Chinese brands – or C-beauty – used to be the affordable alternatives to pricier foreign brands, but a new generation of C-beauty brands that have emerged is quickly changing the narrative.
“In recent years, we have witnessed an unprecedented growth and outbreak in China’s local beauty industry,” said Shirley Xue, managing director Beiersdorf Northeast Asia.
According to the China Brand Development Report released by Alibaba, local brands now account for 72% of the market and Beiersdorf expects this to rise.
“We generally believe that the industry will continuously witness new players leading the market, and more emerging brands will be verified by both the consumer market and the capital market,” said Xue.
Chinese consumers’ attitudes towards brands have shifted significantly in recent years, their preferences now seeming to skew towards domestic brands.
Local brands have proven adept at outsmarting their foreign counterparts at winning the hearts of Chinese consumers.
“Chinese local beauty brands are good at creating young and innovative images by effectively grasping the hot spots and capturing social media traffic. They are capable of better understanding and catering the younger generations by creative packaging design, e-commerce operations, KOL & KOC communications on social platforms,” said Xue.
Furthermore, she expects the rise of domestic brands will be driven by the growing base of younger consumers, the rapid evolution of digital media, as well as the large amounts of investments being poured into the industry.
“With the quick rise of new generation consumers – Gen Zs – and the diversification of digital media channels, huge amounts of entrepreneurial and investment opportunities are happening in the Chinese local beauty industry,” said Xue.
The potential of these brands is not limited to their home market. As evidenced by the global expansion of Perfect Diary, the C-beauty brand by Yatsen Holding, which has last year raised U$617m in a US initial public offering (IPO).
“With the rapid growth and innovation of the Chinese beauty industry, recent years we have witnessed more C-beauty brands’ trending in the overseas markets. We believe that its worth expecting greater potential in the future,” said Xue.
On June 17, Beiersdorf announced that following the success of its NIVEA Accelerator (NX) in Seoul, South Korea, it would be expanding the program to Shanghai, China.
“After accumulating the rich experiences in South Korea, we decided to officially bring the NX program to China, where the market is full of expectations and large potential. We hope to find like-minded start-ups and local indie skin care brands, and to provide comprehensive support and win-win opportunities,” said Xue.
The NX program was launched in 2019 as Beiersdorf’s first global beauty start-up accelerator in South Korea and has since achieved a leading market position there.
“For the past two years, we have collaborated with ten early and mid-term start-ups in the industry, and provided them with customised acceleration plans including brand co-building, marketing cooperation, skin data analysis… and finally helped the first batch startups succeed in reaching a total of 130% annual sales growth,” said Xue.
The first batch of five start-ups for NX China include indie beauty brands Lake Lab, BASIC Lab, Turflan and MOJA.
“NX China will join hands with cutting-edge beauty brands in the China market to bring different experiences to consumers, and to incubate new market trends for the Chinese beauty industry,” said Xue.
These start-ups would be able to tap into the multinational’s vast expertise, as well as benefit from Beiersdorf’s newly opened Innovation Center in Shanghai – the company’s second-largest research centre in the world.
“[The Innovation Center in Shanghai] will also support the start-ups in multiple ways, such as skin care product research and development, industry knowledge consultation and so on. We believe the expansion will create synergies between Beiersdorf and disruptive beauty startups in China, thus further driving our innovation power in the region,” said Xue.
Furthermore, Beiersdorf signed a partnership agreement with China's largest B2C platform, Alibaba’s Tmall to co-incubate the Chinese start-ups.
While the first batch of start-ups is all from China, the program is open to indie brands from all over the world, said Xue.
“For NX China, Beiersdorf not only offers opportunities for local start-ups and brands but also welcomes global indie brands in the skin care sector that want to enter the Chinese market and build their own local teams in Shanghai.’