“Two years ago, we weren’t even on the radar,” recalls Henri Tinchant, CEO and owner of Asquan, Hong Kong-based manufacturer of cosmetics packaging. “Today, the company employs 42 people and is rapidly gaining visibility.”
Tinchant, who is not new to the world of packaging, sold his shares in a company he founded eight years ago to venture into the tech industry, among others. “In the end, I went back to cosmetics, but with more experience and resources than I had previously; I’m back on my home turf, but with a company that is 100 percent mine.”
He was 55 years old when he founded the company and figured he couldn’t spend 20 years building a company. “I had to establish the structure in five years, so I sought out the best salespeople, designers, and engineers on the market, people with a track record of at least ten years in the business, with solid portfolios and established client relationships. That was the shortcut I needed to reach my objective,” he explains.
Asquan—the name is a combination of the words Asian and quality—operates in four categories: primary packaging for makeup and skincare (plastic, metal, and paper/cardboard), brushes, makeup cases and accessories, and full service for makeup, “more of a service that we offer our clients than a cutting-edge activity,” explains Tinchant.
Like most of its competitors in Asia, Asquan partners with manufacturers through joint ventures. “I’m most interested in owning my IP and everything related to design—that's the part of the business I want to control. A factory is just a tool, so I prefer working with partner manufacturers that have real expertise, but that are not vertically integrated.” How does Tinchant's company differ from its competitors’? “Our small size gives us agility that many other manufacturers have lost. As a result, we’re often faster, and the fact that all our development is based in Asia gives us another advantage. Most of my competitors have development teams based in the US, the UK, or France. I chose the opposite tack to be closer to the factories.”
As a relative newcomer on the market, Asquan must place “a strong focus" on innovation and sustainability. One person on the team is entirely dedicated to researching sustainable packaging solutions, with three possible avenues as the current focus: a type of imitation leather made of 95% recycled material for the makeup case segment; a project based on post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials; and a collaboration with a French company that has developed an antimicrobial concept that would extend the lifetime of packaging for brushes, mascara, gloss, and facial-care products.
“Sustainable solutions are in high demand, but the obstacles are more aesthetic than financial. For example, once a biodegradable product is decorated, metallized, or lacquered, it’s no longer biodegradable. Are brands willing to have a neutral-colored product? I’m not so sure…”
Asquan is also studying connected packaging via an NFC platform. “Today the chip appears as a sticker label, but we’re seeing interesting developments in this field. Solutions exist; now it’s a question of organizing internal logistics to inform our clients of all the related services,” adds Tinchant. Asquan will be present at the MakeUp in NewYork show on September 11th and 12th.