Beyond lightening: China start-up Ortu launches clean label skin supplement line ‘for all’

By Guan Yu Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Ortu first launched the hyaluronic acid supplement on its flagship store on Tmall at the end of 2021. ©Ortu
Ortu first launched the hyaluronic acid supplement on its flagship store on Tmall at the end of 2021. ©Ortu

Related tags China skin health Beauty from within

A new start-up from China, Ortu, has released a clean label skin health supplement on Tmall said to cater to all genders, ages and skin colours, and eschewing the traditional lightening claims.

This supplement is a skin hydration product containing only three ingredients, hyaluronic acid, inulin as a prebiotic, and coconut milk powder or blueberry concentrate as flavouring.

According to Sunny Zhang, Ortu’s founder, there are many hyaluronic acid products available in the China market. However, these brands typically target young females who want to lose weight or have a lighter skin tone.

We are tired of this sort of image that people are advocating for because not everybody wants to be skinny or have lighter skin, and that can create a certain level of anxiety or insecurity in people​.”

Zhang said her products are gender, age, and skin colour friendly. “Both men and women can use it, people above 18 years old too, and we don't promote a certain type of skin colour​.”

Key to its strategy is a minimal formula with clean ingredients. For instance, hyaluronic acid is typically derived from animals, but Ortu’s is vegan and obtained through fermentation.

She explained that other hyaluronic acid supplements can claim to deliver a lighter skin or aid with weight loss because there are added ingredients.

We don't have any of those ingredients because we want this to be strictly a hyaluronic acid powder for all, and the use of hyaluronic acid is strictly only for skin hydration. We won't promote that it can reduce wrinkles or help with sleep because there are certain things that hyaluronic acid cannot achieve​.”

Powder power

The supplement is sold in individual powdered sachets, a format less common in China than liquids, gummies or jellies.

She told us the decision to make powder forms was because “we want to incorporate our products into people's daily life and make it convenient. We had considered liquid form in glass bottles but I think powder is a better option because we also advocate for environmental friendliness​.”

The coconut-flavoured product can be used as a plant based milk option for coffee or other beverages, and the blueberry-flavoured product can be added into water or smoothies.

These supplements are manufactured in China, and ingredients also sourced locally, to reduce carbon footprint.

Beauty from within market

Zhang had previously sought advice from Eddie Hung, co-founder of SMQ China Strategic Consulting for the brand launch.

According to Hung, the beauty supplement market is rapidly growing in China and its market size is estimated to be RMB23bn (US$3.6 bn) this year.

China’s heightened consciousness in health and wellness has sped up the growth of beauty supplement, especially after the pandemic. Of all the age groups, over 50% of China’s oral beauty consumers are the post-1990 generation, with the main objective of preventing early ageing rather than solving problems​.

The trend of combining of skin care and beauty supplements is increasing, especially for skin-whitening, skin moisturising, anti-ageing and anti-hair loss. For beauty-conscious consumers, they are looking for not just collagen drinks and vitamin supplements, but also new beauty-boost ingredients. This is why hyaluronic acid supplements and snacks are becoming very popular recently​.”

Future moves

Ortu first launched the hyaluronic acid supplement on its flagship store on Tmall at the end of 2021.

It is now looking to expand sales channels through cafes, yoga studios, and even launching pop-up stores.

There are plans to export to Hong Kong within the next two years, and potentially Taiwan and Singapore, with an e-commerce listing.

I do want to shift the general belief where people prefer to buy imported goods. We want to help people realise that localisation is a good thing not only environmentally, but also that the China market could sustain itself with its own products​,” Zhang said.

It will soon turn its attention to formulating sleep, digestion and mental health supplements.

It is also planning the launch of an elderberry-based supplement for respiratory health in spring 2022.

We will constantly launch more supplements, including herbal supplements, targeting different areas of concerns​,” Zhang said.

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