Caudalie: From Snow to Earth
The resilience and perseverance cultivated in the competitive ski environment by Daniel and Florence Cathiard resonate in the values of Caudalie, the firm founded by their daughter Mathilde and son-in-law Bertrand Thomas. These qualities have enabled them to prosper in the cosmetics industry on a global scale. Analysis.
A 13-degree turn
Mathilde Thomas's parents, Daniel and Florence Cathiard, are passionate skiers who met on the French team at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics. Skiing taught them perseverance and resilience. When they left competition, they took over the family distribution company - "Genty-Cathiard" - founded in 1924, which owned supermarkets. In the 80s, they acquired Go Sport, before selling the group in the early 90s. They reinvested the money in Château Smith Haut Lafitte and joined forces with four other winemakers to promote their wines worldwide. Mathilde's passion for vines led her to discover the virtues of grape seeds during the harvest. Professor Joseph Vercauteren, director of the laboratory at the University of Pharmacy in Bordeaux, confirms the benefits of grape seeds and their concentration of powerful antioxidants. At the age of 23, Mathilde and her husband Bertrand, still students, launched Caudalie, marketing grape-seed-based cosmetics.
"Caudalie is the high-speed train of cosmetics"
A demanding climb
But the trend at the end of the 90s was to focus on the digital rather than on the benefits of antioxidants. This complicated the development of the young “Caudalie,” whose name refers to the aromatic persistence in the mouth at the end of wine tasting, expressed in seconds. One Caudalie equals one second. Despite widespread skepticism from their business school and pharmacists, Mathilde and Bertrand are convinced of the value of their product. They had to face up to the mistrust of the banks, but their family values of effort, competition, and risk-taking gave them the strength to move forward. Mathilde turned to her father to contribute to the company's share capital. She put her heart and soul into promoting their product, hosting pharmacies, and becoming a press officer herself to secure regional television broadcasts. Meanwhile, Bertrand approached pharmacists, their primary target. Their breakthrough came after five years, when their vinotherapy spa opened its doors, bringing huge media coverage. This success propelled Caudalie beyond the borders of Bordeaux.
According to Mathilde Thomas, "Caudalie is the high-speed train of cosmetics." In record time, the brand's products took pride of place on the shelves of 12,000 pharmacies and parapharmacies. More often than not, large visuals are displayed in the windows, illustrating the extent to which the techniques of mass retailing have been passed down from one generation to the next. Intuition plays a crucial role in the success of the company's flagship product: Eau de Beauté. This perfect combination of quality, brand image, and well-oiled logistics has been the key to Caudalie's dazzling international success. Japan was one of the first countries to take an interest in the brand, but China and above all the United States made it a global brand, enabling a technological and media leap. In 2006, Mathilde replaced "harmful" preservatives with organic ones. Then she joined "1% For the Planet", donating 1% of her sales to environmental associations.
Europe remains the heart of Caudalie's business. Keeping the competition at bay requires more innovation and patents. Priority is still given to the pharmacy and parapharmacies channel in Europe, a segment that has exploded in recent years and remained open during the pandemic. The big names in cosmetics regularly approach Caudalie, whose course remains clear: The only way to respect the values on which they continue to build the Caudalie brand requires doubling the size of their company and maintaining their independence over the long term.