An eye for beauty - Beauty Focus


London’s Festival Hall was the impressive setting for the second Beauty Focus conference, Wilmington’s annual marketing and brand strategy event, held in association with SPC and ECM magazines. Katie Rodgers reports on an enlightening two days

London’s Festival Hall was the impressive setting for the second Beauty Focus conference, Wilmington’s annual marketing and brand strategy event, held in association with SPC and ECM magazines. Katie Rodgers reports on an enlightening two days

Brand owners and marketers gathered together from 12-13 May to hear directional and detailed talks from a wide range of C&T industry disciplines. The event aimed to highlight current topics in today’s industry and speakers gave their professional take on issues that have affected their own brands and decision making.


Chaired by cosmetics consultant and regular SPC contributor John Woodruff, day one kicked off with Amarjit Sahota from Organic Monitor who discussed the challenges and opportunities in the UK market for natural and organic beauty products. He began by saying that the UK organic and naturals C&T market is now worth £110m and that 1.8% of all cosmetics sold in this country are of the natural variety, with most being sold through organic food shops and health food shops. He added: “Many private label brands have also entered the market – since January last year Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s have launched their own natural/organic product lines.”

While the market is thriving there is still widespread customer confusion as to what is certified organic and Sahota agreed this needs further clarification. “With increasing product segmentation the need for certification is bigger than ever. The Soil Association is certifying more brands than ever and research shows that customers will pay up to a third more for this certification.

“There is also a need for harmonisation and proliferation of organic and natural standards. There needs to be greater clarity on what is organic and the role of symbols and logos could play a valid part here.”

Liz Butterfield from the Soil Association concurred with this view in her paper Unravelling organic standards.

She gave advice on what the Soil Association’s organic certification could mean for a business.

“Organic products appeal to people for the health benefits, ethically and environmentally. And whether it’s food or cosmetics, we have seen a sharp increase in businesses wanting to gain our certification. UK organic sales topped £2m in 2007 and that spending power is driving people forward.”

She explained that certification ensures consumer trust by “inspecting something against a set of organic standards”. The Soil Association looks for the following when judging whether to certify a product: maximum organic ingredients, minimum synthetic ingredients, product traceability and clear labelling. Butterfield added: “It takes approximately six to 12 weeks for a company to gain certification and if they are successful they can enjoy many benefits. We offer high standards of knowledge and expertise as well as technical innovation and guidance.”

Adding their thoughts into the mix were Andrew Jenkins and Tamara Sharpe of Boots’ Botanics, with their talk entitled The sustainable product journey: developing your own organic brand. Boots Botanics was launched in 1994 and the company launched its self-certified Botanics Organics range last October. To facilitate the 96% organic certification, Boots developed its own standard called the Boots Organic Standard. Sharpe explained: “Because Boots is such a global brand, rather than aim for Soil Association Certification which isn’t recognised overseas, we decided to create our own.”


David Bowles, head of external affairs at the RSPCA, was up next and spoke about The challenges and benefits of an ethical stance on animal welfare in the beauty industry. He specifically called for greater consumer clarification as to whether products have or have not been tested on animals.

“We know consumers are very interested when it comes to cruelty-free beauty products but they tell us that they sometimes find it hard to know what is and what isn’t cruelty-free. We call on businesses and brands to be clearer and suggest that if they do this it could also help their sales. The UK humane cosmetics market is worth £173m and this can only increase if clarification takes place.”

Bowles said that things have vastly improved since the 2003 Cosmetics Directive came into play and that this will be further strengthened by 2009’s deadline, meaning that no beauty product containing cosmetic ingredients tested on animals can be marketed or sold in any EU country. He ended his talk by encouraging C&T companies to enter the RSPCA’s Good Business Awards, which rewards companies for taking a stance on animal welfare. “Previous companies honoured include Marks & Spencer and Lush and we want any company which does its bit for the welfare of animals to put themselves forward for recognition.”


Appropriately, next to speak was Hilary Jones, director of ethics at Lush and winner of the RSPCA Good Business Award for cosmetics for the last two years. In her talk Beauty business in an ugly world she emphasised how businesses could take a stand against animal testing while still producing effective products and making a profit at the same time. Lush currently turns over £150m per year and has 486 shops in 44 countries.

Jones said that Lush and its employees passionately believe in making natural products that use ethically sourced ingredients. “We make every effort to be ethically and environmentally friendly. We don’t test on animals, instead we use human volunteers and we limit the number of machines in our production factory to reduce emissions. On the packaging front, we try to sell as many products as possible ‘naked’ or without packaging. When we have to use it, we use light, simple packaging and 100%

post consumer waste paper bags. A total of 55% of the Lush range is displayed naked equating to 6.3 million items last year alone.”

Jones acknowledged that a big section of Lush’s business was gifts and admitted they struggled with using so much packaging when it goes against the company’s ethos. The company works round it by using handmade or recycled paper tags, recyclable boxes or boxes that can be reused as something else, such as a hat box. Lush also uses popcorn instead of paper for packaging in all its mail order deliveries.

Speaking from a similar standpoint Jonathan Stallick and Hilery Dorrian, founders of skin care company Barefoot Botanicals, talked about the challenges they’ve faced in formulating naturally. Speaking about their company, founded in Dorrian’s kitchen in 1997, they said it was vital that they produced natural products, based on effective active ingredients.

But Dorrian explained that cultivating the natural active ingredients needed for their formulations is not without its challenges: “We are at the whim of nature for some things and sourcing natural ingredients can be very costly. Crops can fail and prices can shoot through the roof – for example sunflower oil has gone from 75p per kilo to £1.79 per kilo recently and the changeable weather in this country can affect the growth of actives such as lavender.”


WRAP’s Peter Skelton then took to the floor to discuss Reducing the environmental impact of products and packaging. Skelton is key account manager for the government’s Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which helps businesses reduce the waste they produce and to recycle more.

“Six million tonnes of waste is produced by UK homes each year and grocery retail accounts for 70% of industry waste,” said Skelton. “Businesses need to assess how much packaging they use and if it is really necessary. If they can reduce their waste they will help the planet and get a lower packaging bill too.” But there pros and cons to every solution and every business needs to examine carefully what is going to work best in a specific case.

His advice to delegates was: “Take stock of your current situation, look at what your competitors are doing, define your strategy and then implement it. Once you have done that, tell people about it.”

Hot on the heels of this talk came Luke Cox and Geoff Leaver from Envirowise, the government supported environmental consultation service, who spoke about working with companies who employed environmentally friendly methods and saved money in the process. Leaver explained: “To be successful, companies need to eliminate waste at the source as 80% of the cost of a product is set at the design stage. More worryingly, 93% of production materials are not used in the final product and 80% of products are discarded after a single use. We worked with Virgin Vie and Home who proved the theory that using less material is more cost efficient. The company worked with us to redesign the packaging on a selection of its products and has currently saved £100,400 and the overall predictions are even more impressive. We predict that it will save a total of £114,500 overall, 37 tonnes of packaging and 61 tonnes of carbon dioxide.”

Day one was concluded by Joanna Norman, from specialist fragrance consultancy Pandora Ltd, who talked on UK fragrance trends in the 21st century. She spoke about the sheer number of fragrances launched in the UK – 340 in 2007 alone – and the fact that this huge choice had lead to higher quality and value expectations.

Norman charted trends that have been significant over the past six years. “In 2002 we saw the emergence of the first celebrity fragrances with the likes of Jennifer Lopez’s scent J Lo. Then 2004-2005 saw the proliferation of brand flankers with brands like Dior offering a raft of flanker scents to accompany its signature Poison scent. In 2006-2007 we saw the return of floral orientals and also a boom in limited distribution scents with Tom Ford, Miller Harris and Jo Malone leading the way.”

Norman ended her talk by passing round samples of patchouli, peppercorn and the new Chanel Sycamore scent which sparked animated conversation among delegates as to which they thought would be the next big thing in 2008.


Day two kicked off with Euromonitor’s Alexander Kirillov discussing Trends in cosmetics today and tomorrow. He said that the C&T market is being increasingly consolidated and has expanded by $65bn since 2001.

“Consumers are trading up and are buying premium beauty products as they feel the higher price points are indicative of better quality. What is interesting is that more frontier markets are emerging, such as Vietnam, Nigeria and Croatia. They are very fast growing C&T markets and certainly ones to watch.”

He discussed key trends in the beauty industry, such as cosmeceuticals and the possible regulation of the active ingredients they sometimes contain. “With many more of these brands now available, there is much more variety on the market, hence the need for regulation is greater. They will also become almost premium products as natural resources become more scarce; cosmeceuticals could become the preserve of the rich only.”

Mark Lockyer from Sampling Innovations was next at the podium emphasising the power that product sampling could have on sales in Capturing the hearts and minds of your consumer. He said that the C&T market is so saturated that it is difficult to grab the customer’s attention. SkyPlus boxes mean adverts can be skipped and it is hard to stand out in magazines because your competitors are in there too.

He made reference to research conducted by publishing company IPC in 2006, which showed that 72% of the 1,000 interviewees said that a free sample of a product would generate interest. This, Lockyer said, proved that sampling still worked as means of piquing interest and converting this into money in the bank for a company. He concluded: “Sampling activity gets your brand noticed, it educates choice based on personal needs not price.”

Nica Lewis, director of cosmetics research at Mintel, then presented a lively debate on What is natural today? She discussed Mintel’s findings that natural and organic ingredients are very popular with UK and French consumers in particular, with 21% of French people using organic skin care and 12% of UK people doing the same. This was also echoed in the baby and toddler skin care arena which Lewis said was “indicative of a shifting lifestyle choice” across Europe.

Mintel data from March this year shows that paraben-free product launches greatly outweighed alcohol-free and chemical-free ones, indicating that this also is a key customer concern.


Penny Turvey, operations director of the GMT Group gave an insightful talk on Spa trends: potential growth and development. Turvey discussed the increasing popularity of spa treatments and visits.

She shared the secrets to maintaining a successful spa business: “A spa’s key asset is its people – be it the therapists or the receptionist – all help facilitate the smooth running of the business. The customer, however, must remain the top priority and the staff should map every step of the client journey with them to ensure maximum satisfaction at all times.”

Continuing the theme of grooming and pampering, natural men’s skin care company Bulldog’s co-founder Simon Duffy gave the penultimate address of the conference highlighting issues around male grooming.

“We launched the Bulldog brand last year as we saw a gap in the market for a men’s skin care range which was effective but also natural, recognising that men hold as much store with what goes onto their skin as women do.”

Duffy emphasised how vital it was to target the right segment of the market when the brand launched and said that he and his co-founder Rhodri Ferrier chose the Bulldog icon because it was loyal, protective and an iconic symbol of British masculinity.

The second Beauty Focus was brought to a close by Beverley Law of Dew Gibbons, who shared her lighthearted top ten tips to trend heaven (left) to help delegates get the best out of their businesses. Law, who also chaired day two of the event, said it had been “an enlightening and informative two days for delegates,” as she rounded up the successful conference. The C&T market is ever changing and it offers as many challenges as opportunities, but Beauty Focus provided delegates food for thought on many topics and hope and inspiration for continued industry success.


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