The ZADOR soap brand is better known abroad than in Hungary. The Hungarian luxury product, manufactured in Pécsely, a small village in the Balaton Uplands, conquered Dubai sooner than Budapest. What’s the secret to soap’s success story? This is what I asked Bence Florián, one of the founders of the ZADOR brand, when we met to talk about the beginnings, the unique technology, special scents and future plans for the company.
Bence: We founded ZADOR Europe Ltd. in 2014. Everything has its own history: soap making is the legacy of my parents, who are chemical engineers. After retiring, they wanted to spend their free time doing something useful, and thanks to their friends had an idea to start their own business. They have developed the basic formula of our soap, the base, if I may put it that way, which received a lot of positive feedback from commercial channels. This was the point when together with my founder partner, Mate Bokrosi, with whom we have enjoyed a very good friendship for many years, decided to further develop the business and to provide a high quality, family-based product with a luxury packaging that would satisfy our expectations abroad. This is how the ZADOR brand was born, which was named after the towering Zádor Castle in Pécsely, and has been on the market for 6 years. Over the years, we’ve made a lot of improvements, product design is always in progress – we’re using better quality raw materials and newer, more sophisticated technology. In this respect, ZADOR soaps represent a premium brand both in terms of recipes, fragrances and ingredients. Initially we were only thinking about abroad, but later we wanted to market the brand in Hungary as well. We can state that the product has been successful both in Hungary and abroad. We boast of reseller partners like Douglas, we are on sale in all their stores in Hungary.
Eva: It seems as though you are primarily developers who care about marketing and planning. Where did the idea to use Hungarian thermal water come from?
Bence: From the beginning, the plan was to target the product abroad and to incorporate Hungarian roots and features in some form – this has always been the guiding principle. This is also reflected in the scents, like peppers, lavender, grapes, which clearly express the products´ Hungarian origin. We strive to have as many good quality raw materials as possible from home. Obviously, there are exceptions, as in the case of cocoa, because it is not native to Hungary. We have been thinking a lot about raw materials, what and how to source them. What people know and many people love in this country is Hungarian thermal water. We were looking for an added value. Something Hungarian, which was famous in Hungary and had a real healing effect. And the reputation of Hungarian thermal water is widely known abroad almost everywhere. This is how we got arrived at Hévíz, which is less than 50 kilometers from our family manufactory, Pécsely.
Eva: The thermal water of Heviz does have a medically detectable curative effect, which has a beneficial effect on the human body and skin. Has personal experience contributed to the choice of Hévíz? How did the spa accept the idea?
Bence: We used to say that the Balaton Uplands brought this product to life: there is the factory, that’s where the name comes from, and from there we wanted to add something local. It was primarily due to local patriotism that we chose Héviz to promote the natural treasures of the region. Of course, the public awareness that thermal water has a healing effect on the body as well has contributed to this. I love bathing too. In fact, it is important that we always get water that is almost the same quality or within the limits.
Eva: You have mentioned that soaps are made with sophisticated technology. What makes a ZADOR soap different?
Bence: Yes, the point is refinement. We use a substantially multiple refinement process, called triple-milled technology. At our manufactory the material goes through refining more than once, resulting in a better mix of ingredients and a better scent. Pressing the material over a very small surface will give the product a better texture. That’s why soap runs out slowly, and even if it’s tiny, it still has a scent. After multiple refining, the soap is molded and compacted to give it its final shape.
Eva: If thermal water, as a raw material, was so successful, did you ever consider using Héviz mud?
Bence: On several occasions, however, the problem with the current production technology is that mud can affect the operation of the machines, so we put this issue off for a while.
Eva: Have you ever considered expanding your product line beyond just soap?
Bence: At first we were just thinking about soap, later on we wanted to incorporate the bathing experience with the ZADOR brand – this is how our bath salt was founded. This is our second product line, where we mapped four scents, and contain a salt from Parajd, which is a Hungarian speciality. But the big mystery this year will be the launch of a third product portfolio, which we would like to apply to existing scents. Improvements are still underway, but I don´t want to tell you more about it yet.
Eva: Let’s go back to scents! ZADOR soaps are currently available in 12 different fragrances. What fragrance compositions were you thinking about?
Bence: We started with seven soaps in 2014: pepper, lavender, red grape, cocoa, fig-pear, cherry blossom and rose. Fig-pear is one of the hit products, and it is also one of my favorites. The other is the mango-orange, which completely reflects my taste and was the winner of the Cosmo Beauty Award last year. For now, we feel the palette is complete. There may be a maximum of one scent this year, but I think everyone is finding their own scent. At the beginning of our production, we thought it was important to keep the balance who likes what: let it be women’s or men’s scent, sweet and sour, or a whole fragrance-free product for the whole family, so the baby product was born, called “My first soap”. We tried to overlap everyone a little bit, so now we can clearly see which are the best selling products, which are unisex or typical soap products like lavender, which is a must-have fragrance in cosmetics. The Hungarian origin – grape, pepper, lavender – and the mystery of exotics – cocoa, cinnamon – all contribute to this. By the way, the scents can be divided into countries. When we went to Dubai for cosmetic exhibitions, cocoa was extremely popular there but is less popular in Western Europe, while in Moscow the absolute favourite was the aroma of roses.
Eva: Very meticulous, detailed steps have led to success. The love of homeland, local patriotism was repeatedly mentioned, but products were aimed primarily at foreign audiences. Can you talk about how the brand was received abroad?
Bence: The “international explosion” of the product has been greatly helped by the launch of an annual booklet in Hong Kong that gathers the best design products from around the world. We were the first Hungarians to be selected for this annual yearbook with ZADOR soap package designs. This has spread our fame worldwide, and thanks to that, in the first year, we had the most surprising requests. For example we got in to the very prestigious New Yorker magazine Brides for product photography. The product was able to reach places that were a real positive success for us with a new brand that had only just launched.
Eva: And what about Hungary? How did the domestic audience perceive the brand, which was already well-known at the time?
Bence: We targeted the Hungarian market one year later, and in 2016 we started to sell more widely in Hungary. Naturally, the appearance of a thermal water product did not provoke such an impressive reaction here as abroad, where it is considered a special product. It is important to us, however, that in addition to wholesale chains like Dougles, we are also present in smaller gift shops and flower shops nationwide. I would highlight the tourist destinations, the spa sections of the hotels, where the hotel guests have an opportunity to try the product first and then buy the soap as a souvenir. Unfortunately, the small perfumeries that are very popular in the West and we can find them anywhere in Germany, Austria and France, are missing at home. In Hungary we prefer the souvenir line, because it is a very small compact product, the tourist can easily take it home, but at the same time contains Hungarian specialities, so it is perfect for a gift.
Eva: Each product has a mission. What is the mission of ZADOR?
Bence: Almost all people – including myself – love the spa experience. However, not everyone can afford to take regular baths due to lack of time. The concept behind the ZADOR product line in this regard is that after a long day at home, lying in the bathtub, for people to create a real spa feeling, vibe and atmosphere. Simplified: implementing a home spa experience pampering with thermal water through our products.