In the Nordic countries of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, beauty brands are seeing success in DTC and, more recently, retail channels.
Five-year-old influencer-led beauty brand Caia opened its first pop-up at the Swedish NK luxury department store on October 12. According to Swedish publication Breakit, the line to get in snaked around the store. Although the Stockholm-based brand has been courted by department stores for years, it held out for the right venue, said the founder Bianca Ingrosso. The ideal space would be customizable and allow for an “editorial” display of products, à la Glossier, she said. Caia, which launched in 2017, saw $40 million in revenues last year, according to the company. Ingrosso has 1.3 million followers on Instagram and almost 400,000 on TikTok.
Caia sells glow-focused color cosmetics, including its popular Dewy Drops serum foundation and Dew Look setting spray. Its prices range from $25-$35. The Dewy Drops sold out in two months after launching in April.
“In the Nordics, we say that your best makeup tool is your smile,” said Ingrosso. “So products that enhance that smile and look natural work best.”
“Nordic beauty is about highlighting beauty and natural skin,” said Johanna Paavilainen, General Manager for North America at Nordic skin-care brand Lumene. “The focus is also on multi-use products, where you take a couple of drops of a product and tap it in as a bronzer or swipe it across as a highlighter. We talk about a Nordic glow because it looks like an inner radiance rather than something that is added on top.”
Nordic fashion is also distinct, known for colorful items from brands like Ganni, practical outerwear from Rain and niche accessories from Marimekko. Influencers including Pernille Teisbaek and Emili Sindlev have also made the look a popular reference point for fashion inspiration.
According to Caia CEO Johanna Hamrén, the brand’s differentiator is product quality. “We [work with] the best factory in the world,” she said, referring to its single manufacturer in Italy. “There’s a perception that some influencer-founded brands just put the face of the founder on the ad and do something cheap.”
She added, “The kinds of products we make are usually only available for the luxury brands. But since we have this DTC set up, we can keep the products at a much lower price. The manufacturer has wanted us to raise the prices, but we’ve said no until this year as we have such a loyal community.”
Caia raised all of its products’ prices by two euros in January. “The customers are less price-sensitive than we thought,” Hamrén said.
Along with a focus on quality, Caia has focused on producing entertaining social content, especially for TikTok. “For them to take the time to see a campaign or a story with a product or with a makeup tutorial, it should be super entertaining or make them feel something while they watch it,” said Ingrosso.
Over the summer, Ingrosso released a cover of Jamelia’s “Superstar” through a music video created in partnership with MTV and Spotify. It ran on TikTok and Instagram and featured limited-edition Caia products. The cover has racked up over 15 million listens to date. “We want the expectations to be high in terms of what Caia does next,” said Ingrosso.
Currently, Caia is focused on growing its European presence — it already has a big market in Sweden and Norway, and it’s been pushing into Germany and the U.K., as well. “We’ve been focusing a lot on branding and creating the same kind of relationships that we have with customers [in Sweden],” said Ingrosso. “The U.K., for one, is a huge market and you need to do something different to stand out.”
Caia isn’t the only Nordic brand venturing out. “We see a lot of demand for skin-care-infused makeup in many European markets, like the U.K. and Germany,” said Pajala. “Our priorities are about widening the distribution there, as well as the product assortment.”
Other Nordic beauty brands that are seeing traction include Danish Bodyologist and Swedish Verso Skincare.
In the Nordics this year, the beauty and personal care market is projected to drive $7.25 billion in revenue, with 23.9% generated online, according to data analytics platform Statista. The market is expected to see an annual growth rate averaging 2.57% through 2028. The beauty and personal care market in the U.S. is worth $97 billion.