Global Beauty Marketing Authority Susan Kim Tsui’s New Brand Norie Taps The Power Of Kimchi For Healthy Skin
Beauty industry veteran and Norie founder Susan Kim Tsui has a track record of guiding beauty companies in the United States and catapulting them to success.
Over the past decade, she orchestrated marketing at recognized global brands, including AmorePacific, where she was head of U.S. marketing, Dr. Jart+, where she was VP of marketing, and PZ Cussons, where she was also VP of marketing and accelerated St. Tropez’s sales.
As she builds her own beauty business, Kim Tsui is mixing the personal and professional. With her new brand Norie, she’s following her deep passion for wellness, delving into her cultural roots and relishing her love of Korean food. Growing up in a Korean household, Korean foods were a staple, particularly kimchi, the traditional probiotic-rich fermented cabbage or radish that her family considers the cure-all for every possible ailment.
“If you ask Korean moms, food is the answer to everything because it’s healing and medicinal. So, I rely on many of these superfoods as part of my wellness and self-care rituals, and I want to share that with the world,” says Kim Tsui. “I want Norie to reflect the different cultures that have influenced me throughout my life and bring these worlds together through the brand.”
Her teenage daughter, Natalie, is a major source of inspiration for Norie, too. “She’s a competitive fencer, and every time she would have a fencing practice or competition, she would break out, especially on her forehead, hairline, scalp, and chin,” says Kim Tsui. “Of course, she’s going through normal teenage hormonal fluctuations, but she sweats a lot under her heavy helmet and equipment, which triggers her acne.” She continues, “I had an idea to find a solution that would work for her skin, myself—I still get breakouts—and everyone else.”
At Norie, Kim Tsui was determined to use kimchi as a hero ingredient in that solution to promote healthy skin. For its debut product, Kimchii Cleanser, she located an ingredient supplier that ferments Daikon radish with a lactic acid bacterium to calm inflamed skin and clear pores. Kim Tsui mentions that, in studies, the ingredient has demonstrated it reduces yeast, mold and bacteria by 99.9% in 30 seconds. Specifically, she says it inhibits the spread of cutibacterium acnes, a bacterium linked to acne.
Even though kimchi is the star of Norie’s show, Kim Tsui is quick to point out that it isn’t a K-Beauty brand. However, she realizes people will see it as one. Kim Tsui says, “I consider Norie a true wellness brand, and I have a larger vision to make it a destination for clean products and wellness content that genuinely adds value to people’s lives.”
She notes that skin issues happen throughout life, and Norie’s Kimchii Cleanser works for men and women of all ages, but the brand is directed primarily at gen alpha to millennial consumers. Diving into the target demographic further, Kim Tsui anticipates Norie’s core customer will be between 15 and 30. The brand has playful pastel packaging, and its name means “play” in Korean.
Norie is starting with a single product for multiple reasons. It took more than two years of research, development and testing to finalize Kimchii Cleanser. The product has a fragrance- and oil-free formula that contains 13 ingredients—along with Daikon radish, there’s salicylic acid, upcycled sugar beets and upcycled apple fruit extract—meeting Credo’s clean beauty standard. Like many beauty brands, Norie dealt with supply chain kinks and escalated costs of goods in the development process. A second product is in the brand’s pipeline.
“I consider Norie a true wellness brand, and I have a larger vision to make it a destination for clean products and wellness content that genuinely adds value to people’s lives.”
“The prices increased tremendously for a second product, and because I’m self-funded and a true startup, I could only launch with one product,” says Kim Tsui. “To me, cleansing is the most important step in a skincare regimen, and I want to focus on active people who play sports like my daughter and tend to sweat more. So, it all made sense.”
According to Kim Tsui, Norie is the first skincare brand to incorporate fermented kimchi as an active ingredient. She says, “Although it’s not a new ingredient, it is a natural preservative system in some formulas, but Norie is the first skincare product to use it as a hero ingredient.”
Glancing ahead at bolstering Norie’s assortment, Kim Tsui says the brand could take an “outside-in or inside-out approach with ingestibles or additional products to complement the cleanser.” Daikon radish is definitely expected to extend beyond skincare at Norie. Kim Tsui says, “Eventually, I want to enter haircare, body and lifestyle categories.”
Estimating she spent upwards of $60,000 to create Norie, Kim Tsui hasn’t yet taken a penny from external investors to support the brand. It’s operating on a very lean budget, and Kim Tsui is cautiously spending on what she can to amplify it. She plans to sell it on Amazon soon and has hired the public relations firm Tractenberg & Co. to spread the word about it to press and influencers.
Norie intends to cultivate a tight-knit community of health and wellness enthusiasts through engaging content on Instagram and TikTok. A social media series called “Kimchi Smiles” educating people on the health benefits of probiotic-packed foods like kimchi is in the works. “In Korea, you say kimchi instead of cheese before you take a picture,” details Kim Tsui. “So, I want to create videos with people smiling and saying kimchi with the product. I want to create fun, cute content like that.”
She elaborates, “I want to do my outreach to the AAPI community, my friends and influencers to try the product and hopefully become advocates since some are already very familiar with the health benefits of kimchi, particularly radish kimchi, but I also want to support women of color and the AAPI communities and host small events with women who can inspire people with their stories, especially entrepreneurs and people starting new brands.”
Kim Tsui predicts e-commerce will be the primary sales driver for Norie. In the future, she aims for it to make retail inroads and travel abroad. “I’m looking at the market and hope to explore partnerships with retailers who carry clean products in the fall,” says Kim Tsui. “Then, hopefully, the brand will expand and grow and go into the bigger specialty retailers.”
For now, she says, “I’m excited and encouraged by the feedback I’ve been getting on the kimchi product concept, the story and the branding. It’s just me, a part-time marketing person and a small team of collaborators that work on the brand, so positive reinforcement is encouraging.”