SÃO PAULO: Aggressively-expanding Brazilian cosmetics company Natura revealed to the Financial Times this week it is actively planning start-up sales operations in the USA, Russia and United Kingdom.

Ceo Alessandro Carlucci aims to hike annual export sales from their current level of 3% to "at least 10%" over the next five years. "We think there is a lot of space in the cosmetics industry to grow and we think we have good products that will appeal to consumers in other countries," he says

The firm specializes in 'natural' products harvested from trees in the Amazon rain forest, and currently operates an Avon-style direct sales operation in its homeland.

Paid on a commission basis. Natura has an eye-popping 500,000 part-time agents in Brazil who generated the majority of its R$3.2 billion ($1.48bn; €1.16bn; £786.6m) sales in 2005.

Carlucci, however, is a realist about the potential for his product range. "Unless you are interested in buying products that are made in an environmentally sensitive manner, then you are probably not a potential customer," he says.

Currently Natura has a team of fifteen people, based in the UK, US and Russia conducting market evaluations based on the Brazilian direct sales model.

Carlucci parries the inevitable question about entering into direct competition with The Body Shop, now swallowed into the maw of the L'Oréal empire.

"Anita Roddick has been an inspiration to many entrepreneurs but Body Shop was in many ways a 'guerilla' company. Ms Roddick was more interested in the cause [of ethical consumerism] while we are more interested in cosmetics."

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff