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Cosmoprof at a Turning Point

Italian beauty fair mirrors the industry's shift to wellness and natural-based products.

BOLOGNA, Italy — Cosmoprof, once the bastion of old-world perfumery, has gone green.

Organic products bloomed in abundance in the natural pavilion, otherwise designated as halls 25 and 26. Fabio Franchina, president of UniPro, the Italian association of cosmetics companies, highlighted the above-average growth in retail channels where natural and organic products are sold. Herbalist shops increased their sales 5.5 percent last year to 365 million euros, or $484.7 million at average exchange. Revenues from pharmacies continued their strong upward trajectory. In 2010, their sales rose 3.3 percent to 1.47 billion euros, or $1.95 billion.

The four-day Cosmoprof trade show, which ended Monday in Bolgona, Italy, had undergone a marked change in complexion. The traditional heart of the fair, hall 36 that housed selective-market perfumery brands in former years, was moved to two smaller, parallel areas. The natural category dramatically rose in visibility. Meanwhile, the hair pavilions held their own and the Chinese contingent grew in number and prominence. Overall, the number of attendees to this Cosmoprof session climbed 21.1 percent to 177,287, while the foreign visitor count increased 8 percent to 36,076, according to Aureliana De Sanctis.

The Accademia del Profumo went ahead with drawing a crowd to its perennial awards ceremony, an important event considering two-thirds of the prestige beauty market in Europe is driven by fragrance. However, a number of notable key players were absent from visiting the fair, just as major international and Italian houses were not among the ranks of exhibitors.

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De Sanctis described the trade show as a barometer for the sector. “The selective perfumery is having problems in terms of sell-out and is not able to renovate itself,” she said.

Hinting at plans for Cosmoprof in 2012, De Sanctis said if leading perfume companies return to the trade show’s fold, it should be in the form of events that generate both consumer awareness and stimulate business-to-business interest, rather than just renting a booth as in years gone by.

“I’d prefer to see more of what Chanel did this season at the fair,” she said, referring to an invitation-only event held by the brand at the trade show’s VIP area, called Cosmoprof Privè. “The future of the sector at the fair is creating an experience through parties, inviting celebrities from TV spots on-site and building a mood.”

On the natural theme, De Sanctis said she hopes to add a green packaging area to next year’s Cosmopack session.

During this edition, the trade show devoted an entire day of conferences to the subject of natural and organic product certification and discussions by individual brands about how to navigate the new green beauty landscape. Cosmos, the international nonprofit association, was touting its new certification program for natural and organic products.

Amarjit Sahota, director of Organic Monitor, said the European natural and organic beauty market is estimated to be worth 1.7 billion euros, or $2.4 billion at current exchange, and that it doubled in size over five to six years. He said there’s ample room for gains, since the segment’s share is only about 3 percent of the total beauty market. Germany generates the most sales, with about half the revenue, followed by France, Italy and the U.K.

This year, Sahota expects the European natural and organic business to grow 12 percent, despite hurdles such as the jumble of certification, shelf space saturation and the influx of major players and private label brands, such as Hennes & Mauritz, Boots Organic and Aldi.

Ido Leffler, co-founder of Yes To, was unfazed by the private-label competition. “They’re the best thing to happen in this industry by creating awareness,” he said. Leffler also dismissed worries that the forest of product certification labels is confusing consumers and unnecessary.

“They don’t care if you have a seal,” said Leffler. “They trust what is being told to them on YouTube.”

He said Yes To had just entered Wal-Mart, and it’s now in 28,000 doors with more than 70 products. The brand also has partnered with Whole Foods to plant gardens in U.S. public schools.

One theme that ran through the speeches was the problem of supplying quality raw material, with a number of companies trying to take a more vertical approach to achieve sustainability.

Another speaker was Mirja Kloss, head of international marketing of cosmetics at Weleda, which is celebrating its 90th birthday this year. The brand had introduced in January its Skin Food cream and in May will come out with its Wild Rose deodorant.

Unique Products, a two-year-old Danish company with 16 units, is to start selling anti-aging skin care this August. The organic, fair trade and sustainable brand bases its product formulation on weight, culled from cast-off ingredients from cheese making, and traditional Scandinavian herbs, such as heather.

Also from Scandinavia was Swedish organic skin-care brand Estelle & Thild. Distributed in 400 doors region-wide, it was founded in 2007. Recent launches include an anti-stretch mark oil last spring that became a bestseller.

Les Fleurs de Bach was launching its first organic fragrances, called Eaux d’Elixir, which incorporate Bach flower essences. The trio is set for an introduction in mid-April. The brand is currently rolling out its debut anti-stress skin-care line.

“It doesn’t address specific problems, but well-being using proven ingredients like aloe vera,” said Annick Masseglia-Thireau, commercial and marketing director at Les Fleurs de Bach.

Also launching organic skin care was Cosmofarma, a 35-year Italian beauty maker. Its three-step antiaging product line includes packaging listing target age categories — 20- to 30-year-olds, for instance.

For hair, Abaché was debuting Colour.Pro, a 19-unit collection of organic products to be used in conjunction with the hair coloring process. The idea is to protect scalps from chemical penetration. Items from it will be available in salons and also some pharmacies, such as No Stain No Pain Shield for scalp protection.

Spotted within the selective perfumery section was The Berkeley Square brand from London, which was presenting its Royal Ballet body line, due out in June.

There was also a new Black Cassis women’s fragrance line, also slated for a June introduction. Eurocosmesi, a division of the Coswell Group that’s celebrating its 50th birthday this year, was introducing — among other novelties — Transvital sun care with SPF 50-plus. It’s to be launched at the end of March worldwide.