Mailelani Samoa reconnects with Auckland market

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Family photo in front of the Mailelani Store in Samoa.

Mailelani Samoa, a natural skincare business from Samoa revitalised its Auckland ties with a promotional event at Lei Café in Grey Lynn this month.

Ms Tailani Salanoa, Executive Assistant for Mailelani Samoa, was front and centre for the relaunch campaign, thanks to the Coconut Industry Development for the Pacific (CIDP) Project supported by the European Union.

It has been 18 years since Mailelani’s owners, Sylvie and Kitiona Salanoa made their first bar of coconut soap and seven years since they launched the Mailelani organic skincare range in Auckland.

Now it’s the next Salanoa generation taking on the marketing. Pacific Periscope spoke with Ms Salanoa.

Mailelani relaunched its new product packaging and labelling aimed at New Zealand consumers.  But for Ms Salanoa, it was also about personally reconnecting with existing customers, national retailers, buyers and supporters; making new contacts and revitalising existing ones. The event and the products were a big success. “People love it,” Ms Salanoa said.

Mailelani Samoa’s skincare ranges included organic coconut oil, body lotion and soap in five different fragrances — Frangipani, Moso’oi (Ylang ylang), Mango and Papaya, Vanilla and Koko (cocoa), Coconut and Coconut cream.  There is also a ‘For Men’ range and a ‘Pure & Simple’ range for children.

It was an emotional evening for Ms Salanoa as she recalled her parents’ first trip from Samoa to launch the brand in Auckland along with the Pacific Business Trust and the then Pacific Islands Trade & Investment Commission (now Pacific Trade Invest New Zealand).

Her mum, Sylvie comes from Switzerland and Dad Kitiona from Samoa. The couple and their three children live in Apia. They began hand-making coconut soap in their family’s kitchen before expanding into their garage.

Their first organic handmade soap was released in 2000. They then started experimenting using local ingredients such as papaya, koko Samoa (cocoa), mango, lime, lau ti avocado and taumanu oil.  Mailelani officially started as a business in 2006. With the help of a chemist in New Zealand they extended their range and now have more than 50 products. Their initial exports were distributed to health food stores throughout New Zealand. One of the iconic New Zealand eco-brands – The Ecostore — were early adopters of Mailelani’s products.

Things progressed slowly but they realised there was an obvious demand. It was enough to give them confidence to keep going. The couple focused on expanding their market in Samoa and over time, overseas families and customers began increasing their demand through online sales. The success has led Mailelani Samoa to expanding the factory and the family finding a new house. Turning their home into the new headquarters for Meilelani Samoa. Ms Salanoa admits it’s a demanding work load for the staff of eight people, that includes herself and her parents Sylvie and Kitiona. But they want to stay true to their values, hand making their products using locally sourced materials. Moving forward, however, Ms Salanoa acknowledges they have some decisions about how to meet

with increasing demand.  Overall 2018 has been a successful and somewhat busy time.

Earlier this year, Mailelani won two categories in the Samoa Export Awards 2018; Best Innovation and the Women in Export Award.  They were also first runner up for the Best Value-Added Export Award. Mrs Salanoa was named the Woman Exporter of the Year. She won the Best Innovation Award for the new wide neck bottle that a teaspoon can scoop out coconut oil if it solidifies in cooler temperatures.  But their commitment to the environment had earlier been underlined by refillable pouches for customers to refill their scrubs and even researched glass bottles as potential containers.  But that’s another story.

In shipping, they are working with Mad Pacific, a New Zealand based warehousing and logistics company that will process the online orders to New Zealand more effectively.

There’s also an evening pop-up stand in the SSAB Sei Oriana retail store in Mangere Centre on 22 November.  Roll into February next year and they plan to introduce new eco-packs.

Mailelani Samoa has shown its resilience and commitment to its core values and community.

Through a willingness to innovate and adopt new practices, the future bodes well for the next stage of Mailelani Samoa’s journey into the wider international export market for skincare.

For more information contact PTI Trade Development Manager Ian Furlong at ian.f@

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