Alastair Dorward may be new to the biotech company Amyris — he joined as chief brand officer in August — but he’s not unfamiliar with the better-for-you beauty and personal care space. Dorward was the founding CEO of natural, non-toxic brand Method and CEO of hand sanitizer brand Olika. The latter was acquired by Amyris in June.
“I’ve been a close student of Amyris, [their] trajectory from malaria into the world of production of really valuable and rare molecules and the whole conversation around making the scarce abundant… Over the course of the last year or so, there’s been this emergence of the portfolio of beauty, and that’s when I really started leaning forward,” said Dorward on the most recent episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast.
In many ways, Dorward considers beauty the last frontier of the progression for consumers to natural, organic or clean. Having worked across the food, toddler, personal care and beauty categories, he said, “There’s been a trade-off that is unacceptable — a trade-off between results or efficacy and clean.”
For its part, Amyris and its swathe of brands have been a tugboat that has pushed other conglomerates forward. Its portfolio includes Biosannce, which popularized industry-wide the use of squalane derived from sustainable sugarcane; clean baby brand Pipette; Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s clean color line, Rose Inc.; and most recently, Jonathan Van Ness’ vegan hair-care launch, JVN.
While beauty consumers are just starting to have more options at their fingertips, Dorward said, “The beauty industry has had the greatest challenge. [Mastering] cleaning [products] is one thing, but beauty and results are a much harder proposition to get right.”
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Guilt and penance
“When you think back to the early days of the organic food movement, organic bananas were ugly. Organic produce was something that was not appealing. And you look at green cleaning back in the early days of Method, there was a trade-off. It was about almost guilt and penance; you’ve been a bad consumer guilty of environmental crimes, so you have to use this product that doesn’t work well as penance for your crimes. It’s really been about technology and the advent of green chemistry. A lot of innovation has actually shifted this trade-off, where the consumer no longer has to make that [choice]. With Method and a number of other brands in the cleaning category, we’re able to make it desirable — not only something that is delivered from a performance point of view, but also something that is actually engaging from a consumer [point of view], something that becomes part of your identity. That is where the beauty industry has had its greatest challenge.”
Making better products available to all
“With the first child, money is no option. You buy the best, and you’ll spend money on expensive premium ingredients. By the time the second child comes along, the economic trade-off becomes more painful. So to me, premium products for baby and mom [like Pipette] should not be only available for baby registries or baby showers. It should be something that becomes part of being a mom. Being a parent is hard work. You want to create regimens that you can use every day, and that means you’re using a lot of products. Having something available, whether it’s at Target, CVS or Amazon — that is what accessibility looks like. I think it’s appropriate to have a portfolio of brands that serve the consumer, in different economic and generational layers, where they are. It’s appropriate to have brands that are at Sephora, but it’s also appropriate to have brands that are available at Target, CVS and [maybe] Walmart, so that [there is] accessibility and affordability.”
Finding the right partners
“Rosie [Huntington-Whiteley] is one of the most discerning users and developers of color cosmetics… The founder in any business has to set the standard and set a standard that is incredibly demanding. That is what makes brands remarkable… being seen as a true expert and being seen as somebody who is accessible, vulnerable and engaging. [You’re] somebody who has the ability to create a following, an incredible fan base. Creating fans of a brand is such an important foundation to have, it builds incredible momentum. JVN [Jonathan Van Ness] is a perfect example of it. When you think about your hair, there could be no more perfect partner in today’s culture. What’s important is the breadth of appeal generationally, across all aspects of humanity. A celebrity has to be appealing, has to have that level of engagement. But a degree of vulnerability is [also] important because that creates an ability for dialogue and empathy.”