By  on October 20, 2008

PARIS — Bright October sunshine failed to add sparkle to the sixth annual Beyond Beauty trade show last week, with participants’ enthusiasm visibly dampened by the global economic crisis. But two topics managed to pierce the gloom at the salon, held Oct. 5 to 8 in the Paris suburb of Villepinte, namely niche brands and the natural sector.

Indeed, the show’s niche and natural sections were the only areas to register significant exhibitor growth. Some 52 companies crammed into the exhibition hall’s Zoom section for new names, compared with 38 last fall. Similarly, more than 100 natural and organic outfits jostled for attention at Cosmeeting, one of Beyond Beauty’s five themed sections, up from 60 last year.

Overall, the trade show, which also included Spa & Institute, Pharmameeting, Creative and Ingredients, registered 18,300 visitors and 600 exhibitors, down 6 and 15 percent, respectively, compared with the same sessions last year. International visitors also dropped to 32 percent of show attendees, from 36 percent last year.

Hot new brands put a bit of fizz back into proceedings, however. On the show’s first night, an international jury of 40 beauty experts awarded Beauty Challenger Awards to four up-and-coming names. The winners were Korean skin care company Erborian; Japanese Raku massage sandal company Jewel Beauty; Need, a French natural health sweets brand, and French cosmetics brand Ainy, which bases its products on plants from the Andes and Amazon region.

“We’re like the ‘Who’s Next’ in beauty,” said David Bondi, president and chief executive officer of the event’s organizer, ITEC France. “To get these busy buyers to come to our show, especially now during such economic turmoil, we offer them something they simply don’t see anywhere else in the world.”

But other sections of the trade show struggled to get the same buzz. Pharmameeting, ITEC’s new salon for the pharmacy channel, failed to attract enough exhibitors, Bondi explained. But he wasn’t put off for next year.

“The Europe-wide deregulation of the industry means that players will need to find new ways to boost margins.” Next year’s show will integrate Pharmameeting into the Cosmeeting section, with a strong focus on business innovation.

Meanwhile, the gloves were off at the Natural Beauty Summit, which ran on Oct. 8 and 9 as an extension of the Beyond Beauty show, when it came to debates about how to classify products.

Experts from around the world spent the best part of a day considering how to create simple, internationally recognizable labels for natural and organic products. At the moment, the beauty industry lacks the coherent classification system used for food, for example, as each country sets its own varying levels of protection and requirements. Much of the disagreement stems from what percentage of a product’s ingredients should be organic or natural in order for them to be classified as such.

Part of the urgency to set a consistent standard comes from the industry’s burgeoning success. Natural and organic beauty brands generated some $6.9 billion worldwide in 2007, a figure that’s set to grow by up to 20 percent this year, according to U.K. research firm Organic Monitor. This contrasts sharply with the beauty market as a whole, which was flat last year, according to the firm.

“We have to calm down, stop the infighting, work together and do what’s best for the industry,” urged Joe Smillie, senior vice president of Quality Assurance International, a U.S. certification agency. Conflicts were visible between ex-members of a collection of European trade associations who have been working together for six years on a continent-wide label. A splinter group of German companies including Weleda used this year’s salon to launch its own standards, called NaTrue, but participants seemed unwilling to accept the definitions.

In the maelstrom of this debate, updates on REACH legislation provoked a more subdued reaction. The Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals requires suppliers of large quantities of chemicals to preregister details about them with the European Parliament, or EP, before the end of December. Slight modifications of the legislation are being considered by the EP, including what extent tests carried out on animals for substances destined for non-cosmetic use can be applied to beauty products.

Next year, Beyond Beauty is moving within Paris’ city limits. The show will take place from Sept. 13 to 16 at the Porte de Versailles convention center.

ITEC France’s Bondi also plans to run a two-day, invitation-only show for the luxury packaging industry, called Beauty Days in Paris. It is set to take place on the superchic Place Vendôme on Sept. 15 and 16.

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