Insights / Beauty
”Scandinavians tend to be reserved in their storytelling and are very modest or shy to capitalize on their heritage”
On the future of Scandinavian beauty
22 Mar 2022

The Frenchman has spent most of his professional life in Asia, working mainly in operations and advisory roles for heritage brands in the luxury and premium space such LVMH, Bacardi Group, Groupe Rocher, Monbento, and Oriflame. He’s visited Sweden every summer for the last 20 years and moved to the country in 2019 for love.

— In Scandinavia, he explains, I discovered a rich, yet unsung, variety of consumer brands with a very strong ethos that many outside of this region do not know about. I felt, however, that the storytelling of these great brands was very limited outside of the region. There is a void in the market space outside of Scandinavia for ’Scandi beauty products’. Being a promoter at heart as well as proud and happy to live in this part of the world, I saw an opportunity to leverage my network and experience to support Scandi-brands in the beauty sector with a determination to succeed internationally.

Last year, he co-founded Aurora Beauty as a vehicle to do just that for Beauty and Wellness brands with a focus on Asian markets.

What’s the current state of the beauty industry?

— In a nutshell, the beauty industry is flourishing and in my opinion, it is in a state of flux with amazing opportunities. Some examples are:

– Growth prospects in certain geographical locations, such as Asia.
– Underserved product categories — for instance, scalp care and ’beauty food’.
– The rise of D2C brands pushing innovation and addressing functional issues for the new as well as the old generation of consumers.
– The importance of social selling and subscription models.
– Personal care and Beauty represent only a fourth of the Wellness economy, estimated by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) to be a $4.4 trillion business, forecasted to grow to a $7.7 trillion market by 2025. This is a tremendous opportunity for brands that have developed or are developing a business around ’holistic beauty’. Scandinavia’s holistic aura could play very well into that space.

Which major trends would you like to point out?

— First and foremost customization. But also, holistic beauty where the health routine becomes part of your beauty routine — beauty food is part of that. We also see the rise in biotechnology, where we see massive investment today. Some examples are perfume and aroma giant Givaudan developing its active division, or the well-funded startup Arcaea fostering a beauty revolution through biology. Other major trends include the emergence of the skin microbiome as a new market segment and the rebirth of forgotten heritage brands. Finally, the blockchain adoption and the metaverse ecosystem will for sure fuel further opportunities in the beauty and wellness industry. We have not seen a lot of activity yet but it is already here.

We’ve recently experienced a rise for ”S Beauty”. How’s the future for Scandinavian beauty brands?

— ‘S Beauty’ may be a tricky concept to grasp. There have been multiple attempts to define it and it means different things for different people or brands. To me, it is multifaceted and more than its geographic origin. The caveat, as I see it, is that Scandinavians tend to be reserved in their storytelling and are very modest or shy to capitalize on their heritage. However, to the external eye, Scandinavia and the Nordic countries are incredibly sexy: the landscape, the design, the science, the progressivity, the holistic and balanced approach to life… The safety, reliability, and quality of products conveyed by well-established industrial companies add a lot to that. And just look at the sustainability index for UN SDGs — the spotlight is clearly on the region: in the top 10, you find 5 countries from the region: Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, plus neighbouring Estonia. There is so much ’sex appeal’ for wooing consumers elsewhere in the consumer goods space. Basically, Scandinavia and the Nordics rock! And there are too few beauty brands and retailers at this stage that are capitalizing on that trend, Liberman states. He continues:

— Therefore I see an opportunity for S-Beauty brands to become a commercial beauty movement. To put the commercial opportunity for S-Beauty into perspective, it helps to look at the success of the J-Beauty or K-Beauty markets that respectively account for approximate 35 and 20 billion USD a year. Now when it comes to the crucial call to promote this trend for me is storytelling. And while brands can do some of the work they cannot do it alone. A multi-disciplinary approach is needed: retailers featuring the best of S-Beauty to the outside world would certainly help, the investment community backing the opportunity too. The funding and emergence of an S-Beauty house to the like of Amore Pacific for K-beauty and KAO or Shiseido for J-Beauty will certainly help. Scandinavian design, fashion and now food — in the ultra-premium segment with the like of Rene Redzepi from Noma or Magnus Nilsson from the late Fäviken, just to name a couple — have succeeded in developing an aura. For me, next in is Beauty. I want somehow to contribute and help put that movement in motion. Scandinavia and S-Beauty brands have the world at their feet!

Frederic Liberman.

Next week, you launch the FaB Community Stockholm Chapter. What is it?

— FaB stands for Fashion and Beauty Tech. It was founded by Odile Roujol, ex-president of Lancôme and a serial Board Member and business angel in the ecosystem of Silicon Valley. By advising startups, founders as well as being a mentor, she realized that one of the best ways for founders to continue to grow is to have a conversation with other founders as well as with funders. This is why the FaB Community was created and these conversations are now promoted with a combination of online and public events by 16 chapters in the US, Asia, and Europe with 10000+ community members. It is an inclusive community with a mix of entrepreneurs and investors, with inspiring women and role models. Part of the conversations covers Platforms, Social Media Analytics, Augmented reality, Customized Beauty, Sustainable Luxury, and Fashion. The community is inspired by the ’Pay-It-Forward’ culture where each and every one of us learns from others through conversation, Liberman explains, adding,

— The FaB movement resonated with my objective to support and invest in Scandi-brands with international ambitions. By opening the FaB Stockholm chapter, not only did I connect with really ambitious and talented founders in the region but I also was able to put them in contact with other FaB chapters around the world. It is in that spirit that I am hosting the first FaB Stockholm event. The focus will be on skin microbiome as the new frontier for beauty products and we have a lineup of Scandinavian and US founders that will bring insights on the topic: Elsa Jungman, US-based founder of the brand Dr Elsa Jungman; Johanna Gillbro, Swedish authority on the skin microbiome and founder of the brand Skinome Project, and David Koo Hjalmarsson, serial Swedish entrepreneur and founder of the label Tiny Associates for microbiome-friendly beauty products. Odile will also participate and say hello. I am planning to host 3 to 4 FaB events per year. 

— Lastly, since the topics of these events are community-driven, I would like to reach out to Scandinavian industry representatives that are founders and funders and ask them to get in touch with me to shape these conversations, Liberman concludes.