An interview with Ms. Li CHEN, CEO of Phyt’s China
Eight years ago, when the organic concept was seldom heard of in China’s beauty market, Li CHEN boldly brought Phyt’s, an organic cosmetic brand originated from France, to China. With COSMEBIO certification and 100% natural ingredients, Phyt’s has now become a leading salon-line brand and a representative of quality in consumers’ hearts in China. To Li, organic certification doesn’t just mean the properties of the product or the quality of the manufacturing process. More importantly, it connotes responsibility, respect for nature and an elegant and self-disciplined lifestyle.
With a master’s degree in Luxury Management from the Institut des Hautes Etudes Economiques et Commerciales (INSEEC, France), Li has been engaged in the cosmetics industry for nearly 26 years and spent 14 years in the aroma field. She once went to India and Bulgaria to delve into the world of aroma before finally reaching Paris where she met Phyt’s. SpaChina interviewed Li, the pioneer in China’s organic beauty industry and a perseverant dream pursuer.
Why did you choose Phyt’s and bring it to China?
The story began in 1972. Biologist and naturopath Jean Paul Llopart joined hands with beautician Rosanne Verlé and created Phytal, a natural cosmetics brand. They laid the foundation for Naturo-Esthétique®, inspired by their revolutionary approach in which beauty is inseparable from overall health. Over the years, they developed a diversity of innovative and effective products totally free from synthetic preservatives. Acquired by Laboratoires Jérodia in 2004, a group specializing in ‘natural beauty and health’, the brand took on a new lease of life as Phyt’s.
When I went to study in France, I had an idea of finding a “more suitable” product and bringing it back to China. However, what the definition of “more suitable” was, I was not so clear at the beginning. I just described it as “safer and more effective”. Then I met Phyt’s. This is a luxury and organic cosmetics brand originated from France, a top option by professional salons in Europe. After a very good perceptual first impression, what really attracted me was the COSMEBIO logo, one of the three authoritative organic certifications of European Union. After a series of business visits, the brand amazingly met all my harsh requirements. My principle in making any business decision is: “If it’s only for Li CHEN’s wallet instead of the society, I will not do it.” It is based on this principle that I brought Phyt’s France to China.
What is real organic? What is the standard to distinguish true and false organic products?
Organic products refer to products whose ingredient acquisition, raw materials monitoring, production, processing, emission management and sales all comply with environmental standards and that have organic certification and organic certification marks. Organic certification covers the whole process rather than a single ingredient. Organic certification shoulders the social responsibility of protecting species and environment and serves as a criterion to distinguishes true and false organic. When a product’s naturality, safety and efficiency are verified and recognized, it is a real organic one. Organic means effectiveness and efficiency, and maximum extent of active ingredients acting on the skin. Resources awareness, mutual help, social responsibility, gratitude, self-discipline are the key words for real organic.
Phyt’s is known as “100% natural and 100% safe”. Could you share more details on these two “100%”?
All Phyt’s products have been certified by COSMEBIO. In terms of formula, achieving COSMEBIO certification means that at least 95% of the product’s ingredients are derived from nature; at least 95% of the product’s plant ingredients comes from organic farming; at least 10% of the product’s composition comes from organic farming. Moreover, the cleaning, disinfection and transportation process are all under strict supervision. Far above COSMEBIO standards, all Phyt’s products contain 100% natural ingredients and are 100% safe, delivering a perfect combination of beauty, pleasure, effectiveness, harmlessness, and professional ethics.
How does Phyt’s transform natural plants into highly effective ingredients that work miracles on the skin? What are the core technologies and R&D strengths?
The expertise of Phyt’s since its foundation nearly 50 years ago is the development of 100% natural formulas and products of high effectiveness. In-depth knowledge of essential oils drives the development of formulas based on essential oil complexes which deliver diverse skincare functions. Plant extracts and complexes created therefrom are applied in the product ranges such as Phyt’s Sublime Eyes (anti-puffiness and dark circles complex) and Phyt’s White (an active brightening complex). Other star plant extracts include those from fresh orange and eucalyptus leaves. We employ a cold extraction process without using aggressive solvent. This process utilizes a pressure gradient system allowing a gradual and complete release of active plant cells. The R&D department lays special emphasis on technology innovation, which continues to enhance the products’ effectiveness and popularity among the consumers. We insist on using only natural perfume and emulsifiers from renewable resources. We stick to the brand’s DNA: a 100% natural cosmetics that respects people and environment.
Who are the main customers of Phyt’s in China? What are the most popular Phyt’s products in China?
Most of Phyt’s customers in China have good education background, high income, overseas living experience, and environmental awareness. They are between 30 and 60 years old. To them, safety is a key issue. They understand that to choose organic is to choose health and health is the basis of everything. So they are more willing and also able to pay for organic cosmetics.
Phyt’s star products in domestic market include: Phyt’s Lait Nettoyant, Phyt’s Eau Micellaire Hydratante, Phyt’s Naturoderm, Phyt’s Sérum Multi-vita, Phyt’s Sérum Anti-rides, etc.
What kind of challenges have you met since you brought Phyt’s to China and are operating the brand here? What is your plan for the next three years?
After a thorough business evaluation, Phyt’s came to China. However, at the beginning, Phyt’s was not as popular as expected. Eight years ago, the knowledge and promotion of organic products was very scarce in China. We struggled a lot in marketing and organic education. I remember an interesting experience. At that time, apart from Phyt’s, some other products purchased from abroad are also used and sold in our own beauty salons. In order to achieve good sales performance, the salon managers were reluctant to promote and sell Phyt’s. Then I made a very ‘cruel’ decision: stop all foreign procurement budget. Finally, at the fourth year after its coming into China, Phyt’s safety and effectiveness were widely recognized. Meanwhile, with the boom of on-site service in high-end beauty market at that time, Phyt’s became increasingly influential in the market. Today, Phyt’s does not only rank first in beauty salon lines, but also known to the public through various channels.
The year 2020 is destined to be an extraordinary year. The sudden epidemic outbreak has quietly changed the retail mode. Live webcasts once again attract huge audience flow. Nowadays, people pay more attention to health, and the harmony between people and nature. This is undoubtedly an opportunity for natural and organic products to boom. In addition to traditional e-commerce, Phyt’s will also be engaged in live broadcasts and community marketing fields in the next three years.
What are the new trends you have observed in China’s wellness, spa and beauty industry?
Consumers are more and more stratified, and their needs are beginning to be more diverse. Anti-aging, freckle removal, and body shaping are hot topics in the industry. Meanwhile, the boundary between professional salon products and retail products begins to blur. Many top retail skincare brands now turn to natural and organic formulas as well. Their products can be as good as professional products in terms of quality and efficacy. Also, online marketing is becoming a must, yet online price systems may be quite chaotic.