UK startup The Gruff Stuff eyes international expansion with ‘fuss-free’ skin care

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Gruff Stuff's line of spray-on face moisturiser, spray-on body lotion and cream eye serum have been designed to intensely hydrate [Image: The Gruff Stuff]
The Gruff Stuff's line of spray-on face moisturiser, spray-on body lotion and cream eye serum have been designed to intensely hydrate [Image: The Gruff Stuff]

Related tags: Indie beauty, Skin care, startups, expansion, beauty retail, active skin care

UK indie brand The Gruff Stuff wants to expand further internationally with its small range of no-nonsense skin care products it says offer welcome simplicity amidst an overly complicated category.

Launched in 2020 after around three years in the planning, The Gruff Stuff offered a small range of genderless skin care products in simple-to-apply formats – a spray-on face moisturiser, spray-on body lotion and serum eye balm. Each made in England using extracts of wild Australian Kakadu plums and other ingredients like aloe juice and Matcha green tea, the products were designed to be fast-absorbing and offer intense hydration; positioned as anti-inflammatory with protective properties against ageing, redness and pollution.

Available in over 50 countries worldwide, including via The Hut Group franchise in the UK and Europe, Zalando, Tmall, Amazon and its own D2C website, The Gruff Stuff was due to launch in more department stores and retailers in the coming months – a space it wanted to expand in internationally.

Retail and department store international expansion

“We are really focused on working with retailers as well as we believe that’s where the customer is,”​ said David Sparkes, founder of The Gruff Stuff.

Sparkes told CosmeticsDesign-Europe that particularly in the wake of COVID-19, with the boom in skin care and beauty e-commerce, there was great growth potential in physical-space stores.

He said the brand also had its sights set on larger marketplaces via distributors and brand partners who could build up brand equity in new territories. Hong Kong, China and Canada were important markets where such partnerships had already enabled expansion, he said.

David Sparkes, founder of The Gruff Stuff
David Sparkes, founder of The Gruff Stuff

The Gruff Stuff was now available in Canadian department store Hudson Bay via a brand partner, he said, with the goal to ultimately expand into the US. “It’s a great place to grow before we expand into the US. It’s a much smaller market, Canada, but it’s very sophisticated. They know what they like and there’s not a huge, great array of retailers there. So, if it works, it works.” 

“I’ve previously worked in the US, and I know a lot of buyers do look towards Canada to see what’s going on there. So, that’s one of the strategies for Canada,” ​Sparkes said.

The company also saw plenty of opportunity in Western and Eastern European markets over the coming years, he said.

‘We do stand out’ with simplicity and fuss-free skin care

Sparkes said as The Gruff Stuff continued its expansion plans, it would pivot on its overarching brand principle – simplicity.

“I wanted to bring something to the marketplace which is fuss-free and no-nonsense,”​ he said. “With the spray application, we’re all about busy lives and simplicity, and we do stand out. There’s not a lot of competition.”

Asked who the target consumer was, he said: “Originally, we were thinking men – men want fuss-free skin care – but then we realised that’s not the case; it’s women, men, all genders.”

Radek Loucka, co-founder of The Gruff Stuff, agreed and said the face and body sprays were particularly competitive in Asian markets where the ease-of-use plus protective elements were important for beauty consumers – protection against pollution and UV, for example. 

Radek Loucka, co-founder of The Gruff Stuff
Radek Loucka, co-founder of The Gruff Stuff

“We want to be the skin care brand of choice, a household name. And we really want to be known for being ethical, results-driven, professional and quality,”​ Loucka said.

The Gruff Stuff was primed to launch a multipurpose face and body cleanser early next year, designed to be used in the shower – a product launch backed by clinical study data on the hydrating properties of its key ingredient Aquaxyl.

As the brand moved forward with its growth plans, Loucka said it would work hard to make sure convenience and accessibility to the products were also central to messaging.

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