K-Wonder: Triumph of SME brands highlights strength of K-beauty on the global stage – Olive Young

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Olive Young says smaller domestic beauty brands are booming and proving key to the success of the K-beauty industry globally. [Getty Images]
Olive Young says smaller domestic beauty brands are booming and proving key to the success of the K-beauty industry globally. [Getty Images]

Related tags K-Beauty Korea

South Korean health and beauty retailer Olive Young says smaller domestic beauty brands are booming and proving key to the success of the K-beauty industry globally.

Olive Young is one of the leading health and beauty retail chains, owned by South Korean conglomerate CJ Group.

In 2019, Olive Young launched its global e-commerce website that ships to 150 countries worldwide. Since 2020, sales on Olive Young Global has shown steady growth, with an average annual sales increase of around 100%, said the firm.

It has also grown its membership base from 30,000 in the first year to more than 600,000 today.

In addition to its own website, Olive Young has also expanded through local e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Rakuten and Tmall for the US, Japan and China respectively.

According to it, approximately 70% of its offerings are from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The firm expressed that these SMEs were integral to the success of its overseas business. 

It highlighted the potential of newer players like Abib have consistently made appearance on Olive Young’s product rankings, and now exports internationally to 30 countries.

"It is Olive Young's role to constantly discover talented brands and nurture them so that they can demonstrate their capabilities beyond the domestic market and in the global market."

At the same time, it is seeing older brands like Skin Food doing well too.

Established in the early 2000s, Skinfood was one of the pioneers of K-beauty. However, the brand found itself in financial trouble after tourism levels dropped because of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) crisis.

Olive Young said the brand has “succeeded in making a comeback”,​ noting that it has made it to the top of the rankings under the pad category with its moisturising Carrot Carotene Calming Water Pad, beating out brands like COSRX, Mediheal and Abib.

Olive Young is also seeing more premium foreign brands expanding in its doors to as a means of reaching out to the younger generation of consumers. This includes brands such as Clinique, Urban Decay and Moroccanoil.

Trends 2022

With the relaxation of mask-wearing rules globally, the retailer observed that colour cosmetics sales enjoyed the largest growth. The lip makeup category also saw recovery, with K-beauty brands like rom&nd, which is best known for its lip products, growing by 108% year-on-year as of November.

Skin care also showed solid growth. The retailer highlighted Round Lab, which it said “dominated”​ the toner and sun care categories, growing 62% in the same period.

Vegan beauty continued to be an important trend with vegan beauty brand Amuse sales increasing by eight-fold over the same period.

Olive Young has also observed new trends, such as the feminine care. It has carved out a new category, W-Care, which consists of four sub-categories dedicated to products such as intimate washes, sanitary pads, and sexual health products.

The trend is driven by rising awareness of feminine care among the young generation, with popular K-beauty brands like Aromatica, Dermatory and Illiyoon all launching dedicated fem care products.

The company is also seeing increasing interest in health foods, with brands like Foodology rising quickly up the ranks after launching Olive Young less than a year ago. The functional food brand is now the top brand in the slimming category.

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