Valued at a staggering USD 532 billion, the global beauty and cosmetics industry exhibits no signs of slowing down. As competition increases, companies are exploring mergers and acquisitions as a strategic approach to bolster their product portfolio and cater to diverse markets and niches. These strategic moves have set the stage for a high-stakes race to become the industry’s paramount players. This article dives into the top beauty M&A deals within the last 5 years, providing a detailed look into each deal’s size, parties involved, and strategic implications.
Mega Deals in the Beauty and Cosmetics Industry from 2019 – 2023
No. 1. EQT Partners Acquires Galderma: USD 11.5 Billion*
The largest M&A deal in the beauty and cosmetics industry was signed on June 24, 2019 when EQT and its partners Luxinva (a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, “ADIA”), PSP Investments, and other esteemed institutional investors, completed the acquisition of Galderma following exclusive negotiations with Nestlé. The deal was anchored in EQT’s confidence in Galderma’s potential for long-term growth in the highly lucrative dermatology sector. The massive USD 11.5 billion transaction resulted in the Swiss-based global dermatology company Galderma to become the world’s largest independent pure-play dermatology company with a broad base of market-leading products and extensive research and development capabilities.
This acquisition was a milestone in Galderma’s history, as it transitioned from being a subsidiary of Nestlé, a multinational food and beverage conglomerate, to a standalone leader in the dermatology sector. Founded in 1981, Galderma has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Nestlé since 2014, offering an extensive range of medical and consumer skin health solutions. The company operates across three business units: Aesthetics, Prescription, and Consumer Care. It generated combined revenues of CHF 2.8 billion (USD 2.82 billion) and employed approximately 5,000 employees worldwide at the time of the acquisition.
(*Source: Capital IQ)
No. 2. JAB Cosmetics B.V. Acquires Majority Shares of Coty Inc.: USD 10.1 Billion*
Second on the list is the USD 10.1 Billion acquisition of Coty, Inc. by JAB Cosmetics on February 12, 2019. JAB’s relationship with Coty traces its roots back to 1992 when JAB gained control of Coty from Chas. Pfizer and Co., who had initially merged with Coty in 1963. This strategic acquisition initiated the transformation of Coty into an industry powerhouse that has since amassed a diverse portfolio of celebrity-endorsed fragrances and iconic brands like Calvin Klein.
JAB’s latest move in this USD 10.1 billion deal demonstrated a renewed commitment to Coty, one of its earliest and enduring investments. The investment firm, which also owns renowned brands like Keurig Dr Pepper and Pret A Manger, signaled its unwavering support for Coty by raising its ownership stake from 40 percent to 60 percent. This significant commitment came amidst challenges and disruptions in the beauty sector, attesting to the resilience and strategic foresight of JAB.
Coty’s strategic trajectory has been characterized by significant mergers and acquisitions since the 1960s, further bolstered by a significant merger with Lancaster Group in 1996. Today, with a history that stretches back to the early 1900s, Coty is home to over 50 esteemed luxury and consumer brands, highlighting its respected status and dynamic portfolio within the beauty and cosmetics industry.
(*Source: Capital IQ)
No. 3. KKR & Co. Inc. Acquires Professional Beauty and Retail Hair Businesses of Coty Inc.: USD 4.3 Billion*
The third-largest deal occurred on May 11, 2020, when KKR & Co. Inc. acquired the Wella and Clairol brands – the Professional Beauty and Retail Hair businesses of Coty Inc. for a sum of USD 4.3 billion. The move allowed Coty Inc. to reduce its debt and refocus efforts on its higher-margin businesses, specifically in the luxury beauty and fragrances segments.
The deal involved Coty carving out Wella into a standalone company, with KKR acquiring the majority stake and Coty retaining 40%. This agreement generated approximately USD 3 billion in additional cash proceeds for Coty. Alongside the Wella transaction, KKR increased its investment in Coty from an initial USD 750 million to USD 1 billion, providing Coty with significant capital to lessen its financial leverage and enhance its position for long-term growth. Coty’s mass beauty business in Brazil, however, remained under full ownership of Coty.
Bloomberg Intelligence analyst, Deborah Aitken, affirmed the benefits of Coty’s strategic move, highlighting that the partial exit from professional hair care substantially lessened Coty’s leveraged balance sheet. The transaction coincided with the revival of hair salons and beauty businesses post-pandemic lockdowns, thereby boosting the strategic value of the deal for both KKR and Coty.
(*Source: Capital IQ)
No. 4. The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. Buys Tom Ford International: USD 2.8 Billion*
The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. takes the 4th spot as it fortified its position in the luxury market through its acquisition of Tom Ford International, LLC. The deal, valued at USD 2.8 billion, was completed on November 15, 2022 marking Estée Lauder’s largest acquisition to date and solidifies its position as a global leader in prestige beauty.
The acquisition means Estée Lauder now has exclusive ownership over the globally recognized TOM FORD BEAUTY, an iconic luxury beauty brand, originally introduced by Estée Lauder in 2006. The brand offers a unique collection of fragrance, makeup, and skincare products, reflecting Tom Ford’s vision of modern glamour.
The deal also expands TOM FORD’s longstanding relationship with Ermenegildo Zegna N.V., granting Zegna a long-term license for all of TOM FORD’s fashion and accessory lines. As part of the agreement, Zegna will oversee the operations of the TOM FORD fashion business.
TOM FORD BEAUTY is well-positioned in the luxury fragrance and makeup categories and is expected to surpass industry growth in the coming years. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, the brand recorded a nearly 25% increase in net sales and is projected to achieve annual net sales of one billion dollars. The brand, ranked among the top 15 prestige fragrances in the United States and top 10 in China, continues to gain momentum and has received more than twenty awards from The Fragrance Foundation.
No. 5. L’Oréal S.A. Announces Purchase of Aesop Retail Pty Ltd: USD 2.5 Billion*
At fifth place is French beauty empire L’Oréal S.A. which announced its intention to buy Aesop Retail Pty Ltd, which is owned by Natura & Co. The deal, valued at USD 2.5 billion, was announced on April 3, 2023. This forthcoming deal would enable L’Oréal to enhance its luxury portfolio, given Aesop’s strong global following and high-quality product range.
The agreement with Natura & Co permits L’Oréal to acquire Aēsop, a renowned Australian luxury beauty brand recognized for its quality hair, skin, and body products. L’Oréal’s CEO, Nicolas Hieronimus, welcomed Aēsop into the L’Oréal family with enthusiasm, lauding its embodiment of “avant-garde beauty” and “undeniable luxury.”
L’Oréal, well-known for strategic M&As, will add Aesop to its extensive portfolio of 36 brands across luxury, consumer, dermatology, and professional product sectors. This acquisition follows L’Oréal’s history of targeted investments to diversify its offerings, including major brands like Maybelline, NYX Professional Makeup, CeraVe, and Garnier.
(*Source: Capital IQ)
No. 6. Unilever Acquires Paula’s Choice: USD 2.2 Billion*
Ranking 6th on this list, Unilever added Paula’s Choice to its long list of brands on June 14, 2021, with a purchase price of USD 2.2 billion. This move underscored Unilever’s strategy to tap into the booming digital-first beauty market, as Paula’s Choice has a strong e-commerce presence and a devoted online community.
Unilever’s EVP and CEO of its Prestige Division , Vasiliki Petrou, praised Paula’s Choice as a pioneer in the digital beauty space, while founder Paula Begoun highlighted the partnership’s potential for furthering their 26-year commitment to high-quality skincare. The deal aligns with Unilever’s strategic focus on the premium skincare segment, as stated by Unilever Beauty & Personal Care President, Sunny Jain.
Paula’s Choice joined Unilever Prestige, which houses brands like Kate Somerville, Dermalogica, Murad, and Tatcha. Founded in 1995 by Paula Begoun, Paula’s Choice is known for its ingredient transparency and will now be part of Unilever’s wide-ranging portfolio including Dove, Vaseline, St. Ives, and Pond’s.
(*Source: Capital IQ)
No. 7. Natura &Co Holding S.A. Takes Over Avon Products, Inc.: USD 2 Billion*
Seventh and last on this list of Mega Deals, Natura & Co Holding S.A. consolidated their position in the global beauty and cosmetics market by acquiring Avon Products, Inc. for USD 2 billion on May 22, 2019This merger led to the creation of the world’s fourth-largest pure-play beauty company, thereby enhancing Natura’s global footprint.
With this acquisition, Natura and Avon combined to form a leading global beauty giant with an unprecedented direct-to-consumer approach. Their combined workforce, totaling 6.3 million consultants and representatives, facilitated a gross revenue of more than EUR 8.9 billion (USD 10 billion). This acquisition also expanded their operational scope to over 100 countries worldwide.
The transaction played a pivotal role in establishing a significant Latin American presence in the personal care, beauty, and cosmetics space. Notably, the combined entity, inclusive of Avon, Natura, The Body Shop, and Aesop, reached over 200 million consumers globally, positioning the group as an unrivaled leader in the Direct-to-Consumer space. However, it’s worth noting that Aesop was later acquired by L’oreal, as detailed in the sixth deal on this list.
(*Source: Wallstreet Journal)
Other Major Deals in the Beauty and Cosmetics Industry from 2019 – 2023
No. 8. Unilever Acquires Majority Stake in Nutrafol (Nutraceutical Wellness LLC): USD 0.9 Billion*
Unilever announced on May 30, 2022, that it had signed an agreement to acquire a majority stake in Nutrafol, a leading provider of hair wellness products in the U.S. Unilever already held a 13.2% stake in Nutrafol through Unilever Ventures.
Nutrafol’s products target various root causes affecting hair health, from stress and lifestyle to hormones and aging. With a large base of U.S. consumers experiencing hair health issues, Nutrafol is strategically positioned for growth, given its strong digital capabilities and a loyal customer base.
Fernando Fernandez, President of Beauty and Wellbeing for Unilever, welcomed Nutrafol into Unilever’s portfolio of wellness and supplements brands. As part of the deal, Nutrafol, which is backed by consumer-focused private equity firm L Catterton, will continue to operate from New York under the leadership of CEO Giorgos Tsetis. It will be part of Unilever’s Health & Wellbeing unit. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
(*Source: Capital IQ)
No. 9. Church & Dwight Co., Inc. Acquires Hero Mighty Patch: USD 0.6 Billion*
On September 6, 2022, Church & Dwight Co., Inc. announced it had signed an agreement to acquire the Hero Mighty Patch brand and other acne treatment products of Hero Cosmetics for USD 0.6 billion in cash and restricted stock.
Mighty Patch is the #2 brand in the U.S. acne category and the top patch brand in acne. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter, subject to customary closing conditions.
Acne patches are currently the fastest-growing treatment form in the acne category, and Hero’s products are exclusively marketed in the U.S. Church & Dwight plans to expand Mighty Patch’s distribution by leveraging its U.S. retailer relationships and global footprint. The company will maintain the brand’s New York City location and retain its employees, with the founders expected to continue running the business.
(*Source: Capital IQ)
No. 10. Betterware de Mexico Acquires JAFRA’s Operations in Mexico and the United States: USD 0.3 Billion*
On January 18, 2022, Betterware de Mexico announced it will acquire all JAFRA’s operations in Mexico and the U.S. from Germany’s Vorwerk Group for USD 0.3 billion. The deal, expected to close in H1 2022, will extend Betterware’s reach into North America and the beauty and personal care product market. It also incorporates JAFRA’s ~443k independent leaders and consultants, boosting Betterware’s direct-selling and e-commerce capabilities. The acquisition will be funded through USD 225 million in debt financing and USD 30 million from existing cash reserves.
(*Source: Capital IQ)
Beauty Industry M&A Key Takeaways
The past five years in the beauty and cosmetics industry have been marked by significant M&A activity, with the sector’s biggest players reshaping the landscape through a series of high-profile, billion-dollar deals. These transactions underline the strategic importance of diversification, product portfolio expansion, and direct-to-consumer engagement.
EQT Partners’ acquisition of Galderma exemplifies a strategy of portfolio diversification. By transforming Galderma from a subsidiary of a multinational food and beverage conglomerate into a standalone leader in the lucrative dermatology sector, EQT has successfully diversified its portfolio in the healthcare sector.
Two notable examples of product portfolio expansion are JAB Cosmetics B.V.’s acquisition of the majority shares in Coty Inc. and KKR & Co. Inc.’s acquisition of the Professional Beauty and Retail Hair businesses of Coty Inc. These strategic moves have facilitated the transformation of Coty into an industry powerhouse, boasting a diverse array of celebrity-endorsed fragrances and iconic brands. Similarly, Church & Dwight Co., Inc.’s acquisition of Hero Mighty Patch serves to broaden its skincare offerings. By capitalizing on the acne patch market, this acquisition allows Church & Dwight Co., Inc. to leverage its existing retailer relationships and global footprint, thereby extending Mighty Patch’s distribution.
Natura &Co Holding S.A.’s takeover of Avon Products, Inc., L’Oréal S.A.’s purchase of Aesop Retail Pty Ltd, and Unilever’s acquisitions of Paula’s Choice and Nutrafol exemplify a direct-to-consumer engagement strategy. These deals aim to enhance digital presence and strengthen direct-to-consumer reach.
The consolidation trend seen in these deals underscores the industry’s continued growth potential and intense competition, with the leading entities vying for global market dominance. This race not only strengthens individual brands but also catalyzes innovation, customer engagement, and expansion across the globe.
It will be interesting to see how these strategic alliances will shape the future of the beauty and cosmetics industry in the years to come.