- With climate change affecting how ingredients are sourced and products made, ethicality is becoming as important a factor as the efficacy of the products.
- For the world’s largest manufacturer of beauty products that also owns local brand Nice & Lovely, the survival of cosmetics companies in the changing market and natural environment will be hinged on their ability to keep reformulating products.
- Globally, pollution by cosmetic companies is a major concern, from the composition of products to packaging.
As Kenya’s beauty industry continues to grow, so are formulas for the different products in the market. Manufacturers are having to shift to more improved, safer, and sustainable formulas to respond to changing preferences.
But with climate change affecting how ingredients are sourced and products made, ethicality is becoming as important a factor as the efficacy of the products.
It has now become imperative for manufacturers, both local and international, to rethink their formulas, says Serge Sacre, the managing director of L’Oreal East, the regional subsidiary of French cosmetics multinational L’Oreal.
For the world’s largest manufacturer of beauty products that also owns local brand Nice & Lovely, the survival of cosmetics companies in the changing market and natural environment will be hinged on their ability to keep reformulating products.
“People are now demanding products with a 48-hour effect, for instance. They want a lotion that can keep their skin hydrated for up to two days. We have also come up with jelly creams, which are non-existent anywhere in the world because consumers want products that are non-greasy and non-sticky.”
The newest product in its wide repertoire was recently recognised during the 2021 Beauty and Cosmetic Summit.
Globally, pollution by cosmetic companies is a major concern, from the composition of products to packaging.
Serge says L’Oreal East Africa, which acquired Nice & Lovely in 2013, is keen on producing and selling clean products for sustainability.
“You want to get your ingredients from responsible sources. As you make this product, you do not want people to say an area was deforested because you cut down palm trees for palm oil.”
“We hope to be carbon-neutral by 2030. We have already signed agreements with different bodies in the world to guide us in this important journey, by reusing water in our production processes and packaging our products in recycled plastics.”
The MD observes that the beauty industry in Kenya is still small, considering the country’s population of 50 million. It is, however, growing, with an estimated value of Sh20 billion. He says it has the potential to grow ten times more (Sh200 billion).
“The penetration of face care products and makeup in the Kenyan market is very low. Only 30 percent of Kenyans are using face care products, for instance. When you look good, this has a psychological effect on your mood. You feel good and more confident.”
In Kenya, body lotions account for 50 percent of the market for beauty products, according to findings of a survey done by Nielsen.
But what is the Kenyan consumer of beauty products like? What defines them? Serge says the average buyer and user is someone who has consciousness about their image. This cuts across both men and women.
“Whether the person is going to church, to work or going out, they want to feel better about themselves, and to have an elevated sense of self-worth.”
Between men and women, Serge says the industry in Kenya has somewhat been skewed to women, even as they constitute 50 percent of the market.
Male grooming, though, is now on a steep arc of growth, currently constituting 20 percent of the beauty market in Kenya.
“Versman, for instance, which is our range of products specific for men, includes body lotions, aftershaves, deodorants, and even perfume. Men use beauty products as much as women, even if sometimes they are not the ones buying them from the stores,” he says.
He notes that more and more men are joining the beauty category “after initial resistance” which, he says, is music to cosmetic manufacturers’ ears.
Kenya’s beauty market has almost always been synonymous with fake products, which gravely undercut makers of authentic products. How is the industry dealing with this threat?
To L’Oreal East Africa and other manufacturers, the proliferation of harmful products is an even bigger challenge than fakes.
“There are now so many products that are marketed as whiteners and smoothers yet they have harmful ingredients that destroy your skin upon use. Our first course of action as the market is to educate consumers and the retailers on how to tell a product with safe ingredients from one that could potentially harm the user’s skin.”
He says that harmful cosmetic products are a headache for the government and that the market is working with government bodies to control their entry and sale.
The company is also partnering with different organisations and lobby groups to discourage the use of bleaching agents for natural ingredients as safer alternatives.
But where are Kenyans buying their beauty products more? Is it in brick-and-mortar shops or online stores?
Serge says traditional shops remain the biggest channel of sale for beauty products. But this is also changing.
“E-commerce is also growing significantly and more Kenyans are starting to trust different platforms. These stores are working on reassuring customers that they can pay on delivery for goods.”
Some platforms such as Jumia allow consumers to try out different foundations and lipsticks by digitally uploading a photo of their face, to determine if they would work well for their skin type and complexion.
To promote its market share, L’Oréal East Africa this week unveiled Kenyan filmmaker Kate the Actress as the face of Nice & Lovely brands.
“Kate is authentic. She represents the modern Kenyan woman. She represents family, she is trusted, has fantastic skin, and is loved by Kenyans,” says Serge.
The 110-year-old company has a portfolio of 35 international brands and an estimated annual income of €32 billion.