Italian cosmetics looks towards the East

Export plays a crucial role for Italian cosmetics: it accounts for 41 percent of domestic production, with a value that exceeded 4.8 billion euros at the end of 2021, recovering pre-pandemic values (Cosmeticaitalia,2022).

Although European countries, primarily France and Germany, and the United States continue to be the main importers, there is an increasing demand from Eastern markets. In fact, made-in-Italy cosmetics are increasingly popular in Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern countries; it is enough to mention that in the past year, imports from Hong Kong have increased by +23.1% and from the United Arab Emirates by +37.2%. In particular, exports to Hong Kong are to be seen as a gateway to the entire ASEAN region.

Then, by expanding the analysis to strategic countries for internationalization activities, the 54th Annual Report of Cosmetica Italia shows an average annual growth of exports (in the period 2011-2021) to China (+38.1%) and India (+16.5%).

Native products that are preferred are mainly those related to face and body care and perfumes. In fact, both the Far East and the Middle East are very attentive to skin care, following scrupulous skincare on a daily basis. Arab women, for example, when it comes to beauty routine and make-up, spare no expense.

In addition to the cultural issue, in the past two years the pandemic has consolidated the attention to the world of skincare by leading consumers to look at skincare as a wellness issue and to want to recreate the benefits of the spa at home. There are therefore good opportunities for Italian brands to offer body care products that also respond to a relax experience.

The perception of male beauty has also changed. In China, as in Japan and South Korea, the male segment, particularly the younger segment of consumers, is taking more and more space within the market thus opening up new investment opportunities.

As in other countries, sustainable, cruelty-free and natural products are now widely popular in the East. Growing awareness of environmental issues is encouraging consumers to turn more and more to environmentally friendly products. While purchasing habits have for long been influenced by companies’ brand image and reputation, today, Asian consumers are more concerned about the effects and ingredients contained in a product. In the United Arab Emirates, Italian organic cosmetics are highly valued because they are synonymous with ethics and sustainability, thus reconnecting with halal principles (i.e., guaranteeing a product compliance according to the Muslim religion), especially when it comes to fragrances.

Finally, online sales are growing in this sector as well and even more in the Far East. China and South Korea are dominating this trend with numerous live streaming platforms that enable direct sales by leveraging visual experiences and consumer interactions.

In this scenario, there are several opportunities for cosmetic companies planning to invest abroad, and Roncucci&Partners, strong with its experience in the sector, is able to accompany them through an internationalization project that starts from the identification of the market to the digitization of products.


Chiara Origlia

Previous articleHuman Resources, Pink Floyd and PNRR
Next articleBeing sustainable and innovative – New applications of Corten steel