L’Oréal Middle East: 25 years and counting
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L’Oréal Middle East: 25 years and counting

L’Oréal Middle East: 25 years and counting

Laurent Duffier, MD at L’Oréal Middle East, talks about the beauty giant’s 25th anniversary in the region, key trends, and the group’s sustainability and inclusion goals

Neesha Salian
L’Oreal Middle East: 25 years and counting Image l'oreal

With a rich portfolio of 31 brands and a network of dedicated partners, L’Oréal Middle East has emerged as the leading beauty company in the region, serving approximately 140 million consumers across 10 countries.

Over the past 25 years, the company has expanded its footprint, now boasting over 500 employees representing 54 nationalities.

Beyond business success, L’Oréal Middle East has been committed to driving positive change through sustainability initiatives, women empowerment programmes, and innovative partnerships. From reducing its carbon footprint to empowering women in the workforce and pioneering beauty technology, we get insights into the company’s initiatives and achievements.

Here we speak to the group’s managing director for the Middle East, Laurent Duffier, who shares the group’s growth trajectory over two decades, beauty trends that are impacting the region and Loreal’s sustainability and inclusion goals.

What are some of the current trends shaping the beauty and cosmetics industry in the region and future projections you foresee?

Consumers in the region are highly knowledgeable and passionate about beauty, embracing both complex makeup trends and a growing preference for natural looks. Fragrances, particularly specific types such as Oud, are a key part of their beauty routines, often layered to create individualised scents.

Consumers also represent various skin types and backgrounds, including locals and expatriates, and brands that understand and cater to this diversity are more likely to succeed. They also exhibit distinct shopping behaviours, with significant spikes in consumption during cultural events like Ramadan and Eid – highlighting the importance of cultural sensitivity and timely marketing strategies.

Additionally, there is a significant shift towards technology in beauty. Consumers are increasingly eager to explore new technologies for diagnostics and experimentation, reshaping the beauty landscape with innovations that offer tailored beauty experiences and outcomes.

Strong innovations are also shaping the Middle Eastern beauty market, such as Melasyl, a new ingredient that has been recently launched by La-Roche Posay and targets hyperpigmentation disorders. This reflects a market that values cutting-edge products and staying ahead of trends.

Sustainability is also becoming a cornerstone of consumer preferences, as consumers in the region are becoming increasingly mindful of the environmental and ethical implications of their

purchases. With 70 per cent of consumers declaring they want to prioritise eco-friendly products, there is a clear shift towards more sustainable brands which is not only shaping current purchasing behaviours but also setting the stage for future developments in the industry.

Digital platforms also play a crucial role in shaping consumer preferences, with social media bloggers influencing beauty advice, product choices, and brand interactions.

From innovative skincare solutions to trendy makeup products, the beauty industry in the region is dynamic and demands constant evolution. These developments offer more insights into the market’s appetite for both groundbreaking advancements and trendy, market-oriented products.

What are the key factors propelling growth in the beauty industry today?

The beauty industry in the GCC is experiencing robust growth, fuelled by several key drivers. First and foremost, the market itself is substantial, estimated at around EUR11bn with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 10 per cent from 2020 to 2023, positioning it among the top 10 beauty markets worldwide according to Euromonitor Data. The main reasons for the market dynamics are:

The region’s economic performance in comparison to the rest of the world. With non-oil sectors growing at around 4-5 per cent while Europe stands at less thana per cent, the Middle East presents a strong opportunity for the growth of the beauty industry.

The increasing participation of women in the workforce is particularly noted in Saudi Arabia where the number of working women has tripled. This notable shift in disposable income has led to an increase in the overall consumption of beauty products.

The arrival of a wealthy population, especially in the UAE, also adds to the market’s dynamism, particularly for luxury products.
The superior quality of beauty retail executions in the region, is a testament to its advanced retail infrastructure and innovative merchandising strategies, which have been pivotal in driving sales and enhancing consumer engagement at physical retail locations.

The growth of the e-commerce channel in the Middle East which has also seen a transformative shift. What was once a minor part of the market now boasts a significant share, achieving double-digit percentage growth. This reflects new opportunities and reaches levels of market maturity comparable to developed regions like Europe and the US.

These factors collectively underpin the dynamic expansion of the beauty industry in the region, driven by economic, demographic, and consumer preference shifts.

In conclusion, the Middle Eastern beauty market shows remarkable dynamism, and if the fundamentals remain the same, we are optimistic that it should continue in the upcoming years.

L’Oréal has celebrated over 25 years of growth in the region. Looking back, what do you believe were the pivotal moments, and what is your vision for the future?

Reflecting on the past 25 years, L’Oréal Middle East has experienced a remarkable growth journey, starting with just a few employees in 1998 and transforming into a leading beauty powerhouse, with over 500 employees, serving over 140 million consumers across 10 countries.

Some of the key milestones include the creation of L’Oréal Saudi Arabia in 2011 and L’Oréal UAE in 2017, which have significantly contributed to our regional impact as well as becoming the “Official Beauty Products and Services Partner” for Expo 2020 Dubai.

Our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is reflected in our workforce, boasting 54 nationalities, achieving gender parity with 55.5 per cent females and 44.5 per cent males, with 43 per cent women in leadership positions, and maintaining a zero per cent gender pay gap. As a result, L’Oréal Middle East obtained the “Gender Equality European & International Standard” certification in the UAE in 2022.

We also rank among the top 15 subsidiaries of L’Oréal worldwide, highlighting our significant influence and impact in the beauty industry on a global scale. This growth trajectory underscores our dedication to providing exceptional products and services tailored to the diverse needs of consumers across the region.

Sustainability is increasingly important for consumers. Tell us about L’Oréal’s sustainability achievements to date and your targets for 2030.

At L’Oréal, innovating within our brands and products alone is no longer sufficient; we have accelerated our transformation towards a business model that respects planetary boundaries and strengthens our commitments to sustainability and inclusion. In 2020, we launched the “L’Oréal for the Future” programme, structured around three core pillars: reducing our impact, engaging with our ecosystem, and contributing to solving global challenges.

We have made many commitments to sustainability: using 100 per cent renewable energy across all our operations, recycling all water used in our industrial processes, sourcing 95 per cent of our ingredients from bio-based or sustainably managed resources, and ensuring all our plastic usage is from recycled or bio-based sources. All this is already achieved or will be achieved by 2030 at the latest.

In the GCC, our focus has been sharp on three priority areas: waste, water, and CO2 emissions. For instance, we have introduced several impactful initiatives in the region such as Garnier’s pioneering recycling programme in Saudi Arabia, in partnership with Naqaa Solutions and Panda, which has successfully recycled 340 tons of waste. We have also promoted the use of refillable products across our brands, significantly reducing material consumption. As a result, our Prada Paradox refillables use 40 per cent less material, and Kiehl’s recycling initiative has amassed 17.6 million returned items since 2009, including 2.7 million in 2023 alone.

Moreover, our introduction of the Gjosa showerhead in salons dramatically reduces water usage by 69 per cent, helping us conserve millions of litres each year. Set to launch in the region, this initiative will target 500 salons per year, resulting in approximately 35 million gallons of water being saved every year.

Furthermore, our collaboration with Mohebi Logistics has led to the deployment of the first fleet of electric vehicles in the UAE, contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions linked to the transport of L’Oréal’s products in the region. Additionally, our partnership with Aramex has utilised biodiesel fuels to reduce carbon emissions by 4.4 per cent in cross-border activities.

These initiatives reflect our unwavering commitment to sustainability further demonstrating our leadership in transforming the beauty industry towards a more sustainable future.

Over the years, L’Oréal Middle East has taken part in purposeful initiatives, centered around women empowerment, sustainability and innovation. Take us through a few of these initiatives, and what impact the group hopes to make in the region.

Sustainability, innovation, and women’s empowerment are the foundational pillars of our strategy, central to everything we do at L’Oréal Middle East.

Apart from our sustainability and innovation initiatives mentioned previously, our commitment to empowering women has also been reflected in the numerous programs that have impacted the lives of 25,000 people in the region.
For the last 10 years, the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Middle East programme, has supported and empowered over 50 Arab female scientists through investing in endowments to support their professional growth. Moreover, the L’Oréal Paris Stand Up Against Street Harassment programme has educated 11,000 people in the GCC on addressing and preventing harassment.

Furthermore, the L’Oréal Saudi Arabia Hairdressing Institute exemplifies our dedication to empowering Saudi women by enhancing their skills in the beauty industry, leading to a 70 per cent employment rate in local salons. There is a potential to create 15,000 jobs for women in the salon industry in Saudi Arabia alone.

Last but not least, we have partnered recently with Himayah Organization in Saudi Arabia to support its ‘Safe Homes’ initiative to help more than 600 beneficiaries access skill training, psychological safety and preparation for employment.

Tell us about the brand’s regional ambassadors.

Our brand ambassadors in the MENA region are all unique and powerful women who embody the essence and ethos of our brands.
Hend Sabri, the acclaimed Egyptian-Tunisian actress and producer, has been representing Garnier Middle East and North Africa since 2009 and has iconised the Garnier Color Naturals brand in the region. Mayan El Sayed, the rising young Egyptian actress, joined the Garnier’s family last year, bringing a connection to the Gen Z audience in the region.

On L’Oréal Paris, the Saudi Arabian musician and actress, Aseel Omran, has been representing the brand in the Middle East and North Africa since 2019. Finally, the remarkable Egyptian actress, Mona Zaki, joined the brand in 2021. Together, they amplify the voice of empowerment in the region.

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