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 Business > Manufacturing

2525 Armitage Avenue | Melrose Park, IL 60160 | www.alberto.com


When the subject of beauty products comes up in conversation, you may think of Paris or New York. But savvy insiders know that for over 50 years Chicago has been one of the centers of beauty innovation and a leading entrepreneurial driver has been the Alberto-Culver Company, the innovator behind such market favorites as TRESemme, Nexxus, Motions, Alberto VO5, St. Ives and Soft & Beautiful.

Not only a leader in product development, Alberto-Culver has also been a leader in the advertising, marketing and promotion of beauty products. One of the early pioneers in television advertising in the 1950s, the company led the fight to force networks and local stations to accept :30-second and :15-second spots - rather than the standard minute length - a move that shaped today's television landscape.

Alberto-Culver, which today operates around the world, has annual sales of $1.5 billion, primarily from its portfolio of beauty brands, and also from leading household innovations such as Mrs. Dash and Static Guard and strong local products in key markets around the world. The company is one of the top five largest beauty manufacturers in the U.S. and the second largest producer of hair care products for women and families of color in the world.

In addition to its market success, Alberto-Culver's corporate culture has been cited for its contribution to the company's growth in leading business publications.

Alberto-Culver was founded in 1955 by Leonard and Bernice Lavin, successful Chicago-based entrepreneurs. The Lavins purchased a West Coast professional beauty supply company, moved it to Chicago, and discontinued all of its products except Alberto VO5 Conditioning Hairdressing which they turned into a retail powerhouse. Today, Leonard Lavin is chairman emeritus and a director of the company. Carol Lavin Bernick, the Lavin's daughter, who has spent her entire 30+ year career with Alberto-Culver and is a nationally recognized expert in branding and in corporate culture issues, today serves as its executive chairman.

Alberto-Culver became a public company in 1961, the same year that it moved to its current corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility in suburban Melrose Park. Today, the company trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ACV.

Product innovation has always been a key ingredient in the company's success. The Alberto VO5 brand, now global, has been expanded into major lines of shampoo, conditioning and styling products. TRESemme, fast-becoming a global brand with its complete line of hair care solutions, has been one of the fastest-growing brands in the hair care category for the past several years. The innovations for these brands - as well as the development of such favorites as Mrs. Dash and Static Guard - have come from the company's research labs also located in Melrose Park.

The company has also acquired and dramatically grown important companies and brands. In the mid-90s Alberto-Culver acquired St. Ives Laboratories and drove its growth nationally and internationally by sharpening the focus on its skin care products. Within this decade, the company acquired the Nexxus brand, and expanded it from its salon-only base into the retail market with outstanding results. The acquisition of Pro-Line International added its market leading Just For Me and Soft & Beautiful lines to Alberto-Culver's strong, internally developed African-American lines Motions and TCB. The company's international business has also grown through acquisitions such as Stockholm-based Cederroth International, a consumer products leader in the Nordic countries with a broad portfolio of local products in beauty, first aid, laundry and health.

An important component of the company's growth from the late '60s to 2006 was The Sally Beauty Company. Alberto-Culver grew Sally from a handful of stores in Louisiana to the largest distributor of professional beauty supplies in the world with over 3,000 stores. As the lines between professional beauty retail outlets and mass merchants selling to the consumer market began to blur, Alberto-Culver was faced with the dilemma of having the same companies who were Sally's biggest suppliers also being the biggest competitors to the company's consumer products in the retail channels. As a result, in 2006, the companies were separated with Sally now operating as a free-standing, publicly traded company.

To create the foundation for today's growth in its consumer products business, throughout the 90s Alberto-Culver totally retooled and reinvigorated its company culture. The leadership team, led by Carol Bernick, put in place a number of innovative communication, personnel development and recognition programs all based around a clearly-defined set of company values. These changes have been transformative, moving the company from what had once been a place where people came to spend a short time learning the company's innovation and business-building techniques, to an entrepreneurial environment where top talent now seeks the company out as a place to establish careers. The changes are also credited, both by the company's retail partners and financial community, with jumpstarting its sales and profit growth. Today, with Carol as Chairman, the growth continues, directed by a management team headed by V. James Marino, a 30-year veteran of the beauty industry with deep experience in both the professional and consumer markets. That growth, the company's traditions and its emphasis on the importance of family values have also contributed to Alberto-Culver continuing to play a significant role in Chicago's philanthropic community. From its entrepreneurial beginnings to its role today as a global player in its industry, the company continues to grow from its Chicago base as a values-based beauty innovator.

The traditions, the entrepreneurial spirit, the values and the pride continue to make Alberto-Culver a beauty leader and a winner in all its markets.