Photographer: AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Snail Slime and Korean Flowers Are the Latest in Skin-Care Booms

  • Clariant opting for joint ventures rather than M&A for inputs
  • Asia has emerged as top market for latest ingredients

Croda International Plc and Clariant AG are among Europe’s top suppliers of cosmetic ingredients that are turning to snail slime and Korean flowers to tap Asia’s hefty appetite for the latest skin-care products combating wrinkles and ageing.

With Asia emerging as the top market for adopting exotic ingredients, suppliers of so-called cosmetic actives are racing to strike up joint ventures with suppliers. Clariant’s partnership agreed last year with South Korea’s Biospectrum Inc. will give the Swiss chemicals maker a foothold in countries like China with a raft of new products containing Korean botantical extracts, Chief Financial Officer Patrick Jany said by phone.

“It’s very important to us to gain access to the Asian market,” Jany said.

Renewable and sustainable materials is one of Clariant’s main areas of growth, and more tie-ups with suppliers are being sought in the area of plant-based active ingredients, Jany said. The Basel, Switzerland-based company sees joint ventures as an efficient and cost effective way to source raw materials for its top-end cosmetic products, as many assets are currently very expensive to acquire.

“When Chinese customers look for higher value cosmetics they look at Korean brands,” Jany said on Thursday. “Having this entrance is very important in terms of sales and in terms of R&D. It’s about sharing ideas and co-development, which is faster and more cost effective than really wanting to buy everything.”

The company agreed to two partnerships last year, including one in Brazil giving it access to ingredients from the Amazon rainforest.

Mucus Mask

Nowhere has higher demand for the latest cosmetic technology -- including anti-ageing peptides -- than Asia, according to Croda, the world’s second-largest supplier of cosmetic ingredients. The latest craze in northern Asia is snail slime, Chief Executive Officer Steve Foots said Wednesday. For cosmetic companies seeking to offer something new in a crowded market, snail mucus contains nutrients and elements that are thought to offer protection against sun damage, dryness and infection.

Asia generated double-digit sales growth in the first quarter for Croda.

“Snail mucus extracts, believe it or not, has been a big growth area in North Asia,” Foots said. “So the growth in actives is broad-based and it’s across most geographies, but particularly led by Asia.”

Likewise, care chemicals were a highlight for Clariant in the first quarter, helping offset a broader slowdown in the oil-and-gas industry. Chief Executive Officer Hariolf Kottmann is transforming the company by making deals, divesting commodity chemical assets and stepping up innovation in areas such as cosmetic ingredients. First-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and one-time items increased 10 percent to 250 million Swiss francs ($252 million), the company said in a statement. Analysts had predicted 229.4 million francs.

Clariant shares rose to their highest level since August 2015, and traded 2.8 percent higher at 19.90 francs at 2:13 p.m. in Zurich.

Clariant has also focused on higher-margin plastics and coatings additives, fueling a steady rise in its profit margin over the past six years. In the first quarter, the margin widened 0.1 percentage points to 15.6 percent compared with the year earlier period. The company confirmed its mid-term target of an Ebitda margin corridor of between 16 percent to 19 percent.

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