Top 20 Global Beauty Companies: Focusing on Key Markets

With the world’s population expected to reach 7.6 billion by 2020, global beauty companies continue to fine-tune their strategies, making constant adjustments as they keep one eye on new markets and the other on established ones. Here, we zero in on how the Top 20 saw their way through 2011, and what their visions are for years to come.

Company Beauty Sales (USD billions)
1. Procter & Gamble $28.5
2. L’Oréal $26.3
3. Unilever $20.0
4. The Estée Lauder Companies $9.7
5. Avon Products $8.5
6. Shiseido $8.3
7. Johnson & Johnson $7.7
8. Kao $6.5
9. Beiersdorf $6.0
10. Henkel $4.4
11. Coty $4.1
11. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton $4.1
12. Natura Cosméticos $3.1
13. Mary Kay $3.0
14. AmorePacific $2.9
14. Limited Brands $2.9
15. Alticor $2.8
16. Chanel $2.5
17. Groupe Yves Rocher $2.1
18. Kosé Corp $2.0

2011 proved to be a study in contrasts for the beauty industry. While sales continued to be sluggish in established markets plagued by economic and unemployment problems, improved conditions in developing markets added up to a profitable year for our Top 20 Global Beauty Companies, nearly all of which eked out at least somewhat of an increase in net sales. Several, in fact, achieved better-than-expected, substantial results. While many brand manufacturers honed in on mass-market personal care necessities to meet the needs of consumers looking for market-entry or low prices, it was actually the prestige category that frequently came into view as the winner in boosting sales—both in the U.S. and elsewhere.

This year’s list ofTop 20 Global Beauty Companies remains on par with those of the last few years, without any big changes or surprises. Together, they reported net sales topping $155 billion.

While they all differ in many ways, they also share a number of distinct similarities in their approaches to gain sales and market share: Shift the bulk of sales expectations to developing markets, scale back on products to make the most of weighty top performers, invest in innovation and R&D, accelerate speed to market and implement cost-cutting measures.

Strategies centering on R&D and speed to market can reap big payoffs with consumers willing to lay out cash for something new and distinct. Those on this year’s Top 20 list delivered an array of packaging, delivery and formulation innovations during the year, including the first light-up fragrance bottle from Coty for JLo’s Glowing fragrance and the first movement-activated anti-perspirant technology from Unilever.

Other notable firsts: Alticor broke the $10 billion global sales mark for the first time; SK-II became P&G’s first U.S.-based billion dollar brand; and sales of Dove reached nearly $4 billion, making it Unilever’s first personal care brand to achieve this status.

Just a note on the compilation of this report: Companies were analyzed according to 2011 data (except as noted). Beauty sales included only cosmetics, fragrance and personal care items when possible. Figures for companies outside the U.S. were based on the exchange rate for the fiscal year on the day it ended. Estimates are provided in cases when full disclosure was not available.

While almost all the companies profiled here acknowledge that 2012 will be another tough year, with all of these accomplishments under their belts, we look forward to following their progress. But one thing is for sure: Global beauty companies that keep one eye on established markets and the other on developing ones have a clear advantage in attracting millions more consumers.