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The Swiss ecosystem for cosmetics companies

Why Switzerland

Switzerland, known for its abundant alpine plants containing valuable active ingredients, is a prime location for the cosmetics industry. While large luxury brands are established in the country, many small companies innovate in cosmetics based on natural and organic ingredients.

Did you know? Switzerland is a land of cosmetics. Long known for its beautiful landscapes, its calmness, and the purity of its alpine environment, the Swiss reference is also a guarantee of quality and reliability, respect for traditions, and luxury. The “Swiss made” label is used in the cosmetics industry to highlight the country’s reputation for serious research, innovation, and medical expertise.  This label is regulated and can increase the value of a product by an average of 50% on the international cosmetics market.

Switzerland has a high-performance value chain for the production of luxury cosmetics, as evidenced by the presence of strong brands in the country, such as La Prairie, Valmont, and Cellcosmet. Naturalness is booming and benefits from the brands’ social and environmental commitments. This positioning is not due to chance, as Alpine cosmetics companies have the know-how to turn plants into gold.

The Valais canton in Switzerland is a major producer of aromatic and medicinal plants, accounting for 60% of the country’s total production. These plants, such as Edelweiss, Saxifrages, and Immortelle, contain valuable active compounds and have been traditionally used since the 19th century. They are considered a valuable resource, reflecting the traditional knowledge of the region. The Valplantes Cooperative oversees an annual production of 150 tons of high-value-added materials in the Valais canton.

Research in cosmetics in Western Switzerland

Scientific research in phytochemistry has revealed the properties of Alpine plants. The image of the Alps in bloom and of products made in Switzerland are therefore attractive factors for companies in the cosmetics industry.

To respond concretely to the interest of this industry and to offer products with high added value, the players in the sector can count on PhytoArk, a competence center based on the Agroscope agronomic research site in the Sion-Conthey region. Unique in Switzerland thanks to its ecosystem, PhytoArk is home to a dozen companies and start-ups and extends over 1,500 m2 in the middle of the Rhone Valley. PhytoArk is fully integrated into the innovation strategy of The Ark Foundation, an economic development tool supported by the canton of Valais.

PhytoArk owns an extraction platform that allows working on process development, pilot phase, and pre-industrial production of plant extracts. This platform is operated by Mediplant – a research institute on aromatic and medicinal plants – which develops natural ingredients for the cosmetics, nutraceutical, and food sectors.

“Ultimately, our objective is to offer a range of specialized skills and a breeding ground for new innovative projects. For the cosmetics sector, we support projects in the areas of regulation, eco-design, formulation, and manufacturing thanks to the Phytosphere Swiss Lab, which has been established at PhytoArk since its inception,” assures Sarah Schneider of PhytoArk.

Innovative Swiss cosmetic brands

Internationally renowned manufacturers and production operators are present in the canton of Valais. This gives real industrial perspectives for cosmetic brands to grow and develop in a dedicated ecosystem.

Among them is the brand Zizania Biobotanica. Its co-founder, Tulipan Zollinger, explains: “Our brand was born from the desire to enhance the value of the co-products of our gardens and to provide consumers with simple, eco-designed, and top-quality products. Our approach is truly in line with the concept of circular economy and the farm-to-face movement that has been developing in the cosmetics industry for the last few years.” Belle Luce is also a Valais-based brand that offers skincare products with organic ingredients grown in their mountain garden in the Val de Bagnes. The region can also count on Pharmalp, which offers natural and environmentally friendly products. The company manages the development of its products in-house, from the identification and pre-clinical validation of specific ingredients to the elaboration of final formulas.

The value chain reinforced by PhytoArk around natural ingredients meets the expectations of the Swiss and international cosmetics industry over the last fifteen years, with a strong demand for products with scientifically recognized active ingredients and a marked orientation towards greater naturalness. While the major cosmetics groups have set up their subsidiaries in Switzerland, many SMEs and start-ups are developing and innovating in particular in the up-cycling of ingredients.