Hidden Champions and Business Heads The Quick Path to Beautiful Skin » An interview with the CEO at Schaebens Heiko Hünemeyer

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The Quick Path to Beautiful Skin
SCHAEBENS’ story reaches back to the 16th century. After the business first began producing scented waters, it began specializing in cosmetic and pharmaceutical preparations in 1933 and is known today for its face masks. The Diplomatisches Magazin spoke to the managing director Heiko Hünemeyer.

Hünemeyer, your business is one of the leading providers of cosmetic products in Germany. What were some important milestones?

I’ve been in my family’s business for over 30 years, and there have been many different milestones. It started in 1987, when we changed from being generalists to being specialists, and in 1992 we switched our product range to feature cosmetic products. In 1995, we had the simple idea to develop cosmetic products with the same demands that are placed on pharmaceutical preparations, and to market them that way. This changed our world and made us stand out from the competition. From the beginning, our motto has been: “maximum effect with minimum side effects.”

The key to success was specializing in face masks, correct?

Yes, two years later we first began using four-sealed edge bags, which was a new packaging for the sale of masks. Thanks to these bags, we could begin using smaller amounts of product for single uses instead of larger amounts for many uses. This method helped significantly reduce the amount of preservation materials in the product, among other things. Since these materials, along with others, are often responsible for skin irritations and allergies, the skin compatibility of our cosmetic products was significantly improved. At the same time, our recipes were improved for maximum effect.

In 2011, we took over the market leadership in Germany (both the drugstore market and food retail) in the areas of facial care (according to statistics from the market research company Nielsen). In 2015 and 2016, Schaebens gained the biggest absolute market growth among the 21 market-leading cosmetics companies in Germany. In the past year, seven of the ten most popular facial care products in Germany came from Schaebens. The use of television commercials in the last year also increased our brand recognition with a gross advertising volume of 5.4 million Euro.

In this year, we labelled our cosmetic products as “hypoallergenic” in order to highlight the products that don’t contain any allergenic ingredients. We were able to do this because we registered less than 150 skin incompatibility issues in the 173 million cosmetic products we sold, which means that there has been less than one skin compatibility issue per one million cosmetic products sold (from 2012 to 2016). We’ve also be labelling the products as “free of” and give effect statements as well as listing the percentages of each specific effect.

50 years ago, the headquarters of your business were moved from Cologne to Frechen, which is close by. What role does foreign marketing play for Schaebens?

For Schaebens, the most long-term potential for growth lies in exports. We are currently on a very promising path, especially in Europe and Asia. Our goal is to soon have our total sales coming from exports be in the double- digits.

You distribute your products through wellknown drug stores and through online pharmacies and retailers. How do these two distribution paths help your revenue?

The biggest sales channel for cosmetics and particularly for masks in Germany is the drug store, followed by the food retail trade. For masks, discounter stores, specialist shops, and the pharmacy have not been so important. Online pharmacies and retailers, such as Amazon, are gaining more and more importance and will be able to generate a significant growth boost despite still being at a relatively low level. We take the positive cooperation between drug stores and diverse online platforms for granted. But we must also consider that our biggest trade partners, such as dm and Rossmann, have their own online platforms.

Schaebens cooperates with various institutions such as the Industry Association of Body Care and Cleaning Products e.V. or the Dermatest GmbH. How do you assure the quality of your care products?

The close cooperation with diverse associations and test institutes and laboratories is indispensable. Schaebens even disposes of a manufacturing authorization for medicinal products and creates medical products in large quantities. An optimal quality assurance is omnipresent. Therefore, all our products have the same QS standards, regardless of their legal forms. The expectations that are being placed on our cosmetic products through the QS standard usually exceeds the aspirational level of other cosmetic products.

In the past years, Schaebens received many prizes. In the last year, these included the n-tv Hidden Champion Award, the Innovation Competition TOP 100, and the German Brand Award. What importance do these prizes have for your company?

The importance of the awards you have named and of a couple others cannot be emphasised enough. Every recognition is a confirmation of our own achievements, but it’s also a challenge to not only maintain these achievements, but to improve them. The effects are multifaceted, since these recognitions can be a helpful instrument in our search for good employees. Awards are also an excellent guide for potential partners, suppliers, consumers, and so forth. Certainly, the internal and external effects can’t be precisely quantified on a monetary level, but I’m sure they way go beyond the efforts we made to achieve those awards in the first place.

For many years now, your business has been supporting regional artists, especially in the Rhein/Erft area and the Eifel. What does this support consist of, and why is cultural engagement so important for Schaebens?

We demand a lot of creativity from ourselves. Art demands creativity. Therefore, we support engaged artists and involve ourselves in the regional cultural life. Our entire administrative building has been declared a non-public museum. Every year, we gift the partners of our house about 100 artworks from one artist. This way, we’re financially supporting the artist while also presenting their work to a broader audience. Recently, we had a sort of internal art auction, in which every employee could freely choose an art piece out of almost 100 pieces for their workplace.

Currently, there are a number of new products, such as a professional hydro-gel mask or a hyaluronic acid boost concentrate. What are some current bestsellers?

The most successful Schaebens products are masks, more than the concentrates. Our “Dead Sea Mask” is Schaebens’ bestseller.

In the past year, you’ve participated in the ”Students as Bosses” initiative from the Young Entrepreneurs union. What were your experiences?

It was a very nice and interesting experience. The young lady who took over my job for the day as the managing partner was very curious and made some interesting questions. This reminded me of the Lateral Thinker award, which we received in 2011. We should think laterally more often.

What plans do you have for the future of your business?

The business should continue to be a successful family business. We want to consciously be different from and more successful than many others in the market.

Interview Markus Feller

Pictures: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 = Schaebens