“What neuroscientists are discovering is what wise ancestors have been preaching for generations.” Rituals CEO

By Kirsty Doolan

- Last updated on GMT

Rituals Cosmetics' CEO Raymond Cloosterman said the first eight years were tough for the business
Rituals Cosmetics' CEO Raymond Cloosterman said the first eight years were tough for the business

Related tags Rituals trends Cosmetics wellness Sustainability Marketing Shower Fragrance sustainable beauty

We spoke to the founder of Dutch lifestyle brand Rituals Cosmetics, Raymond Cloosterman, about business expansion, travel-retail and trends in the wellness space.

CosmeticsDesign-Europe: Rituals Cosmetics was founded in the year 2000 and ahead of its time with its focus on wellbeing and sustainability. What's the story behind the brand?

Raymond Cloosterman (RC):​ After working for Unilever for 13 years, I had the privilege to take three months off to travel the world, explore global beauty and luxury industries and search for inspiration. I had the dream to create something completely different in the world of beauty. The different cultures I came across inspired me and I was truly impressed by the ancient traditions I had encountered.

It was during that journey that I got the idea to start my lifestyle brand with a new perspective on beauty. I then realised that in the Western world, we are always striving for innovation and renewal without looking back at all the wisdom the past has brought forth. This was when I decided to start Rituals Cosmetics, a brand anchored around the idea to change everyday routines into more meaningful moments. Based on the insight that we are living life more on auto-pilot and people have forgotten to enjoy little things in life.

Together with a creative team of professionals from around the world, including an anthropologist and leading perfumers from Paris, we started the mission to transform ordinary products like shower gels, shaving foams and home products into a unique experience. 

Rituals is all about personal and sustainable wellbeing. People all over the world live their lives at high speed and do things on the automatic pilot, so I was looking for a way to change that. Our focus is to promote rituals of kindness, compassion and love, aiming to offer our consumers all over the world more meaningful moments that help transform their lives. 

From the moment we decide to create a new collection, we invest a lot of time to understand the culture and beliefs to respectfully bring a collection story to life. When we come across a ritual that is new to us, we first do research on all aspects of this ritual. ‘What is the origin of the ritual, what ingredients were used and why?’ Then we introduce these ingredients to our perfumers and together we translate this into a collection of luxury products. Our passion for the region and its rituals comes from a good heart, from a place of respect and admiration.  

CDE: What has been your biggest challenge when building this business?

RC:​ The first eight years of our existence were extremely tough. There was no social media and we had to build the brand customer by customer. It took years to get to a little bit of traction. But luckily, we kept patiently believing in the idea and that resulted in amazing growth and over the last 10 years, the brand has been flying.

Building a brand is about passion, creativity, and lots of perseverance. In the first years, we lost a lot of money, but we never gave up. It took us four years to get from one to two stores and now we’re opening about four stores a week all over the world. In those first difficult years we were just as happy as we are today. Happiness is all about being able to live your dream and doing the things you believe in with great people surrounding you.

CDE: Rituals has opened many new brick-and-mortar stores in the past year. Can you tell us more about your expansion strategy?

RC:​ We invest significantly in our stores, because it’s the epi-centre of our company. This is the place where people can truly experience our brand and enjoy luxury in all its senses. Moreover, we introduce about 200 new products every year and a unique store experience is crucial as we’ve learned that this helps create a connection with our customers. People fall in love with our philosophy and products because of our most valuable marketing asset – our stores.  

We always try to create an unforgettable experience in our stores, welcoming you with a warm cup of tea, followed by a hand massage at our water island. In certain stores, we offer pure relaxation where innovative science meets age-old meditations and techniques for ultimate relaxation. We also offer our customers the time and peace of mind to learn about the different products at their own pace in our stores.  

Asia has always been a key part of our global vision at Rituals, and we're thrilled to have established a presence in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and now China.  This expansion into Asia signifies a significant milestone for us. We have achieved substantial success in Europe while in East Asia, particularly China presents a compelling market opportunity. This region boasts sizable, fast-growing, diverse, and vibrant beauty and personal care industries. It is attractive both to local consumers and international travellers, making them prime destinations. The culture of gifting is also very strong in the region, with a focus on home fragrances and body products. Furthermore, there are so many different cultures there so, as a holistic lifestyle and wellbeing brand, we fit in completely.    

CDE: You've also been expanding in travel-retail at a time when this sector has struggled. How is this going?

RC:​ It’s going very well; we’re growing fast and we’re opening many new stores at airports and shop-in-shops with partners. The travel-retail industry is an important channel for us when it comes to building our brand across the world, this is where people discover new brands. Currently, our products can be found in over 1,000 boutique hotels and we’re working on all kinds of exclusive partnerships with airlines.

Being present in the travel-retail industry is a big added value to us as a brand. There are three global trends in which Rituals plays an important role and this is something that we see as a big part of our success.

  1. There is a new approach to beauty; wellbeing is getting more important and it’s not only about looking good, but more about feeling good. And that is where Rituals comes in as the number one wellbeing beauty brand.
  2. There is a need for a more balanced offer between prestige and accessible luxury brands. More and more Millennials and Gen Zs are travelling and they are looking for new luxury experiences at a more accessible price point.
  3. Sustainability and impact within the travel-retail industry are getting more important. Independent research shows that 79% of travellers consider sustainability when shopping duty free and 61% of travellers look for sustainable products when shopping in duty free stores. Rituals is one of the first beauty brands in B Corp and we see an increase in sustainable brands like us within travel-retail.

CDE: Do you still get involved in NPD? If so, in what ways? 

RC:​ We have a strong team of people working in our innovation department and I am very much involved because it is one of my favourite aspects of my job: helping to create and design products and stores.

I’m very passionate about the brand and it’s amazing to work with people who believe in it, trying to make a difference with beautiful and innovative products and experiences. I spend at least 50% of my time at the creative side of our company. It’s my passion and it gives me energy. I find inspiration in travelling as well as exploring other cultures, meeting new people, and visiting retail shops in every corner of the world. I am one of those people who likes to go shopping. Which is an important part of my job; to recognise what people like and what is going on trend-wise.

To stay on top I have to understand, better than anyone else, what our customers want. And the best part of my job is that I am able to realise this with a team of very talented and creative people. We have lots of fun and we are very passionate about creating beautiful and innovative products. We still have thousands of ideas.  When we come across an ancient story, we first do research on all aspects. ‘What is the origin of this belief, culture or tradition, what ingredients were linked to it and why?’ Then we introduce these ingredients to our perfumers. Together we translate this into a collection of luxury products.  When launching a collection, two years of research and development go into this process.

CDE: What’s your favourite Rituals range and why?

RC:​ The Ritual of Hammam is my absolute favourite, with its purifying, fresh fragrance, creating that spa-like feeling at home. When using this in the bathroom for example, you instantly get the spa-feeling when entering.

CDE: And what’s Rituals' bestselling range globally?

RC:​ Our bestselling products are our foaming shower gels across all collections. But the bestselling collection is The Ritual of Sakura, which owes its popularity to the incredibly soothing fragrance of rice milk and cherry blossom. The most popular products within this collection are the foaming shower gel, of course, the sugar body polish, the parfum d’interieur and the body cream.

CDE: What are your other favourite brands and why?

RC:​ I really respect and admire brands with a beautiful heritage like Chanel. Diptique and Creed are also two of my favourite brands. Furthermore, I really love brands that change the rules of the game like Nespresso and Uber.

CDE: What is coming next for the wellness movement?

RC:​ We see a shift in how people look at their lives and how they live. Personal wellbeing is on the rise and became even more evident during the pandemic. We still see an increasing consumer need for products that enhance their daily lives at home, to transform everyday routines into meaningful moments and that address concerns such as sleep and relaxation. 

At Rituals, we believe there’s an absolute need in this modern day and age for more relaxation. Not only physically but also mentally. We even believe it all starts in the mind. Which is precisely why we consider it an absolute necessity to offer a space where people can relax and recharge their mind and body.

What neuroscientists are discovering is what wise ancestors and grandparents have been preaching for generations: to be able to relax our minds, it’s important to breathe consciously, rest well, and enjoy the present moment.

This is why we created The Mind Oasis, a unique concept that offers the world’s most effective, science-based techniques for mental relaxation to help you recharge and reset your mind and body. It’s a place where you can get a taste of mental relaxation and experience what it can do for you.

CDE: What’s important to you in terms of sustainability in the beauty industry right now?

RC:​ Managing the paradox of creating luxury products while being conscious of the planet too, has always been very important to us. The hardest thing for a business like us, is that the beauty industry is highly competitive and is traditionally single-use. At Rituals, we always want our products to be as beautiful as possible, but at the same time, low on materials and recyclable. To realise this, it takes a lot of hard work and brainpower to think of sustainable solutions without losing our brand identity and luxury quality. 

The development of our refill collection has proven that affordable luxury and sustainability can go hand-in-hand. As a brand, we balance pampering our customers and helping them take care of their wellbeing, with acting responsibly. Our refill options fulfil both these objectives: they allow our customers to keep our beautiful, luxury jars in the bathroom while being mindful of the planet.

We are committed to reaching our goal of zero waste packaging by 2025: and we are designing all our packs to be refillable, recyclable or made using recycled materials. With every product we develop, we work to create packaging that is optimally fit for purpose in terms of functionality, use of resources, waste reduction and environmental impact. 

In addition, we strive to make impactful changes that help preserve and sustain our wellbeing as well as the planet’s. I believe we have a shared responsibility to make sure future generations won’t suffer the consequences of our lack of care for the natural world – and that if we all commit to consciously making better choices daily, we can make a difference.   

We are immensely proud that Rituals is now a Certified B Corp™. B Corp is one of the most respected – and toughest to gain – certifications when it comes to sustainability (and so much more). Achieving this means we meet high standards of social and environmental impact and are committed to accountability, transparency and continuous improvement.



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