The cosmetics market in Africa holds great potential for the L'Oréal group. In an effort to strengthen its presence on the continent and meet a target of 1 billion new customers, the Group created a zone-specific structure for Africa and the Middle East in 2011. This zone comprises of six regional commercial hubs that include South Africa in the south, Ghana and Nigeria in the west, and Kenya in the east. L'Oréal also has three plants in Africa and the Middle East of which one is in South Africa and another in Kenya. These plants produce almost half the products distributed on the continent.
Research and innovation lie at the heart of L'Oréal's development strategy in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Group's objective is to create cosmetics that respond to the continent's diverse beauty needs and wishes. As a manifestation of this strategy, an evaluation centre was opened in South Africa to create proximity with consumers and understand their specific needs.
L'Oréal has also invested in local brands as part of its development plan. In Kenya, for example, the Group acquired Interbeauty, the cosmetics portfolio held by Interconsumer Products Ltd. Locally, Interbeauty is leader on the skin care market. Other brands have also been added to broaden the range of products tailored to African needs such as the SoftSheen Carson brands Dark and Lovely, Magic and Blue Ice. SoftSheen Carson is a leader on the hair care market for African hair. The brand was launched in 2000 after SoftSheen and Carson fused within the L'Oréal group. Founded respectively in 1901 and in 1964, these companies developed a number innovations in this market. The first "No-lye Relaxer" kit, for example, was launched by Dark and Lovely and has become the world leader in hair straightening products. By offering high-quality products for hair and skin care, the brand places innovation at the heart of its strategy.
The Group's development strategy also includes consolidating its position in two sectors: mass retail and the professional channel. Increasing market share by developing professional training is particularly strategic as African consumers frequent hair salons regularly and rely on their hairdresser's knowledge and advice. In response to this need, L'Oréal has launched the first hairdressing institute in South Africa "The L’Oréal Professional African Salon Institute". The training centre combines up-to-date knowledge and the latest trends from around the world with local market experience. By providing training in styling and professional care that is specific to multi-ethnic hair, the Group plans to reach a new client base. The institute also contributes to the creation of employment for local talent in hairdressing by responding to a lack of stylists trained in multi-ethnic professional hair care. These students also receive management training so that they can establish their own business following their apprenticeship.