- Janine Matchitt, Viola Organics owner, and manufacturer of some of the most potent organic skincare products available on today’s market, took the business over in 2003 from her mother, Pam Blowers. Today Janine manufactures a hugely expanded range of high quality products and has recently overseen the opening of a Canadian branch in Prince George, north of Vancouver. The Canadian licensee manufactures Viola Organic products independently and distributes them throughout Canada and the US under Janine’s mentoring guidance.
Viola Organics had its’ beginning in 1986 after Pam had been diagnosed with cancer, and then suffered a recurrence. Originally she’d been to the UK to bury a family member who had died of cancer and while she was there, the Bristol Cancer Help Centre had loaded her up with pamphlets. Without having read them, Pam popped them into her suitcase and brought them back to New Zealand. Several months later, by then suffering from cancer herself, she remembered the pamphlets. They all stressed cleaning up one’s lifestyle, so that’s what she set about doing.
Janine says, “Viola grew out of Mum’s need for a chemical-free moisturising face cream. The ingredients would have been difficult to source in those days, and expensive. It wasn’t long before Mum began to see returns when she sold her Avocado Deluxe Face Cream at the Labour Day Parua Bay craft shows near Whangarei. A clinic, and then a chemist, began to stock the products. Holiday-makers bought the creams while visiting Whangarei and wrote asking for more. She also made a baby cream and a cream skin cleanser. I was in my 20s and she’d give me the skin cleanser to use. I loved it and have never used anything else.”
A self-taught herbalist who worked with UK herbalist, Gerald Green, Pam studied nutrition and naturopathic methods, and through trial and error, eventually produced high quality, luscious skincare products. The only change made to original product formulas in almost 30 years, is to have become certified organic.
Having gained organic certification with BioGro in 2003, Viola now produces 73 certified organic products, 55 of these with 95% certified organic product content, and 18 products at the 70-95% certified organic level. A further 44 products are not certified.
- Janine says, “It’s not possible to certify all our products because of the inclusion of natural ingredients such as clays or bicarbonate of soda, which are minerals and non-certifiable. All our ingredients are listed on the labels.”
Many ingredients for Viola products are sourced overseas because certified ingredients are not readily available here. One such ingredient is jojoba oil sourced direct from the farm gate of a jojoba horticulturalist in the Nevada desert. A South American native, the jojoba plant produces a bean from which the oil is extracted. “It’s not really an oil,” says Janine. “It’s classified as a wax ester, which is very stable and will form as a solid in low temperatures. It’s a superb cosmetic oil, being the nearest to natural skin collagen, but it’s also a humectant, meaning it attracts and retains moisture on the skin.”
Vegetable glycerine acts in a similar manner and some Viola products contain both. Janine says, “Glycerine, unless stated on the label as vegetable glycerine, is usually animal derived, a by-product from the rendering down of animals, and in some countries this can include cats and dogs which have been euthanised.”
One fabulous ingredient Janine is able to source in NZ, is Kaolin clay (China clay) from Matauri Bay, Northland. “It is one of the finest china clays in the world, but also an amazing facial treatment ingredient which we include in our Honey Facial Mask.”
Now 50, Janine says, “Mum will be 74 this year but keeps a helping hand in Viola. She steps in when I’m flat-out, and these days she’s become my sounding board as well as doing product research and development.”
Viola’s product range has expanded to over 100 and includes two external brands: Aubrey Organics, to supplement hair care and mineral make-up products; and EcoTan. The advantage Viola has in the marketplace, apart from their wide range, is that their products contain between 80-100% active content, with little bulking material.
“Our primary differences are the quality and concentration of the ingredients in all our products, but also that we source our own ingredients, and then manufacture by hand, in small batches of up to 50 jars. Fresh is best, and a tight manufacturing schedule where things are made regularly rather than once every six months, keeps products viable. Most of our creams have a shelf life of a year and all our other products keep for up to two years.
Among Viola’s most popular products are their Calendula Lip Balm, 100% natural roll-on deodorants (not certified), Jojoba Body Lotion, Avocado Deluxe Face Cream, Rejuvenating Day lotion, and the Rosehip Elite Face Cream.
For a small skincare and health product business, being the leader and the manufacturer are just two of many hats Janine wears. She has one employee who manages all the packing and shipping of orders and occasionally helps bottling. All the packaging materials, (bubble wrap, paper wrap) except tape, are re-used materials sourced from a variety of Whangarei businesses. Spending between 20-30 hours a week in manufacturing and the rest in running the business, she says, “I find the job of physically making creams really therapeutic”.
Boasting customers all over Australia, NZ, and in many Pacific countries, Viola is also stocked in Singapore, and perhaps the temptation would be to expand into bigger, better, but Janine says, “No – I prefer to keep things steady, and maintain quality.”
“Viola Organics is more than a business…it’s a way of life, a chemical-free way of life. We eat organic and live as cleanly as possible. Why would you buy a product that could do you harm when there are so many great products that won’t do you any harm and will probably enhance your health?”
Theresa Sjoquist is a freelance writer based in Helensville – www.theresasjoquist.com
First published in Organic NZ – Mar/Apr 2015 edition – www.organicnz.org.nz
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