Why is everyone going nuts over this beauty product?

By Simone Mitchell

An Australian beauty product is now hot property in Asia. Photo / lucaspapaw.com.au
An Australian beauty product is now hot property in Asia. Photo / lucaspapaw.com.au

As far as beauty products go, it doesn't get much more humble than this little red tube.

Lucas' Papaw Ointment - which was developed in a backyard shed in Queensland - has gained a cult status around the globe.

Make up artists love it. Travellers with chapped lips swear by it. And now it seems that beauty fans in China and Hong Kong can't get enough of it.

According to Tuesday evening's report on Australian show A Current Affair, for every one Australian consumer of Lucas' Papaw Ointment, there are 70 consumers in China.

"First, it was our powdered baby formulas that foreign buyers couldn't get enough of," said ACA journalist Reid Butler in the report.

"Now ... it's the famous red tube. Lucas's papaw ointment has a cult status in Asia. And as our hidden camera investigation reveals, many of our chemists have been forced to put purchasing limits in place, so Aussie customers don't miss out."

A staffer at a Chemist Warehouse store told Butler that they limit the number of the tubes customers can buy, as people are buying the ointment in bulk to sell online overseas, and they need to maintain stock for local customers.

Pharmacist Peter Yousef runs online wholesale chemist Ureeka. He says the item is so popular, they've developed a smart phone app where shoppers in China can buy the Aussie ointment directly.

CT Johnson, the managing director of Cross Border Management and an expert in the Chinese marketplace told ACA: "Lucas Papaw is extremely popular in China and the reason that it's so popular is because it has a great backstory. It's more than a hundred years old and they love that. They love something that's had the authenticity of being around a long time.

"The reason that the Chinese have such a big thing about authenticity is exactly because for the last 30 or 40 years they have been doing a lot of fakes. They've had a lot of counterfeiting that has gone on in that market."

"One of the [other] things is that red, that very distinctive red packaging. That does not hurt because red is the colour of success and money in china, so a red tube with an Australian made product, with a long history, that is a fantastic combination."

It also helps that local celebs and famous Aussie faces including Cate Blanchett, Miranda Kerr and Rose Byrne are fans of the humble balm.

According to the ACA report, professional Chinese shoppers named "daigous" snap up the tubes in Australian stores and then sell them for two to three times the purchase price in China.

It's unclear how much the Queensland company is making from its new-found popularity in the Asian market, but as ACA reports, "with a potential customer base of 1.3 billion in China alone, experts believe the profits must be huge".

The company has moved to a bigger factory in Brisbane to cope with demand for the product. According to manager Lynette Swinglehurst, they are currently producing 40,000 tubes and 15,000 jars a day.

The popularity of Lucas' Papaw ointment isn't news within Australia. Last year it was the number one selling beauty product at Priceline stores nationally, and it has been a consistent contender on local best-selling lists for the past 10 years.

When asked about the daigous purchasing the items in Australian stores to sell for profit overseas, a representative from Lucas' said they don't endorse or approve of their product being sold in most parts of Asia.

It's technically a medicinal product and that means it has to be officially registered with the relevant health authorities.

It has TGA approval for sale here in Australia. but not in countries like China or Vietnam.
"Unfortunately, we have no control over individuals purchasing [the] Papaw Ointment in Australia (or approved countries) and personally selling the product elsewhere," a representative said.

"We do not encourage this practice, and our product is for sale for individual use only."

- news.com.au

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