Neal's Yard Remedies (NYR) started life as a small, hidden store in the heart of Covent Garden, but is now a world leader in organic, ethical health and beauty, selling more than 2,000 cruelty-free health and beauty products in the UK and around the world.
Just over 30 years ago, Romy Fraser, a teacher and naturopath, dreamed of creating a place where people could learn about natural health and wellbeing and take control of their health from the inside and out.
In its early days, Neal's Yard Apocathery, as it was then known, was a place for people to use reference books, ask questions and learn about herbal remedies. Most importantly, it pushed against the synthetic chemical approach to health and skin care that had been adopted by much of the industry.
The beautiful store in Covent Garden
An historic decision
As Romy approached the end of her second year she began to wonder if it was the right thing to do and if she should continue with the business. But that decision was soon made for her.
One day a woman came into the store with a patch of rosacea that had failed to react to previous treatments. Romy made up a bespoke herbal treatment and this cleared up the problem. Unknown to Romy, the woman was a well-known writer and she went on to feature NYR in a national newspaper. When Romy returned to the store the morning after the review was featured in the press, she found a queue of people stretching down the street.
With business booming, Romy went on to develop specific over-the-counter herbal solutions for common conditions including dry skin and redness. She started with just six products and, 31 years later, the company has expanded this to more than 2,000 products, including its award-winning skincare range, body products, make-up, home fragrance, organic essential oils, tinctures and loose herbs.
A new beginning
Another major turning point for Neal's Yard Remedies came six years ago when Romy decided she wanted to spend more time with her family and return to her teaching roots.
She was approached by a number of big brands looking to add Neal's Yard Remedies to their portfolio, but was adamant she wanted the integrity and ethos upon which the company was built to be retained and eventually she found the ideal buyer in publishing guru and avid supporter of organic living, Peter Kindersley, who owns one the UK's largest organic farms.
Neal's Yard Remedies' products are made at its eco factory in Dorset
This was to prove a major boost for the company, which has since grown the number of stores in the UK from 20 to 42. It also has a direct selling channel, NYR Organic, and there are 5,000 independent consultants in the UK and around 3,000 in the US. In addition, the brand has broken into 18 other markets worldwide.
Nicola Nolan, director of PR and marketing for Neal's Yard Remedies, told Beauty Without The Beasts: "What matters to us are people, their health and their happiness. We're obsessed with discovering and delivering natural ways to improve health and wellbeing through natural and organic skin and body care products. We also believe passionately that our environment is of vital importance, both in its own right and as the source of many of the plants and herbs integral to our wellbeing."
Cruelty-free: a top priority
Since the very beginning being animal-friendly has been a top priority for the brand.
Nicola said: "We always have been cruelty-free and we will not compromise on this, which is why we have made the decision not to sell into China.
"BUAV 'Leaping Bunny' approved, we prefer to rely on our deep botanical knowledge of herbs and flowers and to use our technical expertise to make great skin and body care products, tinctures and herbal remedies. Instead of tests on rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and rats, we employ an independent company that uses human volunteers to trial new products to make sure they're safe and effective."
The famous blue jars
In addition, the company supports animal welfare charity the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME), which is dedicated to the scientific development, acceptance and use of methods that can be used instead of animal experiments.
The company actively supports and promotes organic farming and uses certified organic ingredients in products wherever they are available, and it is the first nationwide high street retailer in the UK to be awarded the CarbonNeutral mark for reducing its carbon footprint to net zero.
For more information on the products, and to find your nearest store, visit the Neal's Yard Remedies website at www.nealsyardremedies.com.
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The information given in this feature (ie the cruelty-free status of the brands, product information and prices) is correct at the time of publication (June 2013). For an up-to-date list of cruelty-free brands and their contact details, please see our Where To Shop Guide.