L’Oréal, home of renowned brands such as Garnier, Lancôme, Maybelline, Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren – has recently launched another research and innovation centre in South Africa. It’s the Group’s seventh research hub globally and aims to explore African hair and skin specifically, as well as the beauty routines and expectations of sub-Saharan consumers.
The new Research & Innovation Centre will also cooperate with the African scientific ecosystem, universities, dermatologists, natural biodiversity centres as well as hairdressers. The Group’s focus is going to be hair, for now, looking specifically at relaxers, hair foods and oil moisturisers. L’Oréal already has a few products that cater to consumers of African descent – such Dark & Lovely, popular worldwide and Mizani which is over here in the UK and US. But many of these brands were initially targeting the beauty needs of African-Americans, which are rather different due to mixed populations. So now, it’s necessary to develop products that cater to diverse African consumer specifics.
“Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the fastest growing regions for L’Oréal. Our new research arm in South Africa will solidly enable us to continually create the beauty products of the future for our African consumers, while drawing inspiration from the diverse beauty rituals and the various needs of our consumers on the continent”
Alexandre Popoff, Executive Vice-President Eastern Europe and Africa, Middle East
Yes to more targeted products, finally
The new research centre represents the company’s strategy to better target the continent’s consumers. In 2013 it acquired the health and beauty business of Kenyan company Interconsumer Products, including the locally-manufactured Nice & Lovely brand. The Group also has a factory in Midrand, South Africa and last year signed an agreement with consumer goods distributor CFAO to cover the production and distribution of cosmetics in Côte d’Ivoire.
I would say, the challenge here is to make sure they take into account the local nuances, as needs and preferences across Africa’s countries vary greatly, obviously. So I believe that if L’Oréal ensures it maintains consumer proximity and puts in the effort to understand Africans on a grassroots level, the potential reward is huge.
Whilst the continent might appear from the out looking in as a bundle of opportunity, there’s currently a lot of local players bidding for a stake in Africa’s beauty business. The personal care and beauty markets of South Africa and Nigeria alone have reached £2 billion, and there’s an increasing number of women in Africa, especially middle-class women spending more on personal beauty. This is an exciting for L’Oréal to be more than just an international brand in Africa, and I’ll be eagerly watching this space!