Eos, the lip-care brand founded in 2006, has launched a new product incubation program to compete with fast-beauty brands that launch products in a matter of weeks.

The first results of the program, focused on micro-batches of product, will debut on Thursday, with two lip-balm products featuring cannabis sativa hemp oil. The lineup was inspired by the unofficial marijuana holiday known as 4/20. Eos announced the two products with posts on Instagram and Facebook, and though it has distribution in mass retailers like Target, CVS and Rite Aid, it will only sell direct-to-consumer through its site, EvolutionOfSmooth.com. In 2018, Eos had a 7% market share of all U.S. lip-balm sales, according to Statista.

“We wanted to find specific windows of time where ingredients [like hemp oil] could marry up with a cultural moment,” said Soyoung Kang, CMO of Eos.

The concept of the micro-batch program and its hemp oil-focused debut was born from the brand’s research and development lab, according to Mike Wong, head of R&D at Eos.

The micro-batch program operates by producing “significantly” fewer units of products than Eos typically makes, Kang said, though she declined to elaborate on quantity. By producing fewer units, the brand requires less lead time for production, which allows products to be brought to market more quickly. The Eos team began working on its two hemp oil products in January 2019, whereas the brand typically needs a year to turn a product around. Kang expects the inventory to sell out in a month, and the brand will not replenish the products.

Eos is dipping its toe into fast production at a time when fast-beauty-dedicated brands are trending. Winky Lux, Colourpop, Taste Beauty and Amazon’s first exclusive beauty brand, Fast Beauty, seize upon trends and pop-culture moments or collaborations, and bring products to market in a matter of weeks, not months. Winky Lux, for one, has a concept-to-market time of 45 days. As a result, heritage companies such as Unilever, Coty Inc. and The Estée Lauder Companies have developed internal fast-beauty teams to cut down development and production lead times, or have invested in fast companies like Deciem.

This week, Eos teased the micro-batch products in its social media channels, on its website and in a dedicated email to its entire database. The email featured a five-second GIF stating, “Get ready for some green goodness; 4.20.” Kang declined to say how many emails are in the brand’s database.

“The fact that we don’t have to look for a channel of distribution and we’re doing it on a micro-batch scale means we can go faster to market,” she said. “We can also reward our fan base, because you will not know about these products unless you are active in our community.”

Moving forward, the brand is taking an “opportunist” approach to production and has no set cadence for releases. The plan is to stay flexible so it can pivot its focus on a trend quickly.

“By having that [dual] strategy, where we have cult or perennial favorite products and also micro-batch products, [which are] a cherry on top of our offerings, is never a bad thing,” she said. “It allows us to maintain our brand product and promise, but also have fun and stay competitive.”

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