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The Middle East is an oasis for Korean cosmetics makers

July 28,2017
Exports of Korean cosmetics to the Middle East have grown a whopping 265 times in the past eight years, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra) said in a report Wednesday, underscoring a major shift in the industry toward growing markets overseas.

Last year, exports reached $35.8 million, nearly double 2012’s $18.8 million and exponentially higher than 2008’s $135,000. The government trade agency said the results were meaningful considering that the Middle Eastern economy has been sluggish in the past few years due to low oil prices.

The size of the Middle East’s cosmetics market was an estimated $18 billion in 2015, according to the research firm Euromonitor. The firm expects the market’s average growth rate to be 6.4 percent in the following five years, which is double the growth rate of the global cosmetics market. And since the Middle East lacks prominent beauty brands, global manufacturers are filling the void.

Korea’s presence picked up in 2011 when renowned low- and mid-priced brands like Missha and The Face Shop entered the region. The companies began aggressive marketing campaigns the following year, and Kotra has cited these efforts as one of the reasons sales in the Middle East advanced in subsequent years.

“The popularity of Hallyu [Korean pop culture] and the culture of spreading Korean stars’ beauty know-how and skin care methods through social media were main factors for the uplift,” the Kotra report said.

Among product categories, Middle Eastern consumers favored multifunctional products that combat dry weather and strong sunlight, according to the report. BB cream, which can be used as foundation and sunblock, is especially popular.

Consumers said they found Korean skin care products to be functional and affordable compared to American and European brands.

Kotra suggested that Korean companies wishing to enter the Middle Eastern market should target young consumers in their teens and 20s who are familiar with Hallyu and invest more in organic skin care products.

Kotra advised companies to be fully prepared before entering the Middle Eastern market, particularly in terms of regulations. Most governments require exporters to have permits for beauty products before selling them in the market. Halal certifications are obligatory in Iran and Egypt.

Therefore, Kotra suggested working with a local agency for marketing, government approval and retail network.


BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]