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L’Oréal Consumer Products Chief Talks Strategy

Alexis Perakis-Valat discussed the importance of scaling sustainably and cutting-edge beauty.

PARIS — L’Oréal’s Consumer Products Division has an overarching goal — to “democratize beauty at its best” — and has the firepower to do so.

Led by Alexis Perakis-Valat since 2016, the branch is L’Oréal’s second-largest, with megabrands such as L’Oréal Paris and Garnier in its portfolio.

“We represent five of the seven billion units [produced by] the group,” said Perakis-Valat, of the division that in the first quarter of 2022 outperformed the market regardless of supply-chain challenges and generated sales of 3.3 billion euros, up 11.1 percent on-year in reported terms. “So, if we really want to make a difference, we have a very big responsibility within the group.”

The L’Oréal veteran explained that the Consumer Products Division’s purpose nestles in the company’s mission to “create the beauty that moves the world.” Key to that push is an intense focus on scaling sustainably and on cutting-edge beauty — both products and services. Both main elements were showcased at The Consumer Goods Forum, held in Dublin from June 20 to 23.

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In line with L’Oréal for the Future program, which sets out sustainability goals to 2030, the Consumer Products Division has been involved in a sustainability drive.

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Said Perakis-Valat, “We want to be at the forefront of the beauty sustainability effort at scale — everywhere in the world.”

Seventy percent of the PET plastic it uses worldwide is recycled, for instance.

“In Europe, all our hair care bottles are made of recycled plastic,” he noted. “That’s more than 27,000 tons of virgin plastic saved every year— – it’s more or less the equivalent of four Eiffel Towers. So there’s a very big workstream there.”

There’s also a large workstream overall regarding carbon neutrality for the company’s sites — 44 factories that are spread around the globe.

“Already, more than half, 25, are carbon-neutral,” Perakis-Valat said. “And we’re trying to go even further.

Another initiative is L’Oréal’s Waterloop Factory concept, which targets that the group’s industrial processes will solely use recycled and reused water in a loop by 2030.

Product innovation at scale is another important focus. This comes as consumers are increasingly looking for great quality, cutting-edge beauty products. That trend has accelerated since the coronavirus pandemic began, also due to what Perakis-Valat calls the “augmented consumer.”

“The more you know about the category, the more you’re looking for more advanced, more performing, more desirable solutions,” he said. “This is what’s happening in beauty. It’s happening all over the world.”

In Brazil, for instance, where inflation is sky-high, one would imagine that people would be trading down for hair care. But that is not so.

“The Elseve brand is booming in Brazil,” said Perakis-Valat, of the premium label in his division that recently launched Hyaluron Repulp there. “It is a very advanced solution for these women who are super demanding.”

Consumers are trading up for hair care generally.

“The average price per milliliter of a hair care product, both in the U.S. or in Europe, over the past three years has gone up by 10 percent year-on-year,” said Perakis-Valat.

At the CGF, L’Oréal’s Consumer Products Division highlighted numerous cutting-edge products. One was the Garnier Ultimate Blends (Ultra Doux) No Rinse Conditioner.

“A big part of the consumption impact of beauty is linked to hot water,” said Perakis-Valat.

The new rinse-less conditioner comes contained in a carton tube, with a small cap so as to minimize plastics usage.

Another product on display was the Maybelline SuperStay Vinyl Ink lip product, which has a long-lasting, non-transfer and shiny effect. (Typically, long-lasting and non-transfer products are matte.)

Maybelline SuperStay Vinyl Ink
Maybelline SuperStay Vinyl Ink Courtesy of L'Oréal

Also at CGF, service-wise, the group showcased a new skin diagnosis tool created with Modiface, which helps people select foundation shades.

“It allows you to sell a foundation online,” said Perakis-Valat. “If you think about mass, it is a self-service environment, and thanks to tech, we can put service in [that] self-service environment.”

Sustainable consumption was another major theme at the CGF. To help bolster that, L’Oréal has developed the Product Impact Labelling system, for example. That was created to inform the group’s consumers about the environmental and social impact of L’Oréal’s products, and was first introduced for Garnier hair care in France in 2020.

L’Oréal is also a member of the EcoBeautyScore Consortium, which involves 36 cosmetics industry companies and associations. They have set out to co-develop an environmental assessment and scoring system for cosmetics products industry-wide.

“That’s a good example of the power of collaboration for us — the immediate scale,” said Perakis-Valat.

The CGF issued a common frame on packaging design principles, in order to reduce waste and the carbon footprint. The nine “Golden Design Rules” included focusing on increasing the value of PET recycling and removing “problematic elements” from packaging, such as undetected carbon black, PVC or PVDC, and EPS or PS.

L’Oréal has been a supporter and sponsor of the Consumer Goods Forum since its inception in 2009 for two main reasons.

“First, we really believe in the power of collaboration, in co-creation with retailers and among industry players,” said Perakis-Valat. “The second reason is we believe that together we can create a very powerful force to improve growth for a better world.”

Looking at trends in the consumer beauty products space overall, he highlighted the return of makeup everywhere. (L’Oréal is the biggest player in mass makeup around the globe.)

“What is interesting is that we see it coming back over the levels of 2019,” he said. “It’s true in the U.S. already in mass makeup. In the back half of last year, it was at levels which were already over 2019. Women everywhere in the world are making up for everything they’ve missed — if I may try the play on words. That’s very encouraging.”

Mass makeup in Europe has been recovering, albeit a bit slower. While an emerging zone for consumer beauty products overall is that comprising Latin America, Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Exploring such new territories is part of “democratizing beauty at its best,” said Perakis-Valat

“It’s true that we’ve got a huge reservoir of middle-class consumers that we’re not touching yet with our brands,” he said.