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Korean Cosmetics Shine Brightest at HK Beauty & Wellness Expo

With a busy national pavilion, South Korea confirmed its ever-ascendant role in the world's pantheon of beauty-treatment providers, while many exhibitors at the show found demand was particularly strong for natural products.

Photo: Healthy profits: Citronella oil was one of the natural products to prove crowd-pleasers at this year’s event.
Healthy profits: Citronella oil was one of the natural products to prove crowd-pleasers at this year's event.
Photo: Healthy profits: Citronella oil was one of the natural products to prove crowd-pleasers at this year’s event.
Healthy profits: Citronella oil was one of the natural products to prove crowd-pleasers at this year's event.

This year's Beauty & Wellness Expo offered an appropriately healthy blend of innovative and traditional approaches to staying young and fit, with many European/US and Asian brands jostling to win over longevity-minded show-goers. Co-located with the Food Expo, the Home Delights Expo, the International Tea Expo and the Chinese Medicine & Health Products show – all organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) – the event enjoyed steady traffic, with exhibitors having plenty of opportunities to win over trade buyers and the ever-keen end-users.

Over at the Korean and Taiwan pavilions, the stall-holders seemed particularly pleased with the reception they received. Acknowledging the success of the event, Yongsuk Kim Max, Assistant Manager of The Ocean, the co-organisers of the Korean Pavilion, said: "One of our participating businesses, MiJin Cosmetics, has met with 20 potential business partners, including companies from Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand. All of them were either keen to source raw materials from them or to use their OEM services.

"Another participant, BOM Co, a hair- and skincare-product manufacturer, did equally well. In total, they had approaches from eight potential distributors, with businesses from Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore all keen to work with them."

Over recent years, Hong Kong has enjoyed a steady growth in its level of cosmetics and toiletry imports, with many companies keen to use the city as a showcase for their products. Frequently, this was a prelude to their launch into the hugely lucrative China market, as well as into many of the other fast-growing economies across Southeast Asia.

In total, the level of Hong Kong's cosmetics and toiletry imports grew by 2.4% in 2015. This increase was spread across a wide range of categories, including skincare products, make-up, manicure and pedicure sets, personal-care travel packs, hair, bath and oral hygiene products and scent sprays.

One trend that arrived in Hong Kong as a precursor to later going truly global was K-Beauty, a shorthand term for the wide range of South Korean beauty products that have now won international renown – partly on account of their use of such singular ingredients as snail gel, gold and even diamonds. With South Korea now the world's fourth-largest skincare market, last year the country exported some US$7.1 billion worth of cosmetic products, maintaining its average 8.2% growth into a fifth year. It was no wonder, then, that the country was quite so well-represented at this year's event.

K-Beauty is also now one of the fastest-growing segments of the North American cosmetics market, with many US retailers – from Target to Barneys – clamouring to secure a share. According to industry analysts, the global success of these Korean brands has obliged many Western cosmetics companies to become more innovative, especially with regard to their ingredients and delivery systems.

Among the most popular items in this new wave of Korean beauty products are hydrogel eye-patches and masks, which directly deliver a variety of gel-contained nutrients to the skin. Typically applied around the eyes, the areas above the eyebrows and along the mimic lines can also benefit from the smoothing and hydrating effects.

This year, a new variant on the hydrogel treatment range was making its debut at the show, courtesy of Miskin, a Busan-based cosmetics company – gold diamond patches replete with colloidal gold, diamond powder and collagen. Keen to highlight the appeal of this treatment, Kiya Zheng, Sales Manager of The Beauty Trade Company, the product's overseas distributor, said: "It's become particularly popular in China, with many women liking the fact that it is based on a natural gel. As it will dissolve in hot water, they use it on their neck and hands, as well as on their face."

Photo: Ice-like: Camellia Cooling CC cream.
Ice-like: Camellia Cooling CC cream.
Photo: Ice-like: Camellia Cooling CC cream.
Ice-like: Camellia Cooling CC cream.
Photo: Exotic aromas from RAS Luxury Oils.
Exotic aromas from RAS Luxury Oils.
Photo: Exotic aromas from RAS Luxury Oils.
Exotic aromas from RAS Luxury Oils.

The South Korean aptitude for personal-care products was also on show in the Weaver brand of shower towels and gloves, all said to remove dead skin and blackheads through their use of antibacterial natural fibre loop technology. Manufactured by North Gyeongsang-based Jusung, among the popular items in the range are charcoal towels dyed with natural charcoal, and green tea shower puffs, said to offer "higher functionality" on account of their infusion with green tea, an ingredient known to have an antibacterial effect.

Highlighting the reasons for the range's popularity, Gye Sueon Kweon, the President of Jusung, said: "Its effectiveness as an exfoliation agent, together with the fact that it contains only natural ingredients, have been the prime elements in its success. It has also scored highly for being gentle enough to use on the face, while still delivering an effective scrub in a comparatively short time."

Following exfoliation, the next step in any well thought out beauty regime is usually the application of foundation and sunscreen. Thankfully, these two areas were also well served at this year's event – most noticeably by Tov, a Seoul-based make-up specialist.

Introducing the company's Camellia Cooling CC cream, its proprietary skin cooling and moisturising treatment, Chief Executive J Y Lee said: "It rapidly lowers skin temperature and has an ice-like effect that helps reduce any puffiness."

Neatly packaged in a spray bottle and accompanied by a mini-sponge, it was designated as one of 2017's likely trendsetters when it debuted at Cosmoprof North America, the largest business-to-business beauty trade event in the Americas, earlier this year.

Its core ingredient is camellia, a plant extract said to have anti-aging benefits. Rich in tannin, which supposedly controls sebum secretion and tightens the pores, it is now the base ingredient for the company's entire line of beauty products, including its serums and balms.

Perhaps less scientifically, natural healing properties bestowed by organic ingredients solely grown on an island off the coast of New Zealand was the sales proposition for Sven's Island skincare range. According to a sales representative working for Naturo Wellness, Sven's Hong Kong-based Asian distributor, the range is also entirely free of pesticides and herbicides.

The Naturo stand was also showcasing Sven's range of Manuka body ointments and its Kanuka honey, both of which can be ingested or applied as a face and body treatment. According to staff on the stand, both products have benefitted from the growing demand for all-natural – but still affordable and exotic – cosmetic treatments on the part of many Asian consumers.

A hint of the exotic was also in the air over on the RAS Luxury Oils' stand, with the aroma of faraway destinations luring many attendees to investigate the Indian company's range of essential oils and oil blends. To date, its fusion of Ayurvedic treatments – based on a 3,000-year-old holistic healing system – with a contemporary scientific approach has seen many of its products stocked in several luxury hotels, while also attracting the attention of a number of Hong Kong and Russian distributors during the show.

Among its most in-demand items are a range of face elixirs said to be "like food for your skin", a collection of Himalayan salt-infused body polishes, body spritzes and pure oils. Encapsulating the company's approach, Founder Shubhika Jain said: "Essential oils can affect your mind as well as your body. In essence, then, our mission is to make oils that make people happy."

Photo: Well attended: Packed aisles at the 2017 Beauty & Wellness Expo.
Well attended: Packed aisles at the 2017 Beauty & Wellness Expo.
Photo: Well attended: Packed aisles at the 2017 Beauty & Wellness Expo.
Well attended: Packed aisles at the 2017 Beauty & Wellness Expo.

The HKTDC Beauty & Wellness Expo 2017 was held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from 17-21 August.

Anna Huddleston, Special Correspondent, Hong Kong

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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