Guochao: The trend that’s boosting China’s domestic beauty brands

China’s history-led aesthetic is strengthening local personal care product manufacturers’ market position

For evidence that China’s nationalistic ‘guochao’ consumer trend is gathering pace in the personal care product sector, look to the country’s powerful e-commerce sector.

In February 2021, the turnover of cosmetics on China’s Taobao platform was Chinese Yuan Renminbi CNY14.7bn (US$2.3bn), a year-on-year increase of 11%, with the top brand in sales being the guochao-oriented personal care product brand Hangzhou-based Florasis Hua Xizi. It had a Taobao turnover of CNY276m, booking a year-on-year increase of 103.5%.

Florasis Hua Xizi’s main products are ‘explosive air’ face powder, triangle eyebrow pencil and carved lipstick, whose guochao characteristics include packaging that sports Chinese characters resembling those used 1,000 years ago. The face powder has a historically-styled pack carving, meanwhile, and the eyebrow pencil looks like an ancient fountain pen.

It was followed in top Taobao sales performance by Guangzhou-based Perfect Diary, whose range uses reds and wood-like materials in packaging and product colouring that recall the screens of ancient Chinese palaces.

These examples illustrate how China’s guochao trend is picking up ever more steam. Indeed, observers warn that it might push foreign cosmetics brands’ China sales out of the comfort zone before long.

What is guochao?

Guochao, which literally translates as ‘national tide’, has no clear-cut definition in terms of its ingredients, function or marketing, but usually transmits essential ‘Chineseness’ into the Chinese market with ancient China-themed designs.

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