Plastic packaging has gotten a bad rap with customers, so beauty brands are unwrapping.
New brands like Loli Beauty and Ethique have embedded the circular economy concept into their core businesses through the use of biodegradable, recyclable or carbon-neutral products, and have been able to attract consumer interest and funding by leveraging this unique angle to natural beauty. Meanwhile, larger companies like Lush have received valuable earned media for their zero-waste products — for Lush, many of those brands have existed since the company began in 1995. For example, bath bombs have existed since the company’s founding, but a limited-edition version that looks like a turtle was released last month to raise awareness around ocean conservation. Lush will also re-release a zero-waste soap in July which features a miniature paper shark fin. By capitalizing on the sustainability values of the modern customer, new brands are finding a way to make an impact in a crowded market, while older brands are discovering opportunities to renew enthusiasm for longstanding products.
“You only have to look around to see the worldwide momentum behind banning single-use plastics, alongside the realization that recycling will not make our plastic obsession OK,” said Brianne West, Ethique’s founder and formulator.
Today, green concerns have an impact on the purchasing decisions of almost all consumers. A 2017 study from Unilever showed that 33 percent of international consumers prefer to buy from a brand that is doing social and environmental good. It’s not enough for a brand to espouse “green beauty” in its ingredients — they must also emphasize recycling or the biodegradability of packaging, or just use less of it.
Lush, for its part, has aimed to visualize its sustainability impact as part of its strategy. The turtle-shaped bomb released in June disintegrates into bath water to represent turtles’ waning population, while agar chunks in the bomb do not dissolve, symbolizing plastic waste. It debuted on June 19 and has resulted in 46,600 online and in-store purchases for the brand, and was the fifth-best-selling product brandwide between June 19 and July 17. Separately, a viral video last month created by Attn: Media about Lush’s zero-waste shampoo bars has been viewed over 75 million times and immediately resulted in the sale of more than 12,000 bars in two days, according to the brand. Previously, following a 2015 campaign about the harmful environmental effects of micro-beads, a commonly used skin-care exfoliator, the brand created a limited-edition body scrub made with naturally exfoliating sand.
But for a newer brand like Ethique, which was born online, the leveraging of sustainable products can help fund the growth of business and gain considerable attention. Based in New Zealand, the brand offers biodegradable ingredients and wrappers for its hair, face and body bars, and has received an “exceedingly positive” response from customers, according to West. The brand has over 62,000 “likes” on Facebook and has been able to stoke interest in funding for the brand by relying on equity crowdfunding in 2015 and 2017. In 2015, the brand raised approximately $300,000, and in its latest campaign, Ethique gave its original shareholders 21 hours to pre-register their investments before everyone else and raised over $500,000 in 90 minutes. Ethique claims 330 percent growth in 2017 and anticipates earning $2.2 million in revenue for the 2018 fiscal year.
The brand is now able to launch into nationwide brick-and-mortar stores in the United States by the middle of next year, as it currently relies mostly on Amazon, said West. It is also expanding into 440 pharmacies around Australia in October and is beginning to export into Japan in approximately 100 natural beauty department stores.
“We treat each market differently, relying on our distribution partners’ expertise for advice, but almost always starting online first, so we can ensure we tell our story properly,” she said.