French beauty achieves ‘record’ year in 2021 exports: FEBEA

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

French beauty trade with China hit an all-time high in 2021, representing €1.9bn in business, with the APAC country now the 'leading destination' for exports [Getty Images]
French beauty trade with China hit an all-time high in 2021, representing €1.9bn in business, with the APAC country now the 'leading destination' for exports [Getty Images]

Related tags: France, FEBEA, exports, International trade, Business, Makeup, Perfume, China, Us, COVID-19

International trade of French beauty and personal care products was up 2.5% in 2021 versus 2019, largely due to rising trade of makeup, face care and perfumes and record growth rates in exports to China and the US, says the French Federation for Beauty Companies (FEBEA).

Like many markets worldwide, the French beauty and personal care category faced a tough year of business in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with very few companies experiencing growth and many requiring additional support​, particularly SMEs. But, according to a report released by FEBEA this month on French cosmetic exports, the tide had now started to turn with beauty and personal care global exports rebounding.

“After a contrasting year in 2020, French cosmetics has returned to excellent export performance, consolidating our country in its position as the world leader in cosmetics,”​ FEBEA said in a statement.

According to the report, exports of French beauty and personal care products in 2021 tallied up €16.2bn in sales, a solid improvement following declines in 2020 and up 2.5% on exports in 2019. And this, FEBEA said, was largely due to the strong performance of certain markets and categories.

‘Record growth rates’ in China and US exports

Regionally, the French beauty industry reported “record growth rates”​ of exports to China and the US in 2021.

China was now the “leading destination country for French cosmetics exports”​, according to FEBEA. In 2021, cosmetic exports to China represented 11.7% of total French beauty exports at €1.9bn in business, up 56% from 2019 largely due to makeup sales. France now exported more than one in three lipsticks to China, FEBEA said. Since January 2021, French beauty companies had been able to export ‘ordinary’ or general-use cosmetics into China without animal testing​.

Just behind China, 2021 beauty exports to the US generated €1.8bn in business and represented 11.3% of total category exports for the year, largely led by the export of perfumes – up 66% on 2020 levels. Taking up third spot behind China and the US was Germany, with €1.5bn in French beauty exports – 9.5% of total beauty exports for 2021.

By contrast, French beauty exports to the Middle East, Russia and Brazil were down in 2021, according to the report.

Export sales to Russia and Brazil were around 22% lower than 2019 levels and exports to the Middle East dropped 5.7% compared to 2019. FEBEA said exports to Russia and Brazil were largely down because of the “economic situation”​ in these countries and the dip in Middle East business could be linked to disruptions to air traffic and travel retail due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Makeup, face care and perfumes ‘most dynamic for exports’

FEBEA said makeup, face care and perfumes had proven to be the “most dynamic for exports”​ in 2021, combinedly representing 86.2% of total French beauty exports in the year.

Makeup and face care exports totted up sales of €9bn for the year, with face care representing most of this international business at €7.5bn, followed by lipsticks and makeup products for eyes.

The perfume category followed, representing 30.6% of total French beauty exports in 2021. Perfumes was the sector with the best growth rate versus 2020, up 35.4%, according to FEBEA.

“Cosmetics proves its impressive ability to bounce back after the health crisis,”​ said Emmanuel Guichard, general delegate of FEBEA.

“[Industry] was able to benefit, of course, from the return of economic growth, but also to innovate to meet new consumer expectations,”​ Guichard said.

There was also clearly a rising global demand for natural and environmentally friendly beauty products, he said, and this was a space French companies were heavily invested in across R&D and product development.

Made in France – French ‘know-how recognised throughout the world’

Guichard said that, importantly, growth in exports was being driven by French beauty companies “of all sizes”​, from larger multinationals right through to smaller, dynamic SMEs – all proving to be crucial ambassadors of the ‘Made in France’ label.

FEBEA said the “dynamism of exports”​ in 2021 indicated that cosmetics remained a “flagship in French know-how recognised throughout the world”.​ It also showed the industry’s important contribution to the growth of the French economy, it said.

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