A West Midlands skincare company is celebrating its eighth consecutive year of growth under private equity owners.

Solihull-based Accantia, which today changes its name to Simple Health & Beauty, increased its sales by 11 per cent to £61.4 million in 2008 as it outstripped major rivals such as L’Oreal and Nivea.

Operating profit for the year rose by 10.5 per cent to £21 million.

Simple is the UK’s largest skincare brand by volume and the third biggest brand by value. 

The brand’s value grew by 12.7 per cent in 2008 compared with 1.3 per cent for the sector as a whole, while volumes rose by 15.4 per cent versus 5.6 per cent.

Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes are the biggest selling facial skincare product in the UK retail trade – consumers buy a pack every 3.5 seconds.

The brand holds the number one position in four out of nine categories within the UK facial skincare market. 

Last year the company closed the gap on its nearest rival L’Oreal by more than half to take a 12.2 per cent share of the UK market. 

Accantia was formed in July 2000 by a £140 million management buy-out from Smith and Nephew headed by chief executive Geoff Percy and finance director Peter Hatherly, who were backed by ABN Amro Capital.

A secondary buy-out in January 2004 saw Accantia pass into the ownership of Duke Street in a deal valued at £225 million.

The company, which employs 55 people, outsources it manufacturing operations, predominantly to preferred suppliers in the UK.

It has distributorships in Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia and China. Mr Percy said yesterday that taking the business private had allowed executives to focus exclusively on the Simple brand, a 160-strong range of products free of perfumes, colourings and harsh chemicals, making them popular with customers with sensitive skin.

Value and competitive pricing were among the business’s key strengths, particularly in the tough economic climate, said Mr Percy.

“The business always performed reasonably well under Smith & Nephew but since we took it private we have seen eight years of double digit growth,” he said. “There are very few recession-proof industries but the health and beauty care market over time has proved to be reasonably robust.

“By outsourcing our production we employ many fewer people but the company is three or four times bigger.

“Simple has two great strengths, which have stood it well, unchanged for nearly fifty years. The first is value, and that is more relevant to consumers now than ever. The second is implicit in the brand name. A clear, uncompromising and uncomplicated promise, which resonates with consumers who are increasingly bombarded by information in a crowded marketplace.”

Mr Percy, who is also the chairman of the CBI in the West Midlands, said yesterday that the company would not be content to consolidate in the current year, despite the recession. “We will certainly be pressing ahead for a ninth consecutive year of growth,” he added.