Loto del Sur, the Puig group’s Latin American venture
Virtually unknown in Europe, the name Loto del Sur was brought to the forefront in 2019 when the Spanish group Puig announced a minority investment in the premium Colombian beauty brand. While the financial details of the deal were not disclosed, the acquisition, which the group carried out in parallel to its entry into the Indian market through Kama Ayurveda, underscored the Spanish company's plans to expand globally and diversify its dermo-cosmetics offering.
With more than two decades of history, a wide range of natural products made with Latin American flora and a rapidly growing retail network including 15 stores in Colombia, Loto del Sur is the perfect addition to the Puig group’s cosmetics portfolio as an outstanding company with ample growth opportunities.
"The company was born in order to develop a beauty brand in Latin America that would be able to compete with big European companies that have always dominated the market," said Johana Sanint, founder and CEO of the family-run company Loto del Sur, coinciding with her participation in the latest edition of Bogota Fashion Week held between May 19 and 21.
"We Latin Americans are obliged to rediscover what we already have in order to build worthwhile projects that are appreciated outside of our borders. I wanted to build a brand around biodiversity, the flagship of our wealth in Colombia,” she said, insisting on the importance of preserving nature and national ancestral knowledge.
Born in Bogota, Sanint, who studied architecture, inherited her love for scents and travel souvenirs from her Dutch great-grandfather, a perfume distributor. She combined this passion with her penchant for design and, after graduating, she traveled to Italy and France to learn artisanal methods of extracting perfumes and making vegetable soaps. In 1999, Sanint returned to her native country and launched her first company, La Jabonería: a brand of cold-processed botanical soaps made using ancient methods which helped lay the groundwork for Loto del Sur.
Colombia's biodiversity: one big pharmacy
Today, the beauty brand has expanded into organic in-house produced products, packaged neatly and elegantly. The product range includes everything from aromatherapy oils, serums, and candles to creams, masks, mists, make-up removers, toners, and skincare products.
The brand, positioned in a premium and niche market segment, is available on its own online website, with competitive prices ranging from 68,900 Colombian pesos (around €16.40) for the liquid soap, one of its star products, to 239,900 Colombian pesos (€57) for the organic beauty elixir made from cacay, roses and CBD.
As the firm continues to research plant-derived ingredients and gain knowledge of indigenous communities, it intends to soon add a line of fine fragrances to its product portfolio as well as an eye contour cream made from ‘electric flower’ that has a similar filler effect to that of Botox. "We want to be the first brand in Latin America to bring these ingredients to the rest of the world," she said.
"Our main goal is to turn the everyday into the extraordinary. There is something very enriching about turning everyday activities, such as taking a bath, into a ritual and special moments. Putting perfume on should not be something automatic, but sacred," said the entrepreneur, an advocate of “conscious cosmetics” and working on products that are "as sustainable" as possible.
"For us, 'clean beauty' is a core conviction from the beginning, but we don't communicate it as much since it’s become a marketing label for which there is no precise definition given," Sanint argued, giving as an example the difficulties encountered when selecting environmentally friendly packaging. "It’s difficult to find a radical stance on sustainability, there is still no perfect solution," acknowledged the founder.
The Puig effect
Puig, owner of the fashion and fragrance brands Carolina Herrera, Nina Ricci, Paco Rabanne, Jean Paul Gaultier, Dries Van Noten, Penhaligon's and L'Artisan Parfumeur; and holder of licenses for Prada, Christian Louboutin and Comme des Garçons, the company led by the third generation of the Puig family decided to invest in beauty by acquiring a majority stake in the English brand Charlotte Tilbury in 2020.
This major $1 billion operation in the beauty segment was carried out in parallel with minority investments in niche brands, such as in the Chinese brand Scent Library, and while expanding its dermo-cosmetics brands Uriage and Apivita. The conglomerate present in 150 countries, which increased its sales by 27% compared to 2019 to €2.6 million, expects to exceed €3 billion in turnover in the current financial year.
"The group has outstanding brands in its portfolio. It is a dream as a founder that Puig has recognized our work and our potential for international expansion. Its participation acts as an accelerator to send Loto del Sur to foreign markets and we can learn a lot from a large corporation", said the businesswoman three years after the entry of her European minority partner.
These synergies are still scarce in the Latin American region. To date, Loto del Sur is the only Colombian brand to be a part of a luxury group’s brand portfolio, while swimwear label Maaji has the private fund L Catterton in its capital.
Sanint seems confident about the partnership's future prospects. "Unlike an investment fund, Puig is interested in long-term brand building. The most valuable thing is knowing that this project will transcend myself and there will be teams to carry on the brand in the future," added the founder, who for the time being plans to remain at the helm of her company's activities.
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