Supply and transport disruptions ‘biggest’ 2021 challenge for UK beauty

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis and Brexit have created significant disruptions in the cosmetics supply chain, resulting in cost hikes and availability woes [Getty Images]
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis and Brexit have created significant disruptions in the cosmetics supply chain, resulting in cost hikes and availability woes [Getty Images]

Related tags Supply chain freight transport Raw material costs Ingredient suppliers COVID-19 Brexit SCS Formulate

Supply and transport disruptions caused by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and compounded by Brexit have been the most difficult hurdle for UK beauty and personal care businesses this year.

Right at the start of the COVID-19 crisis, seismic shifts​ were seen in consumer shopping habits, expectations and priorities. And whilst these shifts hit some parts of the beauty industry hard – makeup plummeted​ in the early months – the category had somewhat rebounded. Now, 18-months on however, brands, manufacturers, suppliers and distributors were reeling from the logistical breakdowns worldwide caused by COVID-19.

All of the world’s biggest beauty and personal care brands had referenced supply chain disruptions and rising raw material costs​, with many factoring in price hikes​ and restructuring to accommodate and absorb this impact. For UK industry, the Brexit formalisation had compounded these issues further.

CosmeticsDesign-Europe spoke to suppliers and distributors at this year’s SCS Formulate in Coventry, UK, last week to find out more.

Natalie Rance, sales director for cosmetics ingredients, Symrise UK: “Every aspect of supply chain is compromised”

Rance said: “Supply is a huge issue and (…) it’s just going to get worse. Every aspect of supply chain is compromised, from the freight to the packaging to the starting materials, so I think that’s going to be a big problem.”

And Brexit had compounded lots of this disruption for many UK beauty companies, she said. Overall, supply chain disruptions were the “critical”​ challenge for industry this year, she said, because they were also fuelling dramatic cost increases across the board.

On top of this, as consumers and industry emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, a dip in disposable income would likely halt the “great rise in premium”​ seen across beauty during lockdowns.

Jackie Searle, business manager for personal care EMEA, Innospec Performance Chemicals: “The biggest challenge is availability, shipping, freight”

Searle said: “The biggest challenge is availability, shipping, freight; just where COVID has caused disruption, even down to plantations. Many of our overseas partners that we would normally be able to work with all the time [have seen] lots of closures.”

In addition to COVID, Europe had seen changing weather patterns with floods in markets like Holland, Belgium and Germany that had also caused causing supply disruptions, she said.

Because of these two events, the most critical challenge for industry in 2021 was “getting the raw materials to the right places at the right time” ​to make products, she said.

Nicolar Bowyer, business development manager for personal care, Alfa Chemicals: “We have had to very much pre-empt problems coming down the line”

Bowyer said: “Transport issues affecting supply is, for us as a distributor, the challenge, and for our suppliers who are in quite an awkward position in some cases. And it’s out of their control and it’s out of our control. That’s been the biggest challenge this year, post-Brexit and with COVID.”

What would continue to be important for distributors and suppliers within all of this, she said, was looking ahead or “contingency planning”.

“…We have had to very much pre-empt problems coming down the line and be very much on the ball with that,”​ she said.

Amy Poulton, sales development specialist, Croda: “Little breaks in the chain have a knock-on effect”

Poulton said: “I think supply chain is probably the biggest challenge. Obviously, with COVID, even now when people are having to isolate more than they would, there are just various difficulties that happen with supply chain.”

Food shortages, for example, were still visible in supermarkets, she said, and if these were related to shipping disruptions, it was likely food wouldn’t be the only industry impacted.

“…Just little breaks in the chain have a knock-on effect on the supply chain for everything, including cosmetics,” ​she said.

Ben Rowlinson, sales manager for personal and home care, Barentz UK: “It’s all to do with availability”

Rowlinson said: “So, the biggest challenges that we’ve seen are raw material-related. It’s all to do with availability. Lots of raw materials, unfortunately, haven’t been available.”

And this lack of availability, he said, had caused “large, large price increases”​ along with freight issues for the cosmetics industry.  

On top of this, Brexit had intensified raw material availability and cost issues, he said.

Matthew Taylor, regional sales manager, ProTec Ingredia: “That’s going to carry on for the foreseeable future at least”

Taylor said: “For the UK, transport and getting goods here is the biggest issue at the moment. And that’s going to carry on for the foreseeable future at least.”

For many UK suppliers, he said Brexit had created significant challenges in transport networks.

Dil Sarker, technical manager, Chemlink Specialties: “The situation with Brexit has exacerbated the problem”

Sarker said: “Supply chain is difficult, very difficult. It’s the main problem. Because even if a particular material doesn’t come from China directly, maybe the precursors for it may come from there. And obviously the situation with Brexit has exacerbated the problem.”

There had been great difficulties, for example, in sourcing dihydroxyacetone (DHA) – the active ingredient in most self-tanning products – he said, and that likely wouldn’t resolve before March or April next year.

Beyond this, he said some beauty companies would face the challenge of getting “back into the swing of thinking outside the box”​ with R&D again, after COVID-19 put a pause to so much.

William Cook, sales director, Adina Cosmetic Ingredients: “It’s obviously a global issue, beyond just cosmetics”

Cook said: “Obviously, everybody is having logistics issues. We’ve spent more of this show talking about getting stock to people and how to solve some of those issues, which is obviously a global issue, beyond just cosmetics.”

Beyond this, he said addressing formulation challenges around naturals continued to be a big focus and somewhat of a challenge for industry, along with “finding ways of innovating”​ as regulations “cut in”​ around formulation teams.

David Meredith, business manager for personal care, Lehvoss UK: “It’s not such an open playing field”

Meredith said: “The biggest challenge for industry is the emphasis or switch to sustainability. Naturality is now expected; we’re moving over to sustainability.”

Increased focus, for example, on the carbon footprint of a product and its ingredients was making it “more difficult to source ingredients”,​ particularly those considered sustainable, he said. “…It’s not such an open playing field.”

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