Prime Matter Labs’ New CEO Aaron Paas Has Indie And Corporate Beauty Experience
DECEMBER 14, 2021
As it attempts to grow its business with emerging and established beauty and personal care brands, contract manufacturer Prime Matter Labs has named Aaron Paas, a beauty industry veteran with a resume spanning both, CEO.
The move comes nearly two years after the manufacturer was backed by Monogram Capital Partners, a private equity firm that typically invests in companies generating $5 million to $50 million in revenues with Violette_Fr and Beach House Group in its portfolio. It also comes following Prime Matter Labs’ recent acquisitions of formulation house beauty.art.science LLC and contract manufacturer Cosmetic Development Laboratories.
Paas succeeds Mohamed Barakat, who started Prime Matter Labs in 1983 with Frank Linares, Mark Barakat, and B.M. Barakat, in the CEO post. Prior to joining the company as chief revenue officer in 2020, Paas was group product marketing manager at Etsy and senior brand manager for Gillette at Procter & Gamble, where he spearheaded Mach3. In addition to his corporate roles, Paas founded everyday essentials indie brand Wildist in 2018, but stepped away from it when his work began at Prime Matter Labs.
“This is kind of the culmination of my career. I’ve been in this industry in different ways for the entirety of it, and I think this is the most exciting time in beauty and personal care for a long time,” says Paas. “We are still very early in this monumental shift in how people buy products, and how brands are built and market to people. The biggest opportunity left is to be better at making things, so being better at R&D and producing them through contract manufacturing.”
He explains that contract manufacturers arose alongside consumer packaged goods behemoths the likes of Unilever and P&G, and largely haven’t done a great job at simultaneously addressing the needs of startups and legacy players. He stresses Prime Matter Labs aims to cater to startups and legacy players by, for example, producing thousands of units for several brands of varying sizes in a day.
“Our competitors have scaled to the point where that’s an impossibility in the structure,” says Paas, elaborating, “The brands that are coming out now—everyone from pre-launch to $300-million brands—are struggling to fit into the contract manufacturing mold because it wasn’t built for them. We think we can look through the brand lens and really understand the challenges brands go through as they scale, be a true innovation partner and create products their consumers love and do that at the scale they can handle and need. In our industry, no one is doing that. Everyone is still fighting for the P&G business or stuck working on a tiny scale.”
Prime Matter Labs’ business is roughly evenly split between skincare, haircare and body care, according to Paas. Headquartered in Hialeah, Fla., in the Miami-Dade metropolitan area, the company has been particularly strong in sun care. With the acquisition of beauty.art.science and Cosmetic Development Laboratories, it branched to the West Coast and East Coast. Across its facilities, Paas says it occupies 200,000 square feet. In New York, it has a 4,000-square-foot research and development lab. Upon the acquisition of beauty.art.science, its founder Jennifer Hurtikant became Prime Matter Labs’ chief science officer. In about two years, the company has multiplied its workforce twofold to around 150 employees.
Previously considered somewhat of an afterthought in beauty, Paas predicts body care will continue to have a big moment, and he’s bullish on sun protection. “There’s a melding of SPF into everything,” he says. “It’s almost the elimination of sun care as a category.” Discussing the beauty and personal care sector further, Paas says, “We have made it through a period where consumers were willing to sacrifice efficacy for checking the box on clean, natural and sustainable. We are pushing the envelope in delivering against those things and bringing out the most efficacious products within those restrictions.”
Paas’s 2022 objectives for Prime Matter Labs include expanding operational capacity, ramping up R&D and perfecting product development software. He wouldn’t divulge too much on the software, but offers it “will change the relationship between brands and product development, and how brands interact with us from taking an idea through to approved sample.”
Nearly two years ago, private equity firm Monogram Capital partners invested in contract manufacturer Prime Matter Labs. Since then, it’s acquired formulation house beauty.art.science LLC and contract manufacturer Cosmetic Development Laboratories.
Paas will have to maneuver Prime Matter Labs amid choppy economic waters characterized by supply chain disruptions and rising costs. Speaking about what brands should do to best steer their businesses through the turbulence, he suggests they should lean on their partners. He says Prime Matter Labs can give brands insights into “a volatile raw or that you might want to get out of something that has higher minimums or what we are seeing from various brands on components and how can we help you forecast for the next six months.”
From his experience at Wildist, Paas says he learned “generally the most challenging relationship for new brands is their contract manufacturing partner.” He emphasizes, “That shaped my entire thesis for how we could fuel growth. When I met with the folks at Monogram and the founders of Prime, it just all clicked, and we are excited to build something for the brands that are being built today.”