The story behind the iconic Greek brand that develops and exports sublime natural beauty products
It is impossible to recall my initial discovery of Apivita. Did my olfactory fascination begin with their Queen Bee face cream, or the heady scent of Rose Pepper bubble bath or with their intoxicating aromatic oils drawn from cinnamon, orange, rose geranium, peppermint and many more herbal origins? It remains uncertain as many of their products are sublime.
They are one of the few international companies that produce their own extracts and their extreme product range embraces dark glass apothecary’s bottles for the essential oils, slim metallic tubes for face masks and generously squeezable ones for bubblebath. All of these are emblazoned with their iconic logo whose visual is so powerful that my triplets claim it transports them to the open air shower in our summer house at the end of whimsical summer days.
Apivita derives from the Latin word “apis” for bee and “vita” for life and the company credits the bees’ way of life for sustaining biodiversity through their industrious pollenization of plants.
One of the first Greek companies to export natural beauty products and develop them to such a sweeping extent worldwide, Apivita was founded by two young pharmacists Nikos and Niki Koutsiana. I was fortunate enough to have Niki as a guest speaker, on a panel addressing Women in Business, during my tenure as co President of the British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce. Her warmth, humour and evident passion for fusing pharmaceuticals with organic benefits, deeply impressed me.
Nikos grew up in the small village Gavrakia in Domokos, Central Greece. He studied at the Pharmaceutical School of Athens combining medical fact with his inclination towards the holistic approach of Hippocrates who welded health to beauty and well being.
Nikos opened a pharmacy in Athens and used bee keeping products mixed with herbs to make cosmetics, selling or giving them to family and friends. Niki entered the pharmacy and his life as an intern and they fell in love as she has very tenderly recounted to me. She then opened her own pharmacy showcasing smartly packaged cosmetics at higher prices and with adept customer communication.
Niki, who was practically stealing Nikos’ clientele, invited Nikos to join her. However he was reluctant at first, being aware of Greece’s anti business sentiment in the 1970’s.
Their first product, propolis and thyme soap, was a challenge. The mainstream consumer balked at a naturally black soap leaving a brown residue but Nikos believed in his product and it eventually became a success
Niki divided the work for what would eventually become Apivita. She assigned the scientific aspect to Nikos and assumed the marketing role herself.
Their first product, propolis and thyme soap, was a challenge. The mainstream consumer balked at a naturally black soap leaving a brown residue but Nikos believed in his product and it eventually became a success.
Their outstanding logo was the offspring of a friendship between Nikos, an extrovert and free thinking individual, and the eminent cartoonist Spiros Ornerakis. Inspired by a pendant showing the grandeur of the ancient Minoan civilization, Ornerakis’ design portrays the bees of Malia in Crete storing away honey in a comb.
From 2004 Nikos dreamt of housing Apivita close to its inspiration, nature. The bioclimatic headquarters are in Markopoulo, in the verdant Mesogaia region outside Athens and cost 15 million euros.
Their company hub resembles a beehive comprising laboratories, packaging, training and office spaces plus a bee museum all under the same roof.
The large windows giving out on to the Greek flora reflect the founders’ vision of transparency and authenticity.