By  on October 12, 2007

PARIS — A clearer system for classifying natural and organic products, plus the rise of new niche brands and legislation were the hot topics discussed during the fifth annual Beyond Beauty trade show, held Oct. 1 to 4 in the Paris suburb of Villepinte.

Some 700 exhibitors and 19,500 visitors gathered at the fair's four themed salons — Cosmeeting for brands, and Spa & Institute, Creative and Ingredients for suppliers. Traffic at Beyond Beauty this year rose 18 percent versus the prior year's session. Some 36 percent of visitors came from outside France, a jump of 22 percent from 2006.

The need to create a common European definition and logo for natural and organic products proved a recurring theme during Beyond Beauty's conferences held throughout the show.

Many audience participants were shocked to discover that organic-certified products in France have to contain just 10 percent of organic ingredients to earn the "bio" label domestically. Meanwhile, natural cosmetics, called "eco" in France, only need to contain 5 percent of organic ingredients.

"The requirements also vary widely from country to country," said Rodolphe Balz, president of Cosmébio, the French trade association for natural and organic cosmetics. "We want to work toward a common definition in order to protect consumers and give the sector credibility, and, of course, eventually increase the minimum requirements for organic ingredients in cosmetics."

To that end, Cosmébio is working with four sister organizations, in Germany, the U.K., Italy and Belgium. Together, they plan on submitting guidelines for a common label to the European Commission by summer 2008. By that point, the natural and organic cosmetics sector will be worth more than 1 billion euros, or $1.4 billion at current exchange, in Europe alone, according to the London-based research firm Organic Monitor. And the market is expected to continue growing some 20 percent yearly.

Meanwhile, niche beauty brands of all kinds drew eager buyers from around the world. An area dedicated to showcasing emerging labels, dubbed Zoom, hosted 38 new names.

"For an established store, funky new brands are the best way to spice up your offer," said David Bondi, president and chief executive officer of ITEC France, which organizes Beyond Beauty.On the trade show's first night, Bondi joined a jury of 35 international industry experts to award prizes for their picks of the best niche brands. The winners of these Beauty Challenger Awards were Parisian company YesForLov, creators of a line of prestige beauty products for use during lovemaking; Korean skin care outfit Erborian, and Paris' Juliette Has a Gun, a collection of five fragrances.

The Coup de Coeur du Jury, or Special Commendation in English, went to Officina, from Canada. The three-year-old company stole the show with beauty products billed to ease urban ailments, like jet lag, stress and pollution.

"We had a Korean retailer ready to take the products there and then, as well as strong interest from Henri Bendel and Fred Segal," said Officina founder Marie Carrier.

But industry experts warn beauty companies of all sizes will find the European market increasingly tough in coming years. They say suppliers and manufacturers working in or trading with the Continent face tricky new legislation that threatens to take up valuable time and money.

The first, called Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals, or REACH, came into force in June. It requires all suppliers of large quantities of chemicals to register detailed information about their ingredients. The second piece of legislation is a proposed new cosmetics directive that will require beauty manufacturers to improve safety and transparency related to their products' efficacy. It could be adopted by the European Parliament by mid-2009.

Both regulations are designed to reduce risks to the consumer. "But it is also the consumer who will pay for these costly changes, too, since the suppliers and manufacturers will inevitably pass on the burden," said Pierre Perrier, president of French Parisian firm Essential Consulting. "Who knows what the bill will be at the end of the night."

Looking ahead to next year's session of Beyond Beauty, ITEC's Bondi plans to add a fifth salon: Pharmameeting. It will run from Oct. 5 to 7, 2008, and host exhibitors, visitors and conferences pertaining to beauty innovation in the pharmacy channel. The entire Beyond Beauty trade show is to take place from Oct. 5 to 8, 2008.

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