Known for an understated sensuality and elegant ease, Italian beauty–or I-Beauty–is poised to earn a greater share of the beauty market. With both start-up and established brands working towards increased distribution stateside, I-Beauty is, surprisingly, on track to mirror the kind of impact that K-beauty has been making over the last five years.
According to market intelligence agency Mintel, the international K-beauty market was valued at $13 billion in 2017–of that total segment, skin care captured $6.5 billion with growth expected at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8 percent to reach $7.2 billion by 2020. Italy’s market share is not far behind. The Italian cosmetics market was worth approximately $12.53 billion in 2015, and will increase to an estimated $16.56 billion through the fourth quarter of 2020, at a projected CAGR of 5.73 percent.
Beauty Made in Italy
Knowing the current and potential value of the industry, the Italian government has partnered with local beauty companies and is sponsoring their introduction to the U.S. through the appropriately dubbed “Beauty Made in Italy” program. The approximately 45 brands involved in the program are supported by the Italian Beauty Council (IBC), an advisory board comprised of Italian beauty professionals, which was created by the Italian Trade Commission and Cosmetica Italia.
IBC members are specialized in all aspects of the industry and include celebrity hairstylists, makeup artists, heritage beauty brands,
social media influencers, retailers and Italian heritage brands as members, all with the knowledge and expertise to guide the I-Beauty conversation. Beauty Made in Italy brands are divided into two categories and classified as either an “Incubator” brand, defined as an early-stage company lacking U.S. distribution, or as an “Accelerator” brand, which is a larger, high-potential company with an existing presence in North America.
“Beauty Made in Italy serves as a launch pad for Italian brands entering the United States,” explains Meredith Kerekes, head of the U.S. Beauty Desk for the Italian Trade Commission. “Italy is the sixth largest exporter of beauty and personal care goods to the United States, and the majority of cosmetics worldwide are manufactured in Italy. The opportunity to shed light on these facts, as well as the country’s innovation in product development, natural ingredient heritage and craftsmanship in packaging and design were key goals in launching the program,” she explains, noting that more than 60 percent of the world’s cosmetic products are, in fact, already made in Italy.
Italian beauty brands and contract manufacturers also invest “roughly four percent more than the industry average in research and development costs,” says Kerekes, in order to meet the demand for innovative and high- performance products. This existing immersion in the industry and ongoing spend gives the I-Beauty segment obvious leverage within the U.S. market.
Indeed, the association between Italy and beauty is an easy one to make–the country is known for its picturesque landscape and subtle glamour. “From the winding strade in Rome, to the gentle canali in Venice, la dolce vita is not just a way of life, but an ethos Italians live by–to appreciate and enjoy beauty, create products steeped in both time-honored tradition and at the forefront of trend, and infuse these goods with the highest quality craftsmanship and design,” she continues.
I-Beauty Staples: Craftsmanship, Natural Ingredients and Quality
Gabriel Balestra, executive director for I-Beauty accelerator brand Skin & Co., understands the level of craftsmanship that goes into producing beauty products in Italy firsthand. “We believe that ‘Made in Italy’ isn’t just a marking claim or a seal of quality, but in every product we strive to tell a story about Italy, our ingredients and the people that make it,” he says, adding that the company’s supply chain starts “out in the field, when our ingredients are harvested.” The brand most recently partnered with farmers from Capri and Sardinia for a custom, seasonal line.
Another draw for the U.S. consumer, Skin & Co.–among other I-Beauty pioneers–has a natural beauty focus. The company formulates their products to be free of all parabens, phthalates, mineral oils, sulfates, petrolatum, paraffin, animal byproducts, formaldehyde, BHA, BHT, EDTA, PEGS, resorcinol, triclosan and triclocarban, retinyl palmitate, talc and an additional 42 other substances on their “Ciao Ciao List.”
Preparing for I-Beauty
Through the Beauty Made in Italy program, the U.S. consumer is given access and insight into I-Beauty. As Kerekes explains, vixens like Sophia Loren or Monica Bellucci have helped carve Italy’s place in beauty, but that perception is repositioned through I-Beauty’s more modern feel. “We aim to help American beauty consumers consider Italian cosmetics as not just La Dolce Vita-style classic glamour, but also as the high-tech, cutting-edge, innovative products they are. We want to help highlight that brands from around the world choose to manufacture their products in Italy, as well as help introduce and grow some of the long- loved Italian beauty brands here,” she offers.
Many international brands are currently manufacturing in Italy because of the quality associated with the market. And, with a robust cosmetics industry already in place, local brands are in a unique position to leverage this existing market, producing their own products with the same prioritization of time and quality that has become associated with I-Beauty globally.
Italian beauty is being exported to the U.S., especially, at an exponential rate because of the link between high quality goods and manufacturing in the country. As a result, Italy is emerging as an epicenter for clean beauty, with products made from natural ingredients in a market that favors quality and care over fast, cheap and potentially harmful production–all of which particularly appeals to U.S. consumers.
Beauty Made in Italy is a sustainable model over the long term because it works twofold, not only bringing awareness to Italian beauty among U.S. consumers, but by providing brands with everything they need to get consumers to notice them. As Balestra describes, the program has helped his brand, “immensely,” and he boasts that it’s run by “the finest professionals that work every day to create brand awareness, events, outreach programs and support to other Italian companies on how to approach the U.S. market.”
To stay ahead of the inevitable I-Beauty trend as a beauty retailer, introduce an in-store display that educates consumers on the Italian beauty difference, such as the story behind their natural products, a traditional approach to quality and craftsmanship that is integrated into the products. As K-Beauty altered the beauty landscape in a major way, Italian beauty is poised to make similar waves, allowing everyone the ability to bring more "bellezza" into their lives.