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Predicting the unpredictable

  • Last updated: January 13, 2021

‘It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future’’ said the great American baseball player and sage, Yogi Berra. 

He was right. The Economist magazine predicted that in 2020 the Tokyo Olympics would be a tremendous success, but pessimistically suggested economies would ‘flirt with recession’. Astrology.com advised Librans such as myself to plan a faraway trip in 2020. British mystic Jemima Packington, who sees the future by reading asparagus, said that Trump would win the US presidential election.

No asparagus reader, astrologist, or even ‘serious’ analyst predicted a global pandemic and an unprecedented economic meltdown. And the virus continues to make fools of those who attempt to tell us what to expect.

Nothing much good comes from the disruption and suffering brought by COVID. But our industry has shown itself in a positive light, not just because many companies were able to help produce hand gels to address a severe shortage earlier in the year, but also because cosmetics such as soap and other hygiene products are a widely available means of addressing infection, recommended by international health associations such as the European Centre for Disease Control.

As in other industries, many cosmetics companies have taken a hit during the crisis, particularly in the luxury part of the market, and it will take a while for us to bounce back. There is, however, no recession in regulation. 2020 was an intense year of activity for the European Commission, as it launched its ambitious and wide ranging European Green Deal (which includes, among other things, proposals on consumer empowerment, chemicals and packaging), and its new initiative on digital services, to name but two policy areas. At the same time that our industry is trying to restore growth, in 2021 it faces new and far-reaching regulatory initiatives, which we will return to in this blog in the coming months.

Many have speculated that the ways we have adapted to the pandemic will change our behaviour – less flying, more homeworking, less city dwelling, and so on.

But we should not overestimate how easily the human fundamentals change. That is, the need to be with and close to others, the urge to move, to explore new frontiers, and more. When the pandemic finally goes away, people will discover these pleasures anew, and with greater vigour.

And the delight in colour, fragrance, texture, feeling a little special, and all those pleasures we take from cosmetics and which are as old as human time, will not change either. Our products will be a key part of the re-embracing of social life which must come before long.

That’s my one prediction for 2021, no asparagus involved.


John Chave, Director General, Cosmetics Europe

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