The top 100 beauty companies of 2021 and their major trends

WWD has released its 2021 Top 100, which takes a quick look at beauty’s biggest companies.

And according to the data, the beauty industry has bounced back tremendously following the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, overall sales have surpassed 2019 pre-pandemic levels.

Total sales across all 100 companies reached US$235.19 billion, which was an increase of 10.6% year-over-year and up 3.3% on a two-year stack. L’Oréal accounted for 16.2% of these sales. Overall, the top 10 companies saw sales of US$137.96 billion, or 58.7% of total Top 100 revenues. This was an increase of 1 percentage point compared with both 2020 and 2019.

Of all the companies in the 2021 rankings, 53% generated an increase in sales both year-over-year and compared with pre-pandemic levels. A further 24 saw year-over-year gains, but their sales were down on 2019. Some 13 companies experienced declines over both years.

Over 20 years, sales for the world’s 100 leading beauty companies have also grown by a whooping 153%. L’Oréal – number one on the list both then and now – has nearly tripled its revenues. While there have been minimal changes at the top of the rankings, only around 40 players that featured in 2001 are still on the 2021 list.

To summarise what’s been happening in the beauty world over the past year, WWD took a closer look at some of the major trends among the top 100 beauty players in 2021.

Makeup continued to suffer (but is slowly making a comeback)

It’s no secret that makeup saw a huge decrease in sales as people took to self-care in isolation, favouring skincare products over anything else. However, makeup is actually beginning to show signs of a turnaround, according to WWD

Mass brands and certain companies are tapping into trends among younger consumers using TikTok-savvy strategies and other targeted means.

E.l.f. Beauty continued to perform well, and fast-beauty player Revolution Beauty made its debut into the Top 100 thanks to a major increase in sales. Among larger players, Coty made significant major inroads in turning the business around under CEO, Sue Nabi.

Beauty spin offs

During the pandemic, beauty companies took stock and either rightsized or honed their portfolios.

Popular Japanese brand, Shiseido, sold both its US makeup business and its personal care activity in Asia. It also created two major new players that scored places in the Top 100.

The rise of fragrance

At the start of the pandemic, the fragrance category was the hardest hit, however growth has been led by increases in China and explosive growth in the US.

Luxury brands have performed better than others, including Chanel, Sisley, Puig, Hermès and Cartier, which all exceeded their 2019 sales.

The growth of high-end hair care 

High-end hair care players have gained ground, with companies such as Olaplex and Luxury Brand Partners reporting significant increases.

The Estée Lauder Companies’ hair care sales saw an estimated gain of 20%, while Wella Professionals' salon hair business gained 25%. Professional hair care was a shining light in Henkel’s portfolio for the year, and Kao saw substantial increases in its salon channel and a strong performance from luxury brand, Oribe online.

Newer players gained traction

The 2021 Top 100 features eight new companies, ranging from carveouts such as Victoria’s Secret, Fine Today Shiseido and Orveon, as well as fast-growing new players like Oddity, best known for its Il Makiage label, and Revolution Beauty. 

Contract manufacturers or formulators that have been flexing their muscles in the branded beauty space, like Bloomage and Maesa, also made the list.

A strong year for IPOs

It was another strong year for beauty IPOs. According to WWD, “Olaplex floated in September in one of beauty’s biggest IPOs”, valuing the company at more than US$15 billion. Another fast-growing contender, Revolution Beauty, was listed in London.

A boom in China

There were signs that the boom in China was slowing for beauty, but it continued to shake things up in 2021. 

New players this year included the likes of companies such as Chicmax, which operates the Kans and One Leaf brands. It is allegedly planning an IPO for this year. Bloomage Biotechnology Corp., a specialist in hyaluronic acid production for various industries also saw its branded beauty sales rise significant over the past year.

Image source: WWD