. It’s exciting to see it continuing to grow and prosper and we’d like to make sure that it’s still around in another hundred and sixty years.”

FGB is proud to identify as a family business, a rare achievement for a company of its historical pedigree. Ms Abbott asserts that this has been one of the company’s strongest driving factors. “We feel like custodians of the brand, taking it forward to bigger and better things,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to actively promote something that you believe so passionately in.”

“We love the brand and we have a great deal of respect for it and what it symbolises – that it’s a traditional, natural, pure product that people really trust. That’s really important and you don’t want to do anything to harm that, so we’re very conscious of the responsibility that that holds as well. We’ve really noticed that in peoples’ homes they want natural products that are healthy for their families, as well as being healthy for the environment and I think that we are well positioned to capitalise on that.”

Traditionally, eucalyptus – FGB’s most popular product offering – was purchased throughout Australia primarily for its medicinal and therapeutic properties. In fact, eucalyptus oil also has a wide variety of applications beyond its traditional uses, most especially as a natural cleaner. The oil can be used as a room freshener or deodoriser, a powerful solvent or as a natural disinfectant.

“What we’ve really seen is that there is a consumer shift toward more naturally based products,” Ms Abbott explains, “particularly products that do what they say they will and are natural and effective.” By focusing on these additional but complementary properties, FGB has been able to continue to expand the line, not only by adding new products to it, but by offering new uses for existing products.

Such efforts do come naturally to the firm, which has since its inception been a holistically operated company, involved in all operations and aspects of its business. In 1852 Joseph Bosisto established Australia’s first commercial eucalyptus oil distillery on the banks of the Dandenong Creek, with others to follow shortly at Emerald, Menzies Creek and Macclesfield; since that time, the company has been responsible for some of the world’s greatest achievements in the field.

“We call it, ‘from the leaf to the bottle.’ We are the only wholly vertically integrated producer in Australia whereby we do all of the harvesting, we do the manufacturing, we do the packaging and then of course we take care of the marketing aspect as well, selling into pharmacies, supermarkets and other retailers Australia-wide. We have full control in that sense over the process.”

In 2000, FGB entered into a partnership with the Botany Department at the University of Melbourne to explore opportunities for developing high-yielding eucalyptus trees. Positive findings would allow FGB to plant on some of the more marginal farming lands, further increasing profits and helping to reclaim that lost market share. “The aim was to create a viable industry for Eucalyptus oil production and also create an economic return for farmers on land that they couldn’t otherwise use,” explains Ms Abbott.

“The University of Melbourne was quite excited about this particular project; they’ve been working with eucalyptus for a long time and it’s given them the opportunity to do some really exciting work in the area of cloning. They’ve done some work that’s never been done before on this particular species so they were able to make it happen and publish a number of significant papers on it as well.”

The project is advancing spectacularly, with FGB aiming to plant one million trees this year alone as part of the overarching structure of the project. These trees, which will be harvestable and from which high yields of oil can be produced, will represent the accumulation of nearly ten years of hard work and cooperation.

“We want to continue to innovate in this area,” says Ms Abbott. “It’s obviously a strong growth area and we’re excited about the potential opportunities.”

Looking forward, Tegan Abbott says that the company will be most focused on strengthening that Australian market share by continuing to provide those traditional favourites while also offering alongside them a variety of new and innovative products. “As a local manufacturer we’re proud of the job opportunities we’re able to create, and we’re proud of the Australian owned product we’re able to put on shelf – local products that people trust and respect. Being Australian owned also allows us to be flexible too, and adapt quickly to consumer needs as well as trends and what’s happening in the marketplace.”

Having done so for over a century and a half, FGB Natural Products plans on continuing to provide high quality, natural products that resonate with Australian families well into the future.

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September 25, 2018, 8:19 AM AEST