Edible beauty products have been hailed as the next big thing in functional food and cosmetics but the failure of the Essensis brand has sparked fears that the trend is more hype than hit.
Hitting supermarket shelves to much marketing and media fanfare in February 2007, Essensis was the biggest beauty food launch in Europe but sales never matched expectation, prompting Danone to pull the product in France two years later.
Now the French dairy giant has confirmed that the Essensis brand no longer exists having been removed from sale in Italy, Belgium and Spain. Essensis simply failed to deliver the sales figures Danone hoped for.
“During the last year, Essensis has been strongly penalised by the slowdown of consumption which does not allow it to develop its market, despite its undisputed health benefits,” said Danone spokesperson Esther Karpinski.
In the current economic climate Danone will focus on core business and well established brands like Actimel and Activia. But the company has not given up on the beauty food concept.
Karpinski said Essensis was a “precursor product” based on a well established link between food and skin quality.
“This link between skin and food still needs time and pedagogy to be acknowledged in Europe,” said Karpinski. “But we are convinced that this product has a strong potential for the future in Europe.”
Mintel analyst Nica Lewis agreed that the demise of Essensis does not spell the death of the category.
Lewis said: “Nutricosmetics are here to stay because the products meet and treat physical needs and beauty concerns, and are part of a general move to a holistic approach to well being.”
So why did Essensis fail when it was riding the wave of such a promising trend? Is it just a question of time and education as Danone suggests?
One of the key problems seems to be price. Lewis said that new Mintel consumer research in the UK found that 40 per cent of consumers think that beauty foods and drinks are too expensive.
In a recent report on functional food failures, New Nutrition Business magazine said price became an issue for Essensis because of its positioning on supermarket shelves.
“Essensis was merchandised in the supermarket alongside the regular yoghurt, where it’s easy for consumers to see that it sells at quite a premium to regular yoghurts.
The reported added: “Essensis isn’t differentiated enough to justify a price premium; the only thing that sets it apart from other yoghurts is its beauty benefit.”