Premium Beauty News - Thépenier Pharma & Cosmetics has belonged to Japanese group Nippon Shikizai since 2000.

Bertrand Lasserre - Absolutely. But our business is quite different from our parent company’s. In Japan, Nippon Shikizai is mainly focused on makeup, whereas we primarily formulate water-based skincare, hygiene, and makeup products – in particular mascara and eyeliners. Thépenier Pharma & Cosmetics is specialized in liquid and emulsified cosmetics and hygiene formulas. Apart from the pharmaceutical segment, we are present on the oral care, clean beauty, and natural beauty markets.

However, we do work in synergy with Nippon Shikizai and Nippon Shikizai France (formerly known as Orléans Cosmetics), which was acquired by TP&C in 2017, and whose business is much closer to our parent company’s: the production is 90% focused on anhydrous makeup, in particular powders, hot-poured products, and scented products. We share the same sales teams, so we can offer our customers an almost comprehensive range of cosmetics. Right now, pencils are the only products we cannot manufacture.

Premium Beauty News - Still, you subcontract makeup more than skincare.

Bertrand Lasserre - Things change very fast as regards subcontracting, in particular due to the emergence of new, very innovative brands in search of highly sophisticated turnkey solutions and mostly based on marketing concepts that do not involve an industrial tool. But it is also due to major brands’ growing need for reactivity, which pushes them to increasingly choose subcontracting in order to reduce development times and time-to-market. In fact, Thépenier Pharma & Cosmetics can work with both small emerging brands and major global players. We achieve 30% of our turnover with French customers and 70% through export, mainly in Europe and the USA (40%).

Historically, we are a renowned player in oral care subcontracting, and we are still a major OTC producer in this category. But we are growing at a fast pace on the cosmetics segment – we have produced cosmetic products for over 30 years. Manufacturing in compliance with pharmaceutical GMPs has become highly differentiating – and a competitive advantage, to a certain extent, namely on all skincare segments related to clean beauty and to the technological healthcare trend, which have boomed since the COVID-19 crisis: they meet an rising consumer need for performance. In fact, we target the high-end segment of the cosmetics market. Our strategy is aimed to provide skincare subcontracting with added value and offer quality guarantees many of our competitors cannot offer. In this respect, I believe a standard offering will not be enough in the long run for a subcontractor to remain on the market.

Premium Beauty News - Could you give a few practical examples?

Bertrand Lasserre - We offer both formula ‘skeletons’ and turnkey solutions as part of a full-service offering in partnership with packaging leaders. Depending on our customers’ projects, we create the formula, produce it, and suggest a well-adapted pack, recycled or recyclable, whenever possible, in line with the brand’s expectations and the DNA of our product/service offering. What’s more, we take care of the filling phase and have internal quality control solutions. We actually deliver fewer and fewer bulk products. Following this principle, we have developed our own regulatory offering, partly with external partners. Plus, we integrate sales portfolios before launches to help brands answer the now systematic, increasingly specific questions they get asked on social media.

Premium Beauty News - What are your main ambitions in terms of innovation?

Virginie Barville - Right from the start, we endeavour to use responsible raw materials mainly sourced in France or Europe. Of course, we strictly comply with our customers’ specifications, but we systematically try to minimize the number of ingredients in our formulas, by incorporating multipurpose actives, without focusing on purely sensorial ingredients, and limit the use of potentially irritant preservatives.

To meet our customers’ expectations, we also need to reduce time-to-market. To this aim, we can patent some of our active cocktails and formula skeletons, so we can offer bases to be personalized with actives, perfumes… We offer an extremely broad base range, so we can reduce development times to 6 months, or even less, as required by the brand - but we do not recommend to.

Premium Beauty News - Could you provide a few recent examples of innovations?

Virginie Barville - In line with the current trends, we developed a One-For-All cream which can be used as a skincare, face care, or even hair care product. We also designed a 96% natural whitening serum for teeth. It is a completely new gesture: you just drop serum on your toothbrush and use it with toothpaste, or alone as a cure. There is also our Scalp Serum to be applied at night combined with an anti-grey hair active to regulate the scalp microbiota for a global action on hair’s health. Lastly, we developed a natural mascara with one of the most accomplished technicity on the market.

This mascara is a real eyelash care product: it is enriched with a plant extract derived from Chinese traditional medicine, which enhances lash growth and vitality.

Premium Beauty News - How did 2020 go for the company?

Bertrand Lasserre - It was quite satisfactory. The company had achieved a two-digit growth since 2015. Of course, the sanitary crisis impacted these dynamics. Thépenier Pharma & Cosmetics should end the year 2020 with a 2.5% to 3% growth rate. As for Nippon Shikizai France, they maintained strong momentum: the consolidated growth for our two European entities should reach 8% in 2020, compared to the 23% initially forecast.

Premium Beauty News - What are your prospects for the future?

Bertrand Lasserre - Our prospects for 2021 are still pretty uncertain, but we believe life will come back to normal in 2022. We had planned to open a sales office in China: the pandemic delayed the project, but it remains an objective for no later than 2022. We are also speeding up our CSR projects: we have undertaken to get the ISO 14001 certification by July 2021, and we are open to external growth opportunities.