While the definition of green beauty encompasses many elements from organic ingredients to ethics, most Chinese consumers equate it with safety.
“Generally speaking, for the Chinese beauty consumers, ‘green’ means safe, healthy and fewer side effects from an efficacy perspective,” said Zhigang Miao head of industrial & consumer specialties, Clariant China.
According to Clariant’s China arm, this trend steadily growing among millennial consumers – those born post-1980s.
“They are well educated and open-minded and caring more about their appearance and health, as well as the environment. This demographic also has certain economic capabilities to realise their wishes for better and more sustainable living standard,” said Miao.
He believes this trend is being driven mainly by economy and consumption upgrade trends in China.
“With economy and consumption upgrading in China, more and more consumers echo the voice of enjoying a healthy and environmentally compatible low-carbon lifestyle,” said Miao.
This is further reinforced by the Chinese government’s emphasis on green development.
“Chinese central and local governments are emphasising more and more on green development and people are also caring about related concepts of environmental protection and sustainability. To satisfy regulatory requirements, renewable, degradable and environmental- friendly products are the future of the cosmetics industry,” said Miao.
Additionally, Miao believes Chinese consumers will embrace the trend readily thanks to their deep-rooted belief in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
“Due to the long-term impact of TCM, the Chinese beauty consumer can readily accept the concept of green efficacy. You can find lots of marketing and advertising terms like ‘green healthy’, ‘natural herbs’ or ‘traditional herbal ingredients’ that are very well established among consumers.”
Green goes mainstream
Miao believes the green beauty trend is no longer a niche with brands such as Innisfree, Origins and Oriflame in the mass market.
That said, the potential for green beauty still remains an area for huge potential, considering the nation’s large population.
“Although China has become the second-largest cosmetics market after the USA, per capita consumption is only about one fifth to one-seventh of developed markets like those in the USA, Japan and Korea,” explained Miao.
“Considering China’s population base, you can imagine cosmetics can be a giant instead of a niche market in China even if we increase the consumption per person only little by little.”
Miao added that he expected the e-commerce effect to further accelerate the trend.
“From high-end to general products, brand owners can always find appropriate consumers if the products offered really match with their demands. It might be a niche in some specific segments, but when combined, it’s really a giant market,” he elaborated.
To satisfy the swelling demand, companies like Clariant are prioritising their investments into green technology.
Most recently, the company launched Prenylium, an ingredient which protects the skin from matrisome degradation.
Prenylium is produced by a patented Plant Milking Technology, which explores generally inaccessible plant parts, such as the roots - without needing to kill the flora while being able to produce rare compounds on an industrial scale.
“As the green trend continues to grow in an expanding market, we can envision that more and more companies will invest largely on green technologies for higher efficacy and better safety performance, including advanced manufacturing devices, state-of-art production processes, renewable and biodegradable raw materials,” said Miao.
With such resources, the company expects to excel in this area, despite the fierce competition it faces.
Miao concluded: “China is a fast-moving market, with cosmetics development cycle measured by hours. Ambitious companies shall penetrate related target groups with good awareness and agility to preserve competitiveness.”