PCHi Insight: Part Two

Mibelle talks targeted growth in China and regulatory challenges

Dr. Fred Zulli, managing director, Mibelle Biochemistry

In the second part of this interview with Switzerland-based Mibelle Biochemistry, managing director Dr. Fred Zulli shares his vision about targeted ingredient launches for the China market, while underlining the regulatory challenges.

Dr. Zulli, are there specific active biotechnology ingredients that the China market is looking for?

There is always a big interest in plant extracts, functionality, then biotechnology and peptides.

Are you at a point where you might be close to launching an ingredient or product line that specifically targets the China market?

In the past you could develop an ingredient and offer it to markets everywhere. But today you have to think about offering specific products to specific markets. That means designing, producing and developing specific actives ingredients for the Chinese market.

There will be a time in the not too distant future that we will be making a grand scale product launch targeting the China market at a big industry event in the country. This will be a completely new product specifically developed for the market. This could happen for next year’s PCHi show.

Are you more targeting skin care, hair care or both?

I think we have to consider both, but for the time being it’s definitely more for the skin care market.

And what sort of active properties are formulators looking for?

Lightening and brightening is a big topic, and of course anti-wrinkle is not important, because Asian skin is not susceptible to wrinkles, unlike in Western countries. But various aspects of moisturisation are definitely interesting.

And so is anti-pollution because people are increasingly aware of pollution in urban areas, both in China and other parts of Asia, meaning detox creams are getting increasingly popular.

On the other hand, the government in China does not really allow to make anti-pollution or detox claims. So let’s say there is a consumer demand there, but it is challenging to meet it because of the consumer regulations.

Is this problem similar to making claims on anti-wrinkle products in the US?

Yes, it is similar, you want to say something but you cannot, so you have to be very careful with the working you use for the product and try to make a claim so as the consumer understands what the product does, without flouting the regulations.

We have started to understand the market, what the demand is and how to serve that demand. We are close to cracking that now. But on the other hand, the biggest problem is now the regulations, which are starting to get more strict. And you have to take that into consideration when you develop a new product.

How do you approach the regulatory side of things?

We work well with our distributors, who let us know what is and what is not possible in the market, and then we may work together with a consultant to investigate more specific or complex regulations. It’s very important to have a distributor that is a business partner in this market. We have worked with our distributor for many years now and we have built a collaboration that has enabled us to plan and design our products of the future.

Is the copying of your technologies and products a problem in China?

Yes, it's a huge problem. It’s not that inventive here, but they do have a very fast adaptation of new technologies.

And how do you protect yourself from this kind of threat?

I think you cannot really protect yourself from this kind of problem. You just have to have a constant innovation pipeline and keep launching new products all the time. But cosmetics is a fast changing industry, so once you’ve copied a product, there is a new one out that consumers want to try.

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