Premium Beauty News - The Albéa Group’s Cosmetic Rigid Packaging Division was recently renamed Cosmetics & Fragrances. How did you come to make this change?
François Tassart - Mainly for the sake of clarity for our customers. This name reflects our markets rather than our packaging solutions and allows us to be better identified across the industry.
Premium Beauty News - What is the weight of your division today?
François Tassart - Make-up (lipsticks, mascara, etc.) remains our core market, even if the skincare category (jars, bottles, etc.) has grown significantly in recent years. We also manufacture perfume caps, with a made in France offer for the premium sector. In total, this represents a turnover of $450 m, achieved with 14 sites and 8 countries. We cover North America, Europe and Asia, via Indonesia and China.
In the field of beauty packaging, we are the player with the broadest geographical coverage and the most varied technical expertise. This allows us to serve global leaders as well as local players and indie brands. In Indonesia, for example, 50% of our manufacturing activity is dedicated to local brands.
Premium Beauty News - How has this activity developed since the start of the pandemic?
François Tassart - Globally, the phenomenon was the same in other sectors: an acceleration of pre-existing trends.
To sum up, our customers expect packaging solutions to remain just as desirable but also, increasingly virtuous, supplied in compliance with all safety requirements, within short deadlines and with volumes that can vary very quickly. These last points - speed and flexibility - have become very important: there is now a huge demand for agility!
Our main customers ask us for reduced time-to-market and to have the ability to respond to the so-called TikTok effects, which can suddenly increase demand incredibly for some references. To meet this, we need to work with intermediate stocks or with plants capable of tripling their production for a reference in a very short time frame.
Since September 2021, global demand has picked up strongly, with higher trends than in 2019, except for lipsticks, where the upturn took longer. Demand for perfumes has skyrocketed, and with the massive inflow of Chinese consumers into this market, it should continue to grow very significantly.
Finally, there has been a trend towards the regionalisation of supplies. This "relocation" is noticeable not only in Europe but also in Asia, for agility purposes but also logistical constraints. The lack of sea freight capacity and congestion issues in ports has led to an explosion in prices and longer lead times, which encourages customers to buy locally.
Premium Beauty News - How do you manage tensions on supplies?
François Tassart - It’s a real challenge! We thought we had gone through the worst of it in 2021 when the momentum of the recovery caused raw material, transportation and energy costs to skyrocket. We sat down with all our customers to explain the situation, break down the increases in our costs and explain the impact on our prices. After all, materials account for almost 30% of our costs! Their responses were quite reasonable. But the war in Ukraine has rekindled the upward spiral.
All this means that we had to secure our supplies by increasing our stocks. Thanks to these measures and our global network, there were no disruptions and I would like to pay tribute to the tremendous work of our teams. But this obviously comes at a cost: about a $30 million impact on our cash flow in 2021. But cash is what allows us to continue investing in parallel. Fortunately, some customers are ready to work with us to secure their supplies.
Premium Beauty News - How has it affected the sustainable transition of beauty packaging?
François Tassart - Unlike what happened in 2008, sustainability efforts were not called into question. On the contrary, demand for new solutions, more virtuous packaging and transparency has only increased! The challenge is to combine responsibility and desirability and accelerate this transition.
Premium Beauty News - How is this transition organised at Albéa?
François Tassart - Our goal is to produce 100% recyclable packaging by 2025, even if it is initially reusable. In our business segment, this is a real challenge because we manufacture a great variety of products, often small in size, with many components and different materials.
We are innovating more than ever, to create single-material packaging (lipstick tubes, make-up cases, etc.), refill solutions, and to use recycled or innovative materials. We are rethinking our manufacturing processes, testing the injection and decoration of new materials, preparing the substitution of raw materials that are likely to disappear (SAN, POM), and securing those whose use will increase. These are not trivial changes; they have technical consequences (adapted moulds, new expertise). A lot of investment will be needed within a short time frame to make these changes while guaranteeing the security of supply, product conformity and quality. Much work remains to be done to reach a circular economy and we all must accelerate together.
Ensuring this change while maintaining the level of consumer satisfaction and desire means protecting the reputation of our customers. It’s a real partnership. Today, even in the case of luxury products, packaging does not represent more than 3% of the total price. There is a real issue of value sharing in this transition!
Premium Beauty News - In three words, how do you see the future of make-up and perfume packaging?
François Tassart - Responsible, agile, reliable. These are the topics we work on the most with our customers!