Oct 4, 2021
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Unilever wants fast growth in prestige beauty, seeks science-based brands

Oct 4, 2021

Unilever is targeting further prestige beauty acquisitions, but it only wants brands that are science-based, isn’t interested in celebrity beauty labels and won’t buy retailers.


Vasiliki Petrou, executive VP at Unilever Prestige, has overseen the consumer products giant’s strategy so far, continues to do so and has plans to generate €3 billion in sales within a decade through more acquisitions and targeting growth markets such as China. 

The company now owns Paula’s Choice, Murad, Dermalogica (its largest upscale brand with sales of around €200 million) and Hourglass, among others. 

It means the company is always in the frame for observers when a beauty operation is up for sale, and was rumoured to have been interested in Charlotte Tilbury and Cult Beauty recently, However, Vasiliki told The Times that the firm doesn’t want to buy beauty retailers, which would have meant Cult wasn’t on its list.

She said in an interview that brands only get onto her hit list after she has personally tested the products, has faith in the brand founders and sees potential for them to grow around the world. And she doesn’t want to buy in to anything faddish.

But the company is clearly prepared to power ahead. “We came late to the party but we want to leapfrog everyone else”, she told the newspaper. 

That’s understandable given that the luxury beauty market is growing faster than the mass-market and the Unilever Prestige division saw sales rising 27% in the first half against overall company growth of just over 5%.

As mentioned, Petrou is picky about which brands she wants to buy. “Ultimately, the success of a product is with the consumer, which is why I go for science-based brands so they’re products that work, rather than a celebrity business,” she said.

She also bemoaned the lack of support for female-owned businesses during the pandemic, highlighting the shutdown of largely female-owned salons and not enough support for self-employed beauticians. She said the industry isn’t “frivolous, it’s not about vanity. Some government officials don’t understand the power it adds to the economy”.

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