Interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the production line assembly in Capsum’s new North-American plant in Austin, Texas, was partly done remotely! “Our technicians and experts were locked down in France, and the machines were already on-site,” explains Sébastien Bardon, CEO of the company specialized in the design and production of innovative skincare and makeup formulas. But virtual reality tools helped deal with hitches and launch the site’s production in early September.
Founded in 2008, the company has since earned a reputation as a technological gem in the French cosmetics industry, thanks to the microfluidic technology which revolutionized skincare and, more recently, makeup formulation. “Our technology makes it possible to create very aesthetic, but also exceptionally sensorial products for our customers,” emphasizes Sébastien Bardon. In short, microfluidics helps create a new type of emulsions based on droplets formed one by one, by monitoring their sizes and handling fluids to get the structure desired.
Since it was created, Capsum has claimed an average annual growth rate over 50%. “Usually, such growth rates are achieved by high-tech companies, not cosmetics.” Today, the company’s turnover exceeds 50 million euros and is mainly achieved in Europe – a quarter is made in the US. This pace has even hardly been disrupted by the pandemic crisis: Sébastien Bardon foresees a 30% to 40% turnover increase for 2020.
A real model in terms of environmental protection
The opening of the first North-American production site should help keep up with this pace. The 11,000 m2 site counts 40 employees right now, but it should welcome almost 250 when it is all operational, for an estimated annual production capacity of 250 million units (compared to about 50 million units per year for the French site of Château-Gombert, near Marseille).
Starting from scratch, with all the space needed, Capsum was able to create their dream plant in Austin, Texas. “Right from the beginning, we aimed to minimize our environmental footprint by balancing the site’s energy consumption with solar-generated electricity,” explains Sébastien Bardon. Fitted with one of the largest surfaces of solar panels on an industrial site in Texas, the building got a LEED Silver certificate and claims a neutral carbon balance. To limit its water consumption impact, the plant does not use water from drinking or farming water networks: they draw it from salted groundwater (10 g/L, i.e. 1/3 less than sea water) located in-depth under the site. A small desalination installation powered by solar energy makes the water suitable for cosmetics.
“American brands already account for a quarter of our business, thanks to our sales offices in NYC and Los Angeles. Time-to-market is a crucial criterion for these customers, so it is a real advantage to have a local production site,” adds the CEO.
While the French site is operating at full capacity, the US opening will help Capsum get some leeway in terms of industrial capacities, before opening “a plant just as ambitious as Austin” near Marseille. This seems very likely, given the current growth rate achieved, and it will further optimize production processes and naturalize microfluidic technologies to best keep up with market trends.