Unilever boosts beauty portfolio with new acquisition

After acquiring Hourglass, and more recently Carver Korea, Unilever, the Dutch agri-food and cosmetics giant, continues to broaden its portfolio of high-end, innovative beauty brands.  On 12th October, Unilever Ventures, the investment fund supporting emerging companies operating in the Dutch group's target sectors, announced a $3 million (€2.5 million) investment for the purchase of US make-up brand Bakerie Cosmetics, together with other institutional investors. Bakerie Cosmetics was founded in 2011 by Cashmere Nicole. With its products inspired by the world of confectionery, it appeals strongly to Millennials, and has over 400,000 followers on Instagram.



Illuminators by Bakerie Cosmetics - Instagram

The latest in Unilever's recent string of acquisitions comes after the group was shaken by a surprise purchase bid by Kraft Heinz last February, a bid which was quickly rejected. Since then, the Dutch group seems keen to quickly improve its performance, and has taken an interest in niche make-up brands, to gain a foothold in a booming segment.

In 2016, make-up sales worldwide increased by 8.4%, while the global beauty market recorded a 5% growth, up to €205 billion. Last June, Unilever bought Hourglass, a make-up label founded in 2004, with a strong web presence. "We are delighted to welcome Hourglass in our premium brand portfolio. The make-up category is a strong growth driver, lead by social media, a diverse distribution network and a greater ease of access to professional make-up labels (...)," said Alan Jope, President of Unilever's Personal Hygiene division.

Then, only two weeks ago, Unilever made its biggest acquisition in seven years by shelling out €2.27 billion for South Korean cosmetics group Carver Korea, until then owned by Goldman Sachs, Bain Capital Private Equity and its original founder. The acquisition enabled Unilever to strengthen its position in North Asia, "the world's largest skincare market," said Jope.

In recent years, Unilever had bought beauty brands like Dermalogica, REN and Kate Somerville. These acquisitions were already proof of the group's interest for beauty brands which, according to an analyst at Reuters, generate higher margins than those of the food sector.

For the first six months of 2017, Unilever's personal care division (featuring Signal, Dove and Sunsilk among others) reported a revenue of €10.5 billion, nearly 40% of the group's overall sales.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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