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Japanese cosmetic makers capitalise on 'natural' skincare boom

Publication Date : 25-08-2014


Japanese cosmetic makers are strengthening their lineups of products made from plants and other natural ingredients. The domestic market for these products is expanding due to the general belief they are safe and gentle on the skin.

Many of these products are also relatively high-priced, so companies in this field have high hopes that the sector will become a major income source. Companies are acquiring overseas brands and trying to secure supplies of raw plant materials as part of their efforts to establish themselves in this area.

“This product contains the extract of 16,000 natural rose petals. It’s good for your skin,” said a salesclerk at a store in Musashino, western Tokyo, encouraging a young woman to purchase a product from the Australian brand Jurlique.

The woman ended up buying a bottle of toner. “I’m worried about rough skin, so I started using several natural cosmetics. What I like is that it didn’t irritate my skin,” she said.

Jurlique was purchased in November 2011 by Pola Orbis Holdings Inc., a domestic firm. The brand’s marketing focuses on its use of ingredients from plants grown on its own farms.

Riding a boom in natural products, the brand saw sales jump about 1.4-fold last year compared to the previous year.

In Japan, well-known natural cosmetic brands are from Europe, such as Britain’s The Body Shop and L’Occitane en Provence of France, and the United States.

Japanese makers, having poured resources into the race to develop chemical ingredients, have been late to enter the natural cosmetic game.

Shiseido Co. and Kose Corp. have acquired overseas brands in an effort to tap into the trend.

Naturally grown

Shiseido began growing rosemary and other plants last year for use in a moisturising mist spray at its factory in Kakegawa, Shizuoka Prefecture.

Seedlings are grown indoors under LED lights and raised without the use of agricultural chemicals after being transplanted in outdoor fields.

“After incidents involving falsely labeled food, people have become more concerned about the materials in their cosmetics,” said Shigeyuki Ogawa of Shiseido’s production and technology development center. “We want people to feel more comfortable, so we increased the strength of our brand by growing what we need ourselves.”

Acro Inc., which manufactures and sells the brand Three under the umbrella of Pola Orbis, obtains raw materials by visiting farmers in Hokkaido and Okinawa Prefecture as well as Bulgaria and other overseas destinations, to acquire rose petals.

Prices for some raw materials used in natural cosmetics have fluctuated dramatically, such as last year’s four- to five-fold increase in the price of yuzu seed oil, which is known for its whitening effects.

This has made strong relationships with suppliers essential to ensuring stable procurement.

Domestic shipments for natural cosmetics were 104 billion (US$1 billion) in fiscal 2013, up at least 30 per cent in the past five years, according to Yano Research Institute Ltd.

The market for cosmetics as a whole has largely plateaued due to the low birthrate and other factors, which has companies pinning their hopes on continued growth in sales of natural products.


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