While the brand has maintained a presence in Asia for two decades, the region only amounts to about 4% to 5% of the business, leaving plenty of room for growth.
‘Naturally’ meeting demand
Raphaël Yousri, president of Ales Groupe, said: “Coming to Asia is an opportunity for us. That opportunity for us is that we are finally meeting the expectations of the Asian consumers, and we are meeting them naturally. For instance, in Asia it is very common to colour your hair or straighten it. The more you go through these processes, the more you need repair and that is one of the many opportunities for us.”
He added that the brand’s sophisticated products fit in well with the Asian consumer.
“The Asian consumer is very technical. They want to know how it works and they like to understand everything. Our founder, Mr Patrick Alès, once said it was very difficult to explain his products to his customers. But now, the consumer wants to know and find the information on their own thanks to the web.”
Yahn Alès, marketing manager and grandson of the Phyto founder, added that consumers will resonate with the company’s unique history. “Other brands try to create that storytelling but we don’t have to create a story because it is my family’s story.”
Spirit of innovation
Yousri estimates that 90 to 95% of the hair care products are made for mass distribution and that Phyto stands out from the sea of products for its expertise in natural botanical hair care solutions.
“Innovation is key for Phyto. If you look at the business, there isn’t a lot of innovation in hair care compared to skin care where you have innovations almost every day. There are a lot of botanical brands out there but what is their expertise? We are always innovating with new products, solving new issues.”
Yousri added that the company does not simply want to follow trends but to pioneer new solutions, much like its founder, who was a man ahead of his time.
“Problems like hair thinning, hormonal problems and scalp issues are things that seem obvious now, but they were problems that Mr Patrick Alès discovered while working in his salon and talking to his clients.”
To celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, the company released several new products, a few of which are from the new anti-pollution range, Phytodetox.
While it is a new launch, Yousri claimed that Alès had the idea for the product two decades ago.
“Phytodetox is one of our exciting new products, but in truth, we already had the formula 20 years ago. Mr Patrick Alès discovered one of the ingredients, rhassoul, while in Morocco. We could have launched it then, but there was no market and no need for it,” he said.
China expansion on the horizon
Raphael Cintas, managing director of Ales Groupe Asia, said the company will focus on strengthening its brand image, beginning with its ‘flagship countries’, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Phyto currently has two boutiques in Singapore. The company just launched its first department store counter at Robinsons and will launch more counters in Singapore and Hong Kong to enhance its brand image.
Cintas added that one of the company’s priorities is to strengthen Phyto’s presence in China.
Last May, Phyto launched its flagship stall on Tmall to very ‘promising results’. The brand is also available in offline in China, but only carries 26 SKUs.
“We are speaking to our partner to see how we can really advance in China. It's really about time for us to go forward and invest more in the Chinese market.”
One of the biggest challenges the company faces is adapting to the Chinese market, which the admitted is hard to understand as the company is “more traditional”.
“We are more traditional, but we have to move forward with the trends, especially now that we are working with platforms like Tmall. But this is good, it is pushing us to innovate,” said Cintas.
He added that the company has been making more effort to digitalise itself with video tutorials and short films to engage consumers. He added that consumers will see more digital innovations from them in the future.
“Diagnosis is very important. We will definitely have to innovate in that area. Currently, we are working on specific apps related to diagnosis but it will take time.”