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HONG KONGCosmoprof Asia was bigger than ever this year. A record number of exhibitors meant the fair for the beauty and wellness industry was split over two venues, and it drew huge crowds despite the economic uncertainty following the U.S. election.

The four-day event that kicked off on Nov. 15 attracted 2,698 exhibitors from 49 countries, a more than 7 percent increase over last year. Visitor numbers were well over 60,000, meaning that the huge venues were packed every day. While AsiaWorld-Expo focused on packaging, ingredients and processing equipment, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre hosted the finished cosmetics.

Japan was featured as the “Country of Honor” and 90 Japanese companies were represented, taking up 1,458 square meters (about 15,694 square feet) in booth space across both venues. After a serious depreciation of the yen last year, the currency is recovering, and the strong presence was in part a reflection of that as well as a determination to find new markets.

Oyasumi Shuka is a brand of collagen jelly made from fresh tuna skin. It has won Belgium’s Monde Selection Gold Award for seven consecutive years and been voted “No. 1 Product” by a leading Japanese beauty website, but despite the high praise it is struggling in the local market.

“It’s very popular in Japan but the market is swamped; we are looking to sell internationally — the low yen makes it easier to sell products overseas; for them it is cheaper, so more attractive. Our buyers are mainly in Singapore, Taiwan and Myanmar. We also hope to get into the U.S.,” said CEO Keijiro Saito.

But as with most at the fair, there is a huge cloud hanging over the U.S.

“[President-elect Donald] Trump doesn’t want the [Trans-Pacific Partnership] and that could mean problems for us — at least it isn’t a big part of our business,” said Saito.

A crowded local market was also a driver for Peter Jun, director of CH Harmony Co Ltd. in Korea, to push for more buyers overseas. The company sells organic cosmetics and last month earned the European certification for natural and organic cosmetics, Ecocert.

“We are the first company to get this award in Korea. There is too much competition in Korea, so I hope this certification will help us expand and reach virgin lands, new markets for our products. Singapore and Malaysia are good for us and we expanded to U.K. last year,” said Jung.

China used to be a big market for CH Harmony, but new certification introduced last year means it is more difficult to sell there.

“They are trying to protect their own market. These new regulations mean there’s so much red tape to get through that our sales to China have really fallen,” he said.

Italian buyer Luca Briganti from Morocutti Giovanni Srl reflected the mood of many European buyers when he said, hesitantly, that he hoped commercial ties between Europe and the U.S. will continue in the same friendly manner as under the Obama administration.

“There is a feeling that Donald [Trump] will want to protect the U.S. market. For me as an importer, the exchange rate is crucial. Whenever you have uncertainty it creates a lot of problems — do I buy U.S. dollars?” said Briganti.

But he was upbeat about the fair itself, which he has attended for the last six years and insists is the best in the world for emerging industry trends.

“I’m seeing a lot of retail-focused cosmetics with a lot of essential oils. It’s a return to basics,” said Briganti, adding that he would like to see more Asian manufacturers offering product customization that went beyond just changing the color.

Mainland manufacturer Mr. Lee at Lucky Trendy Co was concerned about the current economic climate but cautiously upbeat that a new presidency would not be as disruptive as many fear.

“Donald Trump is a crazy man. He can say anything when he is trying to get votes, but after the election things will be normal,” he said.

Another Chinese producer, Seven [she only goes by one name] at CCO, which makes gel nails, expressed concern about the situation in the U.S., but said that her American buyers had been visiting her booth as usual.

“Who knows what will happen with U.S. trade, but we still have U.S. buyers coming to see us here and I just sent an order to Georgia today,” said Seven.

As the currency crisis deepens in Russia, there were fewer Russian buyers at the show than usual and their absence was noted by Amnon Windman, who owns the Israeli brand Talia, which uses Dead Sea salts in products that are especially popular in China and Singapore.

“Maybe the Japanese currency is a bit slow and we don’t see so much of [the Japanese buyers], but what we really notice is Russia; they are not coming hardly because the ruble is so low,” said Windman.

Natural and organic products continue to be the hottest trend, and that is being seen across all product segments from tea made with herbs and black carrot, which is rich in polyphenols, to baby lotion made with coconut oil and avocado oil.

Over at AsiaWorld-Expo, which wrapped up on Nov. 17, a day earlier than the Exhibition Centre event, six halls were occupied with presentations of raw materials, machinery and packaging. In Hall 5, The Lipstick Factory took visitors on a journey through the process of how a luxury lipstick is made, from the search for raw materials to the mixing and construction.

Launched at the fair this year was the Innovation Circle Awards, designed to acknowledge the most innovative packaging ideas in the beauty industry. The awards drew 61 entries and the jury included big industry names such as Sam Cheow, chief product accelerator at L’Oreal USA, and Sumita Butani, head of Global Product Innovation at Alticor/Amway in the U.S.

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