Eric Leonard  is president of Essilor of America,  the leading manufacturer and wholesale distributor of optical lenses in the U.S. He’s been with Essilor International in various capacities since 2002.

Eric Leonard is president of Essilor of America, the leading manufacturer and wholesale distributor of optical lenses in the U.S. He’s been with Essilor International in various capacities since 2002.


JOHN SAILER: What is the overall strategy behind the recent launch of the Eye Protect System and lenses that filter blue light?

ERIC LEONARD: Our mission, improving lives by improving sight, is at the heart of everything we do. It’s our responsibility to be at the forefront of creating products to meet the needs of today’s lifestyle, which includes more exposure than ever before to harmful blue light. And, since we are living longer, the cumulative effect of harmful light puts us at more risk for eye disease.

Our journey to protect patients from harmful light has been reinforced since 2012, when we launched Crizal UV, which provides the most comprehensive UV protection. In 2013, we launched Crizal Prevencia, which was the first selective no-glare lens on the market to provide protection against harmful blue light.

We know, however, that it can take a long time to introduce new eye protection products and create rapid adoption of these new products. Essilor cares about the eye health of patients and therefore we’ve introduced a new innovation, Smart Blue Filter, which is embedded on a clear lens in Varilux Digital, Eyezen+ and Transitions lenses. Now, millions will have access to protection against harmful blue light at no additional cost, further fulfilling our mission to improve lives by improving sight.

As it relates to our Eye Protect System, we know that for the ultimate eye protection it’s critical to combine Smart Blue Filter lenses with Crizal. The Eye Protect System is a way to determine the best protection for different patients.

SAILER: Can you provide some insight into the expansion of Eyezen and Eyezen+ as more than a frame and lens solution?

LEONARD: When we launched Eyezen glasses last year they were intended to serve as an everyday pair of glasses to provide comfort and protection for a generation of people, specifically Millennials, who are known to be on smartphones, tablets and computers for hours at a time.

We know that more than just Millennials can experience the fatigue and impact of eyestrain, and with the launch of Smart Blue Filter, we are further investing in the brand by launching Eyezen+ to protect all single vision users from harmful blue light and eyestrain. Eyezen+ lenses will be offered in all prescriptions and materials, and they will include a no-glare compatibility to provide visual comfort and protection from harmful blue light to more than just Millennials.

We are still developing a long-term strategy to make certain that Millennials are actively paying attention to the importance of their vision care. Eyezen glasses will be part of that, but in the meantime, and aligned with our mission, we know it’s important to protect all single vision wearers.

SAILER: How is the company reaching and building the Millennial market and attempting to get people into eyewear at a younger age and building brand loyalty?

LEONARD: Research conducted by The Vision Council shows that some Millennials spend at least nine hours a day in front of a digital screen. Their digital devices are a part of their lifestyle both at home and at work, causing many to accept sore and fatigued eyes as a part of life. Essilor’s innovative products must address the needs of patients in today’s changing world. Typically, people don’t think about their eye health until their vision starts to fade. Eyezen was developed to address and reverse that trend.

It is our job to build awareness of the importance of healthy vision at any age. It is our goal to connect patients with independent eyecare professionals for annual eye exams. This year, that focus is stronger than ever with an updated Essilor USA website and doctor locator as well as expanded national digital advertising for our premium brands.

SAILER: What is the impetus behind Essilor’s recent investments in doctor alliances/buying groups?

LEONARD: We are seeing a significant amount of untapped opportunity in the optical market and a rapidly changing environment due to new entrants, healthcare changes and more. To support independent eyecare professionals, we are making a number of investments, two of which are in Vision Source and PERC/IVA. We will continue to invest significantly in independents to provide them new innovative solutions including better marketing services, integrated lens and frames supply chains and omnichannel services.

SAILER: What are the goals for the Vision Impact Institute and how will it impact eyecare and eyewear in the U.S. and worldwide?

LEONARD: Globally, Essilor is proud to sponsor the Vision Impact Institute as it aims to raise awareness, through credible scientific evidence, of the importance of healthy vision and the cost of uncorrected refractive error around the world. We have observed that outside the vision industry, there is a monumental gap in understanding the role vision correction plays in education, workplace productivity and quality of life.

Because 80% of all vision impairment is correctable, policy makers and key opinion leaders need to know the cost of impaired vision to citizens in their cities and countries. In addition to the unique database of global peer-reviewed studies, the Vision Impact Institute is engaging those key opinion leaders worldwide in optical, healthcare and government to advocate for action and to position vision health as a priority. Global eyecare is specifically impacted as Vision Impact Institute supports evidence-based advocacy initiatives in India, Mexico, China and many other countries in need of serious intervention.

In the U.S., the Vision Impact Institute has recently begun a pilot program to advocate for eye exams for children entering school for the first time. We know the evidence is critical to making real change, and the Vision Impact Institute is leading this charge around the world.

SAILER: What strategic plans are on the horizon for Essilor that you can mention or allude to in general?

LEONARD: Essilor of America is focused on two key priorities: delivering innovative products and services that deliver on our mission of improving lives by improving sight and supporting the independent eyecare professional. Our newest innovations are addressing new health issues, and we are arming independent ECPs with the tools they need to properly educate their patients on the importance of maintaining good eye health.


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