Patrick O'Quin, President of the French trade association for cosmetics and...

Patrick O’Quin, President of the French trade association for cosmetics and beauty products

With a trade surplus of around 8.9 billion euros, the cosmetics sector is now France’s second biggest net exporter behind aeronautics (23.6 billion), but ahead the food industry (6.5 billion), according to figures released by the French trade association for cosmetics and beauty products (FEBEA) [1]. With an increase of 4% compared to 2013, exports of the cosmetic products are also those that have experienced the strongest growth in 2014, compared to the two other leading sectors (+2.5% for aeronautics and -8% for the food industry).

Leader in Europe and worldwide

For many years, France has been the world’s largest exporter of cosmetic products. The country held 15.9% of the market in 2013, ahead of the United States (10.8%) and Germany (10.7%).

France is the leading European exporter in this sector, far ahead of its competitors. French cosmetics exports account for almost a third of all European exports, far ahead of Germany. Another example is the size of the French trade surplus in the cosmetics sector, which is more than 5 times bigger than the Italian surplus (1.16 billion euros in 2014).

Strong growth in Asia

According to the FEBEA, these excellent results reflect “the richness and quality of the French cosmetics offer, which can meets the needs of a wide variety of markets and consumption patterns.

But where are French cosmetics shipped actually? Mostly to other European countries. Indeed, the European Union remains the first destination (48.2%) of exports.

After Europe, Asia is the second destination for French cosmetics, with 16.9% of exports. Shipments to this region recorded the strongest growth (+11.7% in 2014, compared to the previous year) with China leading the way (+16.5%). France thus remains the largest cosmetics exporter in this region, despite intensive competition from other major players including Japan, Korea and the United States.

Exports to the Middle East and to the United States also recorded significant increases: +7.1% and +7.6% respectively. Africa is growing slightly (+0.4%).

By contrast, exports to Russia, Turkey and Latin America have decreased, in a context of "economic and / or political and regulatory uncertainties,” said the FEBEA.

Skin care and perfumes top the list

Unsurprisingly, skin care products and perfumes represent 2/3 of French cosmetics exports (42.3% for skin care and 33.8% for perfumes) in value. They are followed by shampoos and hair preparations (for a total 6.6%) and by eyes and lips colour products (6.5%).

"This growth is driven by the dynamism of a whole sector and an industrial network including SMEs, intermediate-sized companies and large groups. The results recorded by the French cosmetics industry abroad in 2014 show that the reputation and quality of made in France cosmetics, often at the edge of innovation, remain appreciated worldwide," said Patrick O’Quin, President of the FEBEA.

However, the dynamism of the French industry on international markets is also another indication of the increased dependency of the European cosmetics industry from external demand. While most European markets record a sluggish growth or a recession (sales of cosmetic products decreased by 0.8% in 2013 in Europe), European manufacturers have no choice but to seek growth where it is located.