23 Aug 2019
Halal Approval and Chinese Know-How Impress at KL Cosmetics Expo
Exhibitors and attendees at the Kuala Lumpur-hosted Cosmobeauté Malaysia were quick to testify to the importance of securing halal certification for a range of products, while mainland culture and investment were rather ubiquitous.
With a combined population of 660 million across 10 countries, Southeast Asia has become the key region in many consumer sectors, with personal care no exception. Accordingly, Cosmobeauté Malaysia is one of a trio of events – alongside Cosmobeauté Vietnam and Cosmobeauté Indonesia – that connect brands with beauty-conscious consumers in three of the region's fastest-developing markets.
According to Mintel, the London-headquartered market-research group, the personal bodycare retail market could be worth in excess of US$101.8 million across the region by the end of this year. Local consumers, though, tend to be highly price-sensitive and shop around for the best deals, making brand loyalty difficult to secure. Throughout Southeast Asia, counterfeiting also remains a real problem, with fake branded cosmetics and even non-legit body-sculpting devices easy to find online.
Young Malaysian consumers, though, are eager to embrace new style trends, especially those coming out of China, South Korea or Japan. At the same time, an increasingly diverse halal cosmetics sector and growing interest in skincare and body-toning devices for use at home have given the market added nuances.
Although Kuala Lumpur is a decidedly multi-cultural city, Malaysia is an Islamic nation and 69.3% of its 32.6 million population is Muslim. The government's stated goal of becoming "a global halal products hub" has created major opportunities for halal personal-care brands, but only as long as they meet strict certification standards. The market extends beyond local shoppers, as Malaysia actively promotes itself to Muslim travellers, and is ranked as the top destination in the Global Muslim Travel Index for 2019.
Proudly displaying its official Korean Halal Certificate was White Medience, a Seoul-based manufacturer of PDO threads and fillers, items used by doctors conducting facial lifting procedures. After researching the local market, the company soon realised it was more than prudent to put its ingredients and production processes through the two-month halal accreditation process.
Emphasising the value of having secured the required verification, Hyungsub Shin, the company's Brand Manager, said: "We attended a show in Dubai last year and we had a lot of interest from Muslim buyers, many of whom educated us as to the importance of halal standards. While we were already active in the Malaysian market, we feel that securing official halal accreditation can only make our brand more popular."
As well as the high profile accorded Halal standards, the significance of Chinese investment is also pretty hard to miss in many areas of Malaysian life, including real estate, travel infrastructure and, of course, retail. China is also Malaysia's third-largest source of tourists, with 2.94 million mainland visitors arriving in the country in 2018. Looking to capitalise on this, Tourism Malaysia is trying to attract more Chinese medical tourists and actively promoting the country as a healthcare destination. Unsurprisingly, then, a number of Chinese firms in health-related sectors – including biotechnology, cosmetics and medical devices – were well-represented at this year's expo.
Among these was Xuzhou-based Kernel Medical Equipment, which was in Kuala Lumpur to promote its soft laser device for the treatment of seborrheic alopecia and other forms of hair loss, plus a medical-grade, laser-diode 'helmet' treatment for hair loss that can be used at home. Outlining the company's core offer, Sales Manager Bianca Guo said: "Our products sell well in Europe and the United States, and now we are looking at Southeast Asia. Our research in Malaysia showed that this is a young market and we are also doing shows this year in Vietnam and Thailand."
New Zealand-based NZSkinCare, meanwhile, was showcasing its Geoskincare NanoChip Beauty Treatment system at the event. A hand-held device, it uses tiny nano-tips to deliver key ingredients beneath the top layer of the skin, with the system suitable for both clinic and home use.
Outlining the system's USP, Overseas Trading Manager April Pan said: "We came up with this device because we found that customers now want ways to absorb active skin ingredients more effectively. Totally painless and not likely to cause any swelling, it's already popular in China and the US and we are hoping for the same outcome here."
Dominated by Asia-Pacific brands, Cosmobeauté Malaysia featured few major European cosmetic brand exhibitors. Making their event debut, however, were 10 cosmetics, skincare and fragrance brands from Poland. The sixth-largest cosmetics market in the EU, with a projected market value of EUR4.82 billion (US$5.41 billion) by 2021, Poland is also the birthplace of such industry luminaries as Max Factor and Helena Rubinstein. The exhibiting brands formed part of a trade mission to Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar organised by the Polish Investment & Trade Agency.
Explaining the thinking behind this particular mission, Khairul Ridhwan bin Zahardin, Business Development Manager of the Polish Investment & Trade Agency, said: "We established an office in Malaysia in 2018 and are focusing on promoting Polish products and services across four main areas, including cosmetics.
"While the brands we are promoting at this event may not be currently well-known to Malaysian consumers, as the market grows people will be increasingly open to trying different products. With that in mind, Polish cosmetics have the benefit of being certified to high European quality standards, while the Polish currency exchange rate is also very favourable to the Malaysian ringgit right now."
Another company participating in the Polish showcase was Uroda Polska. Established in 1958, Uroda has built an impressive reputation for its own-brand fragrances and cosmetics, all of which use natural herbal and fruit extracts. More recently, it has developed new, collaborative product designs that are adapted to modern trends. A clear example of this is its colourful range of bath and shower products, which were created in partnership with the Spanish confectionery brand Chupa Chups.
Detailing the company's aspirations, Export Manager Lukasz Pietrza said: "We work with several companies and license a number of high-profile product ranges, including Nickelodeon, Mattel and Fisher-Price. This is our first time in Malaysia, although our products are already sold in 40 other countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines. We hope to meet with potential Malaysian partner companies that can help introduce our products to local retail pharmacies and supermarkets."
Also looking to tap into the more fun side of personal care for younger consumers was South Korea's Firstmarket, the company behind the vibrantly packaged Kocostar range of hair, face, hand and body masks. The business, whose products are sold in 80 countries, was launching its new waffle facial masks at the event – 100% organic cotton waffle-weave masks that come with blueberry, strawberry, honey, maple and ice cream-flavoured moisturising gels.
Introducing the new range, company President An Jong Jin said: "The Waffle Masks are brand new and we chose those particular flavours because they are all-time favourite toppings. Our model is to have one distributor per country and we already have a number of our products on sale in Malaysia via the Sasa chain. We know that they want to bring the Waffle Masks here, but we just need to guarantee the quantities."
Cosmobeauté Malaysia 2019 took place from 15-18 July at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
Marilyn Balcita, Special Correspondent, Kuala Lumpur