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From Wernersville kitchen to contract with Whole Foods

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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Tangerine Betty organic lip balms come in a variety of flavors.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Tangerine Betty organic lip balms come in a variety of flavors.

Beth Niedrowski, a self-professed “lip product junky,” went on a mission to make the perfect lip balm.

“I was so tired of products that didn’t work,” said Niedrowski, who lives in Wernersville. “I wondered if I could get serious and make one that really works and had all natural, organic ingredients in them.”

After a year-and-half of tinkering with formulations and ingredients, Niedrowski’s line of funky, organic lip balms with the catchy name of Tangerine Betty and retro graphics are taking off.

Initially selling her line of organic lip and skin balms, Tangerine Betty Magical Lip Balms, Da Balm Manly Lip Stuff, Bitty Betty Mischievous Lip Candy and Magical Skin Balm on her website and to boutiques across the country beginning in 2013, Niedrowski scored big last May when the Whole Foods store in Lower Macungie Township told her it wanted to sell Tangerine Betty lip balms.

“That was a huge goal for me,” she said.

20-MINUTE PITCH

Niedrowski found out about a Whole Foods casting call for local vendors who wanted to sell their products in the new store they opened in Lower Macungie last fall. After Niedrowski submitted her product and story online, she was selected to participate in the event last April.

“They give you about 20 minutes to present your product and make your pitch. It was great. Nerve-racking, but great,” she said.

Annie Cull, spokeswoman for Whole Foods’ mid-Atlantic region, said the company tries to support local suppliers and give them coaching and feedback on everything from ingredients to labeling to packaging.

“All of our efforts are very grassroots around local suppliers,” Cull said.

Niedrowski’s commitment to using organic, natural products and as few chemicals as possible aligns with Whole Foods’ philosophy and strict standards for all items.

For suppliers of body care products, for example, Whole Foods has a list of at least 50 chemicals that are not permitted ingredients.

Niedrowski said a lot of lip balms contain alcohol, which dries lips and prompts the user to constantly reapply the product to try to alleviate a problem they are creating.

RETRO THEME

Tangerine Betty’s packaging, graphics and website incorporate a cool and kitschy retro 1940s theme, with photos of women from that era and classic pinup imagery.

“I always felt when it came to lip balms it was either medicinal looking or tree hugger-hippie looking,” Niedrowski said. “I wanted something pretty and girlie and looked cute when you took out of your pocket.”

She said she wanted imagery that harkens back to a simpler time when her grandparents lived.

So how did Niedrowski come up with the name Tangerine Betty?

“It was sort of an accident. About 16 years ago my brother had given me a lip balm-making kit. One of the flavors was tangerine. I wrote ‘tangerine’ on a cheesy label and I signed it ‘Betty’ and gave it to my cousin. My grandmother always called me Betty,” she said.

“My cousin looked at it as Tangerine Betty and said, ‘That sounds really cool.’ ”

LOOKING TO GROW

Originally from Wyomissing and a Wilson High School graduate, Niedrowski moved back to the area with her husband, Rocky, to be closer to her family after living in New York, Philadelphia and Nashville.

Niedrowski, who holds down a full-time job in advertising and marketing, is working with her husband on expanding her company.

“We’re still very small. I hope to one day make this my full-time career,” she said.

“We’re hoping next year to grow our footprint in other Whole Foods throughout Pennsylvania and in more boutiques.”

HOME COOKING

Meanwhile, Niedrowski continues to make Tangerine Betty from home.

“I do everything from the kitchen. I cook it. I pour it. I label it, cap and wipe it and get it ready to go,” she said.

Niedrowski’s commitment to using organic, natural products and as few chemicals as possible aligns with Whole Foods’ philosophy and standards.

“We have quality standards that apply across all the stores,” Cull said.

For suppliers of body care products, for example, Whole Foods has a list of at least 50 chemicals that are not permitted ingredients.

Niedrowski said a lot of lip balms contain alcohol, which dries lips.

TASTY FLAVORS

Niedrowski uses beeswax and different types of oils and butters, such as coconut, avocado, argan and pomegranate oil. Finding a manufacturer of organic flavors was nearly impossible, she said, but she found one in California.

Tangerine Betty retails for about $5 and comes in flavors such as sweet peppermint, plain, root beer float, banana coconut, key lime pie, bubblegum, black raspberry, cherry water ice and pineapple.

Niedrowski is working on lip balms with SPF (sun protection factor).

“I think we’re onto something,” said Niedrowski during a phone interview from the Florida Keys, where she was vacationing. “We tested it out in the Keys. Everything burned, but our lips were fantastic.”

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