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The Beauty Bar is Brazil

Jason Campbell

For many, Brazil is the embodiment of beauty. “I am poor but my kids are clean,” is the popular axiom that declares Brazil’s proud hygienic history—and the country’s hefty $43b domestic market supports this cultural commitment to beauty. Yet the brands and innovation that this booming market represents—it’s the third largest in the world, and growing—deserves wider recognition in the international arena.

Take the anchor hair care category, for example. “The mix of races result in a diverse mix of hair textures,” explains Joao Carlos Basilio, president of ABIHPEC, Brazilian Association of Cosmetics, Toiletry and Fragrance Industry, “there are millions of different people with all kinds of hair.” It should be no surprise then that the 186m Brazilian population represents the largest consumer of conditioner on the planet. Consider as well that Brazilians do not believe in gray hair. It’s widely discussed that if President Dilma Rousseff had allowed her natural grays to flourish, she would have never reached the top post. Hair color sales ranks top 3 in the world.

Brazilian grooming roots runs deep. Native women were known for shaving their entire bodies and taking upwards of 10-12 daily baths. Brazil also holds the title as the largest consumer market for deodorant in the world, the largest fragrance consumer market in South America and they spend upwards of 11 times their income on beauty products. And that has seen at least 10% year-to-year growth for the last decade. “The climate dictates the need for good beauty-care,” explains Basilio.

Thus far, 92% of the beauty products sold domestically are produced within Brazil. But that’s set to change as chains such as Sephora import more overseas brands for the 30-35 stores scheduled to open in the next three years. Coupled with large airport developments that will shake up duty free sales, the market is set to explode—both in what continues to sell domestically as well as on an international scale for some bigger local players.

We’ve already started to see such fascinating marriages in beauty behemoth Natura, which purchased Australian-based Aesop in December and O Botacario, another cosmetics giant that’s gearing up to launch a Sephora-like chain.

beauty_bar3The current “the economic hurricane,” as Basilio describes it, poses an opportunity for Brazilian products to enter new markets and raise ranks from its current export position as 24th to its desired spot as 20th, within 5 years. He highlights the target markets for awareness of Brazilian brands as the US, Columbia, Peru, Dubai and Portuguese-speaking Angola and Portugal.

At home, meanwhile, innovative research in trendy nanotechnology skincare and sustainability sees many overseas brands, including P&G and Avon, operating high-tech research facilities in the country. L’oreal is currently building out its own research center in Rio de Janeiro.

At the same time, Brazilian essences in Acai and maracujá are hot ingredients for hair and skincare therapy, and the organics movement already has a Brazilian imprint. “Not having strong chemicals on skin is also a huge concern here,” explains Carla Camporini Leoneli, ABIHPEC’s marketing director. No doubt, the exotic Brazilian plant life also makes it an intuitive exporter of chemical-free botanicals.

beauty_barBut what better way to adopt beauty than in motion? And in fact, Brazil’s key soap operas may be its best ambassador for beauty. Nail lacquer companies have found success in casting hyper-successful shades launched through the powerhouse telenovela machine to sell across the Latin market—a platform that might well catch on in other markets as well.

Signs show that this beauty highway will work both ways for the near term.

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