That is the take of Rachel Chan, chief of relationships at green beauty brand LUXE Botanics.
Even though the brand was founded in Singapore, only 15% of the business is in Asia. Instead, most of the business, roughly 70%, is concentrated in the US and Canada.
The company decided to focus on the West as the green beauty market was more mature than in APAC.
“We needed the traction in the US to gain our press and influence. The maturity of the brand matters as well. If you don’t have equity behind you, people aren’t going to take you on,” said Chan.
After three years, the brand is still focused on its business in the US. However, it is already gearing up to expand its footprint in APAC.
Green is still a niche
According to Chan, green beauty is still in its infancy in Asia.
“Asia is still a mass beauty market at present and consumers are still looking for big name brands. In terms of green beauty, there aren't any big players at the moment, or specialist retailers.”
However, she believes this will change in the coming years.
“Awareness [of green beauty] has grown, but not in the mainstream at the moment, just a niched market,” said Chan.
Chan pointed out that the rising consumer interest in Australian beauty and Japanese beauty could potentially drive interest towards green beauty.
“When people think about Australian beauty, they think about the pristine environments… and J-beauty is rooted in self-care and wellness. These are inherent to green beauty. If you think about the values that are driving those trends, I think green beauty is already taking off. It's only a matter of time before the term itself catches on.”
Education and price pose challenges
One of the challenges that green beauty brands face is education.
The term itself can mean different things to different people and this can confuse beauty consumers.
Chan said the brands likes to think of green beauty as an elevation of clean beauty.
“It's not just about botanical, natural and naturally-derived ingredients. We go that one step further than clean beauty,” she explained.
“We don't use any ingredients that could be a potential irritant, for example synthetic preservatives, emulsifiers or parfum. We err on the side of caution using naturally derived ingredients and green chemistry instead. Green beauty for us also means being a brand that is ethical, sustainable and has accountability. A brand that reduces waste, protects the environment and gives back.”
However, she believes the awareness of green beauty is slowly but surely penetrating the minds of Asian consumers.
“In markets like Singapore and Hong Kong, the knowledge is growing and we see it with the rise of things like veganism and cruelty-free.”
Additionally, she believes Asian consumers will be more hesitant to try green beauty brands because of the price tag.
“People in Asia are quite price-sensitive and green beauty, because of the way ingredients are sourced, are at a more premium price point.”
The premium price tag, however, could be an advantage for green beauty brands.
“Green is seen as a new social cache with a high-end tag. Asian consumers are willing to pay a premium price point if they feel they are getting non-toxic ingredients, personal pride for social responsibility, and finding something unique no one else can easily find,” Chan said.
What’s next for green beauty?
Chan believes it is only a matter of time before the demand for green beauty starts to gain traction in APAC.
The brand will continue to focus on its US market for this year and next year, but it is already looking to a few key markets such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia.
“With an exception to Japan and Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong are considered the tastemakers for Asia in terms of beauty. They are also more mature markets with more spending power,” Chan commented.
Chan said an Australian expansion was a strategic move for the brand and will allow it to springboard into Asia more easily.
“We are looking to align with Australia because out of all the markets in Asia Pacific, it’s the one that is driving that trend. The market will be the most effective and mature to launch our brand. If we launch in SEA now, we might get swallowed up and totally lost on the shelves.”
Chan revealed that the brand was already in talks with an international beauty retailer to bring its products into Australia.
After that phase, the company may look into Japan, Korea and Taiwan, Chan said.
The brand does not see itself looking into other markets in Asia such as Indonesia, Malaysia or the Philippines for the time being, even though Chan believes the rising middle class in those countries presents a large opportunity for any beauty brand.
“We won’t go into any other markets until we see an increase and uptake of green beauty because it’s hard for us as a small brand to be doing all that work ourselves.”
She added that the brand continues to develop relationships with local retailers in order to understand the latest developments in the market.
“Speaking to retailers early on and keeping the relationship with them is important. They can be used as a compass to what is going on in the market.”