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Optimism At Cosmoprof Asia

Buyers and sellers crowded the 15th annual fair in Hong Kong, optimistic that conditions would continue to improve.

HONG KONG — Buyers and sellers crowded the 15th annual Cosmoprof Asia fair in Hong Kong, optimistic that market conditions would continue to improve.

Attendance at the fair, which was held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre Nov. 10 to 12, numbered 45,100 visitors, up 10 percent from last year. There was also an increase in the number of exhibitors, at 1,633, up 16 percent from last year.

Buyers eyed some of the latest skin care technologies and products and were particularly interested in skin-brightening or whitening products, masks, as well as organic or all-natural items. There were also a number of exhibitors displaying nail art and false lashes, as well as eyelash-enhancement products.

Among the exhibitors were numerous new entrants looking to tap Asia’s growing markets. Consumers in “China today are looking at brands, they want brands. There is a growing middle class,” said Philippe Vignon, founder and managing director of Paris-based Turn’Over International, which has been looking to distribute premium, mass-market French perfumes in China, Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia.

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The company has been talking to large Asian retailers such as Sasa and Watson’s, and has been creating new brands for Asia and China. By creating products with less packaging, company executives contend it is able to compete with Chinese and Indian firms on price.

Attendees noted that buyers have continued pushing for lower prices but have also been buying in larger quantities, pointing to better market conditions.

Grace Wang of Ladies Biotech Co. Ltd., a Taiwan-based cosmetics producer that makes private label products for Chinese and other Asian companies, noted that business has been on a “rebound.” Buyers “want to spend more” and are buying “larger quantities than last year,” she said.

Buyers still push for discounts on popular, conventional products such as silk or cotton masks, she said. Wang noted there’s been a lot of interest in the company’s new biocellulose mask, which is designed to cool the skin.

The economic slump of the last two years has pushed the cosmetics industry toward lower price points in the mass market.

One mass-market seller, Germany’s Straub Beaute, which produces shower gels and body lotions, noted sales have been up even during the economic downturn. Sales have been particularly strong in Asia, where the cities are “booming,” said Jelto A. Hendriok, Straub’s chief executive officer.

Another company, Israeli beauty products manufacturer Intercosma Ltd., said sales of the firm’s mass-market products have grown by 60 percent over the last two years.

But as market conditions have improved, sellers have become more optimistic about growth in the higher-end market. Straub, for instance, has a higher-end product line focusing on all-natural skin care. Intercomsa is looking to introduce private label products featuring salts and other natural ingredients from the Dead Sea, said Sandy Golan, export manager at Intercosma.

“The concept of the Dead Sea is becoming more known as there are more Asian visitors coming to visit,” Golan said.

She added that the biggest challenge so far hasn’t been the economy, but tough regulatory hurdles to enter the Japanese and South Korean cosmetics markets.

There was a particular focus on organic products at the fair and a number of exhibitors displayed natural or herbal vitamin supplements, teas or oils alongside more conventional skin care products.

A focus on natural ingredients has been a marketing point for Miami-based True Keratin, which is starting to distribute its hair treatment products in Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia.

Hair treatments containing keratin were recently hit by a scandal over the use of formaldehyde in certain products. True Keratin has one all-natural product line with no formaldehyde, said Justin LeBrun, the firm’s international sales executive.

“There’s a growing awareness of organic products, even in China,” said Tina Lee, marketing manager at Tankos Co. Ltd., which distributes organic skin care line Naturys from Italy.