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Asia-Pacific Surges Ahead as World's Leading Male Grooming Market

Although consumer preferences vary from country to country, spend on male cosmetics is up across the whole region.

Photo: Hard to mask: Are Asian males now the world’s vainest? (Shutterstock.com)
Hard to mask: Are Asian males now the world's vainest?
Photo: Hard to mask: Are Asian males now the world’s vainest? (Shutterstock.com)
Hard to mask: Are Asian males now the world's vainest?

With many Asian men increasingly conscious about their appearance, it is unsurprising that sales of traditional male-grooming products are booming. The growth of the sector, though, has also spurred several personal-care brands to develop a variety of new cleansing, skin care and niche grooming products, as well as several at-home personal beauty gadgets specifically geared to men's needs.

Traditionally, men's grooming products have been limited to toiletries and shaving products. Now, though, the global rise in demand for male-oriented beauty products has resulted in the launch of a number of new cosmetics products for men. Although the expansion of the male-grooming market began as a western phenomenon, Asia-Pacific is now taking the lead in terms of consumption.

The increased demand for such products across Asia is said to have been spurred by changing lifestyles, higher levels of disposable income, rapid urbanisation and increased expectations that men should appear successful, healthy and youthful. Highlighting this, Kathryn Sloane, APAC Region Director of Growth for SGK, a global brand-development company, said: "Although the US and the UK initially led the global market in terms of the launch of new men's grooming products, Asia has now exceeded the western markets with regard to actual sales. The spend across the Asia-Pacific region now accounts for 60% of the total US$21.4 billion global male-grooming market. Despite being the leading region for the sale of men's skin-care products, the market in Asia is still expected to grow by about 10% over the next 12 months."

Despite the uniform growth of the sector throughout the region, men's grooming regimes still vary widely across Asia, a reflection of the diverse religious, cultural and economic factors that characterise each individual country. In a bid to profile these varied preferences and requirements, Kantar Worldpanel, a Spanish market-research company, interviewed 5,300 male consumers across China, Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

Summarising its subsequent findings, Ashley Kang, Kantar's Regional Director of Beauty for Asia, said: "Communicating messages about status and looking professional are likely to be the priorities in the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia. By contrast, in China, 73% of men pay attention to their appearance 'because women like it'."

According to Sloane, middle-class males on the Chinese mainland equate men's beauty care with sophistication and professionalism. In another key finding, Vietnamese, Thai and Taiwanese men are the ones most open to using a wider variety of cosmetics, including lip gloss, BB creams and foundation.

In terms of future growth, Mariko Takemura, a Lead Analyst with Euromonitor, said that, although Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia were the biggest markets in the ASEAN bloc, Indonesia was where the most significant growth in the male-grooming sector was expected to occur, with a figure of 7% the current per annum estimate.

In part, the growth in the Indonesian market is on account of its largely Muslim population. Halal products are gaining traction in the male grooming sector, while the increased level of disposable income of many young Muslims is seeing the introduction of a number of male-specific, Halal products.

Takemura said: "Indonesia's growth is being driven partly by the growing preference for Halal-certified products, with demand particularly strong in the men's grooming sector. The Halal factor also applies to Malaysia, which is now the world's largest market for Halal-certified cosmetics, with online sales particularly robust."

In terms of the skin-care market, Euromonitor has identified South Koreans as the world's keenest consumers. Overall, they tend to be extremely image-conscious and favour multistep skin-care regimes, including the use of a variety of products said to help maintain a more youthful appearance. This trend is being reinforced by the widespread popularity of baby-faced, immaculately made-up male K-pop stars, many of whom are redefining and pushing the boundaries of traditional masculine grooming.

Acknowledging that this trend has now expanded well beyond South Korea, Katherine Sek, Commercial General Manager for AmorePacific Singapore, a beauty products and cosmetics manufacturer, said: "Korean men invest in several products and layer them effectively. This is a trend that has now taken off in Singapore and in other parts of Southeast Asia."

By contrast, Filipino cosmetics consumers – typically young professionals – put a higher value on simplicity and apparently effortless grooming. Increasingly, the same preferences apply in Japan, where there is a marked trend towards less styled and more natural hairstyles among younger men, with many now using fewer styling products than they did just a few years ago. The principal focus among Japanese men, though, is maintaining hair health, while improving the health and appearance of their skin.

Regional variations aside, one new and fast-growing sector is grooming products targetted at the older man. Although many Asian countries have predominantly young populations, some – notably Japan and China – have sizeable elderly populations. Typically, this new generation of older consumers cares more about their appearance, fitness and health than did their predecessors, while also having substantial spending power.

Traditionally, this age group has been overlooked, largely on account of its perceived lack of interest in grooming products. That, however, is now changing. Recognising the significance of this under-served sector, a report by Singapore-based Spire Research concluded: "Tremendous demand in this space will come from older men who seek to lessen the effects of aging. This will drive the growth of such categories as hair-fall treatment, skin treatments, cosmetic procedures and dietary supplements. The future of Asian metrosexuality may lie in making 70 the new 50."

Geoff de Freitas, Special Correspondent, Cebu

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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