Are Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Brands Ready For China?

What Happened: Cruelty-free brands are having a moment. New exemptions outlined in China’s latest Cosmetic Supervision and Administration Regulation update mean that certain products can now enter the country without undergoing animal testing on arrival. These “ordinary” or “general use” cosmetics include mascara, shampoo, and fragrances. 

France has become the first European country to qualify for these exonerations. The National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) has developed a dedicated platform in France to enable its manufacturers to obtain the necessary certificates and approvals for easier access to the mainland. Other EU countries are now racing to devise their own frameworks to meet the update and see their brands follow suit with easier access to China. 

Jing Take: China is now the world’s second-largest cosmetics consumer market with more than 5,400 licensed cosmetics producers and 1.6 million registered products in the country. Within that vast blue ocean, sectors such as fragrance are still relatively new and offer deep opportunities: only 1 percent of citizens use perfume on a daily basis according to China Daily. 

Up until this ruling, cross-border e-commerce platforms, such as Tmall Global had been the only access route for cruelty-free brands to bypass these testing regulations. The likes of Fenty Beauty and Drunk Elephant took advantage of this loophole to great effect; given this, will they now switch to bigger platforms to reach a larger consumer base? As for Tmall Global, to combat a potential loss of business, it has announced new plans to help Western brands launch in China, including localization and the provision of a new self-service portal to help merchants launch a storefront within 30 days.

While these exemptions remove a barrier to Western brands vying to enter China’s lucrative cosmetics market, they still face many more from domestic brands making exceptional headway with local consumers. Beauty fans have a lengthy wish list and very high demands, from cosmetics on demand to round the clock customer service. Therefore these smaller animal-friendly indie brands, which this ruling appeals to in particular, will need to ensure they don’t dive in too quickly.  

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.