Sensitive skin care success: Suu Balm gears up for expansion into Hong Kong and Indonesia

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Suu Balm, is preparing to expand into Hong Kong and Indonesia. ©Suu Balm
Suu Balm, is preparing to expand into Hong Kong and Indonesia. ©Suu Balm

Related tags Sensitive skin Singapore suu balm Skin care Eczema

Singapore-based sensitive skin brand, Suu Balm, is preparing to expand into Hong Kong and Indonesia following its success in its home market and Malaysia.

Launched around four years ago, the brand is expecting its retail value of sales to exceed S$5m (US$3.63m) in its home market alone by the end of its financial year.

“Things have gone way better than we ever thought it would. In the first year, we more than doubled our initial target of S$100,000. That’s when we realised the potential of the product. Since then, we have been growing at an average of 180% a year. Right now, we’re just thinking of how we can keep this going,”​ said Dr John O’Shea, co-founder of Suu Balm.

The company’s strategy to drive growth involves expanding into new markets. Suu Balm is currently available all over Asia in countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines. It also has a presence in the UK and Ireland.

Its next venture is to expand into Hong Kong where the company has already set up a subsidiary and hired its key personnel. The brand will be launching in Hong Kong’s Watsons stores by the end of October.

O’Shea told CosmeticsDesign-Asia ​the company was optimistic about its expansion despite the turmoil that has plagued the country in recent months.

“The Hong Kong launch is a big deal for us... From what we understand on the ground, [the situation] looks horrific from the outside but in reality, even though it’s not good, it’s also not quite as bad as it seems,” ​said O’Shea.

He continued: “Of course there's an impact on retail from the unrest but the segment that has been hit most is the tourism segment, in particular, the cross-border Chinese tourism market. Domestic, more need-driven retail has not been hit anywhere near as badly.”

The firm’s next target is to expand its footprint into Indonesia by 2020. According to O’Shea, the company has already laid out the foundations to launch in Indonesia. It has already found a distribution partner and its products are already halal-certified.

Driving growth through product innovation

The company also hopes to drive growth through new product launches that feed the growing consumer demand for sensitive skin products.

“There is a growing group of people who have or think they have sensitive skin. Either which way, it’s a growing segment and that’s very interesting for us because our products are very much in line with that segment,”​ said O’Shea.

This observation, he added, was in line with the trends its retail partners were seeing.

“From discussion with our retail partners, the category of products for sensitive skin is growing really, really fast. They tell us they are growing at double-digits, which is much higher than the overall retail growth rate,” ​said O’Shea.

Since launching its original product, the firm has since launched a kid-friendly range and it recently launched an anti-itch scalp spray. Come October, it will launch its first line of face care products.

However, O’Shea stressed that the company does not believe in saturating the market and its portfolio with a plethora of products.

“We are very cognisant of not confusing our customer with too many products. We want to be thoughtful of what we launch, when and why.”

The decision to develop a product often comes from its consumers’ feedback.

“The face care series came from conversations with our customers. They often ask if they can use our original creams on the face, but those contain methol, which can sting the eyes,” ​said O’Shea.

The company also turns to Dr Tey Hong Liang, the inventor of Suu Balm and the head of the Itch Clinic at the National Skin Centre in Singapore. This is part of the firm’s ongoing research and collaboration approach with NSC and Tey.

“We launched the scalp spray because Dr Tey saw that a lot of patients with itchy skin also have itchy scalp and it drove him nuts. So we developed an easy to apply, sprayable product to stop the itching.”

Even then, O’Shea said the firm prefers to take its time to develop a product.

“In theory, today you can probably get something on shelves in eight to nine months but we spend longer than that, around one or two years. We want to get the right ingredients, the right feel. We want a product that meets the unmet needs and really works for it.”

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