In just 12 years, Germany’s Cosnova—with its value-priced makeup lines Essence and Catrice—has leaped from 96th place in the Top 100 in 2009 to 68th in 2012.
Today, the company’s teen-oriented Essence is the world’s largest low-priced makeup brand, ranking first in volume in 11 markets, including at home, according to Euromonitor International. Cosnova estimates it’s the leader in Europe’s value color-cosmetics segment (outside the Commonwealth of Independent States) in unit terms, alongside Maybelline New York.
The company’s goals are as ambitious as its sales. Management’s stated short-term aim is to become first across Europe in all makeup price segments on a volume basis.
What’s fueling the growth?
In 2001, when she founded the company (originally called Cosma) with business partner Javier Gonzalez, Cosnova general manager Christina Oster-Daum fashioned a philosophy that all women should be able to indulge in beauty.
“Our idea was to prove that it’s possible to offer high-quality, innovative, trendy products for low prices,” says Oster-Daum.
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To wit, Essence products retail for an average of ¤2, or $2.60 at current exchange, while items from Catrice, introduced in 2004 to target adult women, sell for approximately ¤4, or $5.24. Twice yearly, Essence introduces up to 24 limited-edition products and Catrice, 15.
The company favors word-of-mouth recommendations and social media buzz over large-scale advertising pushes.
After its domestic debut, Cosnova quickly expanded across Europe and is now distributed in 67 countries in more than 22,000 doors, including Ulta in the U.S. Further incursions are expected into markets such as Libya, Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, Estonia, Iraq and Israel.
Cosnova is also moving into other product categories. Responding to consumer demand, it launched skin care in 2007 and fragrance under Essence in 2012.
“We’re open to exploring lifestyle and other product categories as long as they fit our spirit,” says Oster-Daum. While the economic downturn may have contributed to consumers being further attracted to the company’s offer, she believes keeping products trendy and accessible guarantees long-term loyalty.
“If people find the quality, color, innovation, why should they move away?” Oster-Daum asks.
They haven’t. Cosnova’s 2012 net sales rose 28 percent year-on-year to ¤212.1 million, with international business accounting for more than half for the first time. Company revenues have grown almost 750 percent since the firm’s first year—the stuff of dreams for many. —CYNTHIA MARTENS