Astroglide

By on March 22, 2018
AG 5oz Front Both 800

Astroglide started in 1977, in Australia we started in 2008.

Tell us about your premises
We have an office in Sydney and on the Central Coast in NSW.

How and to what countries are you selling to?
Astroglide is sold globally, we sell to Australia and South East Asia. We sell direct.

In terms of growth, where do you see yourselves now?
Astroglide is the number one brand in personal lubricants globally by a huge margin, with massive sales volume through grocery, mass merchants, adult shops, medical, pharmacy and online retailers.
We are seeing growth through all channels, including medical where we have found we have a strong offer. Our premium lubricants are also moisturisers, which is a clear differentiator and is driving loyalty and growth. The Astroglide founder developed Astroglide working on the Space Shuttle program in the 1970’s and NASA let him keep the patent and he still owns the company today. Astroglide is all they do and it just keeps growing. Customers can spot a quality lubricant and they are prepared to pay for it.

How do you promote and create awareness?
The best promotion is the 4ml sample sachets we have, people try it and buy it, we have sent out over 1.4 million in the last ten years in Australia alone. That is the best marketing spend. We use social media and Doctor referrals that latter of which drive sales with our female customers. We have also developed programs for the LGBTI community and disabled community. We regularly do events for Doctors and the Disabled.

Direct sales? Amazon, Ebay, your thoughts?
We sell direct to Adult shops globally and in Australia. Amazon sell a lot in Europe and the USA, and it will be interesting to see what happens in Australia. I am sure some of our retailers will use that channel to sell Astroglide, but there are established online retailers here that are efficient and will compete well with Amazon. The issue is lube is heavy and shipping from overseas can be expensive. We sell direct, so our retailers can have better margins and keener price points.

What percentage of your product do you think is sold online vs brick and mortar stores?
Online is around 15%, brick and mortar is 85%. It’s similar in the US and Europe.

What can you tell us about working with retailers?
Retailers love our sample sachets, as it allows them to cross promote when they sell toys etc. Customers appreciate receiving them and when they try them they come back instore to purchase Astroglide. Retailers in Australia want a responsive supplier, who deliver a quality product quickly. Above all they want a product that will lead to repeat sales and get customers back in their stores. When customers knows that a particular store stocks Astroglide, it makes them a destination shop. Some Store Managers have seen long term customers’ switch brands in recent years and the Astroglide sample sachet program is a driving force behind that.

What can you tell us about working with distributors?
We don’t work with adult distributors, we sell direct. This ensures focus and better margins for our retailers. We do have distributors in specialised channels like pharmacy which has its own requirements including having to visit every pharmacy across Australia.

What are some of your best selling items?
Astroglide Natural 74ml, followed by Astroglide Liquid 148ml and Astroglide Gel 113gm. We have a Sensitive Skin Ultra Gentle Gel product that sells well in all channels as it and the natural product are glycerin and paraben free. We pride yourselves in truth in ingredients labelling and we have been rewarded with this with regulatory action takes against some other brands.

We have seen strong growth in our Certified Organic Product that is 99% organic and 1% natural.
Our silicone gel and liquid are also strong sellers in the adult shops.

How has the global market in terms of distribution and retail evolved?
There has been a trend for more specialised online retailers carrying Astroglide in recent years, but the volume in bricks and mortar stores has also risen, so the percentage split is the same. Consumers appreciate quality with personal lubricants, they want to try it and being able to try the product is a major purchase factor.

Having Doctors and Specialists across Australia recommend it is a major factor and this is driving sales through all channels. Astroglide is recommended by the manufacturers of the Pap Smear kits as it does not destroy the sample collected. We are the only consumer available lubricant to attain this approval. The other two are surgical / medical lubricants.

Are there any country specific trends globally or are some countries more receptive to certain product categories over others?
Personal Lubricant is now seen as an essential stock item for all stores that sell condoms, so there are no barriers.

We are a premium brand, with quality ingredients and rigorous quality control, there will always be cheap brands made in Asia, so it can take time for consumers to realise this, hence the importance of our sample sachets program.

The quick test is to rub different brands of lube between your thumb and forefinger. The quality, slipperiness and longevity of Astroglide is all too apparent in the first 10 – 15 seconds. It is an eye opener when you show retailers. Also you only need a few drops of Astroglide, whereas with some other brands you need tablespoons of it and even then it is not as slippery or last as long. Not to mention the mess

One thing that surprised me what the amount of sales we get in Saudi Arabia. It’s a huge market.

What brands/product categories are you now manufacturing and how did you select these?
We only do personal lubricants and we only do Astroglide. All products are made at our specialized factory in Vista California, near San Diego.

We take great pride in every phase of manufacturing to ensure your safety and superior quality. Our products are manufactured and tested in compliance with ISO 13485- International Quality System Standard for Medical Devices, Medical Device Quality System Regulations (QSR) and current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP).

What can you tell us about the manufacturing process?
The process is that we batch up a particular product in huge clean enclosed vats, then run tests and when tests are all correct, we run long manufacturing runs of 80,000 to 100,000 units. This ensures efficiency. At the same time the products are batched we have labels, tubes and cartons made and their arrival to the factory is timed to meet the product run.

The products are shrink wrapped in inners of 3 or 6 and then into cases or 24, 36, 72 or 144 depending on the product, market and customer requirements. The sample sachets are in boxes of 1,000. Products are either road, rail, air or sea freighted to global markets.

What legal and compliance issues are there to deal with in regard to manufacturing?
Astroglide is a Medical Device, in fact all personal lubricants are medical devices in Australia and must be listed with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Canberra. Products that are not listed cannot be sold legally in Australia, under the Therapeutic Goods Act. So Astroglide needs to comply with the Act. The TGA regularly test medical devices for stability, bacteria and use by date and we were tested in the early years and as we passed all tests the test regime is usually every 5 – 10 years after that. Retailers should check online that personal lubricants they are selling are listed with the TGA at www.tga.gov.au/australian-register-therapeutic-goods.

With regard to manufacturing as the product is made in the USA, we needs to follow the USA’s Food & Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, which are also rigorous and recognised by the TGA.

Tell us about your staff resources, how many do you have now, and in what sectors?
We have a team of five in Australia, plus more in Asia. The team members are young and know social media backwards!! So that helps. We have grown from being a sole trader in 2008 to the team we have today. Selling is personal contact, so we visit as many stores as practically possible. This gives us good insights. We regularly call all our retail customers.

Where do you see the company now and where would you like it to be in 5 years?
Astroglide has been growing fast in Australia as we add channels and get brand recognition and loyalty. The adult shop market has room from growth for us, as stores seek premium products which customers repeat purchase.

Retailers know that lubes and not all lubes, and quality, repeat visit and purchases are keys to them growing their own businesses. There has been a shift in ownership for a few brands, and some have moved to low cost economies to manufacturer, so the premium market should really open up for us in the next 5 years.

Company Name: Astroglide Pty Ltd
Founder/Owner/Director: Mark Skipper
Founding Year: 1977 in USA, 2008 in Australia
City : Sydney
Staff Count : 5
www.astroglide.com

A Synergy Magazine interview with Mark Skipper, Astroglide.

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