“Natural” has become a key selling point for beauty products as consumers become more informed and safety-conscious. It has also given domestic Chinese beauty brands a competitive advantage, known as “Chinese Wisdom”, over its foreign counterparts.
Recent figures from Beijing’s University of International Business and Economics China Luxury Report 2012 show a 13% drop in imports of cosmetics into China for the first half of 2012 compared with the prior year, despite a 1.5% decrease in taxes levies on imported cosmetics.
Domestic beauty brands’ traditional production techniques and the use of natural ingredients, meanwhile, have captured consumers’ attention.
Herborist, owned by Shanghai Jahwa United Co., is such a brand. Its use of traditional Chinese medicine, practice of Chinese herbal science and focus on products specifically catered for the Chinese bodies has given it a solid leadership position in the beauty market.
“’Chinese wisdom’, as pioneered and continuously led by Herborist, is gaining credibility and popularity. International brands will try and follow suit, but will lack credibility as well as points of differentiation,” explained Jahwa’s president Zhou Wang. “Our whitening line, anti-aging line, and our signature Tai Chi line are all growing well, and our sun-care line grew faster than last year.”
Another Chinese brand, Wei East, has a philosophy of combining traditional Chinese herbal medicine to deliver natural skincare treatments. Essential herbs such as green tea, red peony root, Tibetan chrysanthemum, reishi mushrooms, pomegranate peel, ginger and soy are used in a variety of the brand’s skincare and makeup products.
What has got to be the oldest beauty brand in China, Shanghai Vive was created during the late Qing Dynasty. Some 100 years later, it now rivals foreign competitors and has a strong foothold in the Chinese beauty market. “As one of the earliest brands, Vive adopted Western techniques, combined them with Chinese traditional methods, and invented a lot of new products that were different from imported goods,” says Wang Qun, executive manager of the company.
Western brands are working hard not to fall behind in the market. Last November, American cosmetics giant Esteé Lauder launched Osiao, a skincare brand that specifically caters to Chinese consumers and includes traditional Chinese ingredients such as ginseng. In addition, to stay competitive, Esteé Lauder’s Clinique brand recently announced a price cut by as much as 30% on some of its products in Mainland China.