Unilever’s recently launched, sustainable personal-care brand Love Beauty and Planet is growing its product assortment and pushing its storytelling. It’s part of the company’s focus on its “Sustainable Living Plan,” which launched in 2010 and has rapidly been gaining traction as of late with acquisitions like eco-friendly cleaning products company Seventh Generation in 2016 and beauty launches Love Beauty and Planet and ApotheCare Essentials.
Since debuting in January with 18 products — shampoo, conditioner, hair-styling products, body wash and body scrubs — the incubated beauty brand has ventured this month into deodorants, lotions and body treatments, like hydro gels, body butters and body dry oils. The new launches increase the Love Beauty and Planet’s line size to 45 products. Love Beauty Plant is currently sold on Amazon and in mass retailers like Walgreens and CVS, but the body treatments are sold in Ulta exclusively, where they are being featured in its “New Arrivals” section, and the oil infusions debuted exclusively in Target.
In December 2017, Unilever said brands the company identified as part of its “Sustainable Living Plan” grew more than 50 percent faster than the rest of business last year and also delivered more than 60 percent of Unilever’s 2016 growth. Since 2010, Unilever has invested significantly in its “Sustainable Living Plan”: By 2020, the company is hoping to improve health and well-being for more than 1 billion people through community programs (centered on safe drinking water, sanitation and hand washing) and cut its environmental footprint by half by 2030.
In April, Unilever proved investing more in its sustainable businesses was, indeed, promising. The company reported that the beauty and personal-care category grew by 3.9 percent in the first quarter of 2018, buoyed by “purpose-led” brands. Love Beauty and Planet is one such brand, as is ApotheCare Essentials, a botanical-based hair and body cleansing line, which Unilever debuted in November 2017.
Part of the demand is coming from customers. The recent deodorant, lotions and body-treatment launches came from customers’ requests on Instagram, said Molly Landman, Unilever global brand director. “Millennial consumers are overwhelmingly supporting our social mission and want to do their part,” she said. “The asks for deodorants and lotions on social specifically narrowed down how and what we were going to launch next.” From ideation to launch, the product incubation process took about six months.
The new products are free of parabens and sulfate cleansers, and most of its packaging features recycled wrappers and plastic bottles — as of June, Love Beauty and Planet reported that because of its original assortment it had saved 105 tons of greenhouse gas and stopped approximately 200 tons of plastic from going into landfills, thanks to its recycled bottle initiative. Fittingly, all Love Beauty and Planet ingredients, like murumuru butter, coconut water and shea butter are ethically sourced.
Other giant cosmetic and personal-care companies have also looked to more specific market segmentations for growth, whether it be millennials or clean ingredient devotees, or both: L’Oréal launched its first sustainable beauty brand, Seed Phytonutrients, in April, though the company began its move toward sustainability in 2005. Seed Phytonutrients has recently expanded from a largely digital strategy of direct-to-consumer e-commerce and Amazon to a larger physical retail presence with health-and-wellness store Pharmaca.
Love Beauty and Planet has been keen to message its sustainable purpose across third-party retailer platforms both online and through in-store signage, as well as its own channels. Mass retailers, like CVS and Walgreens, don’t necessarily have the in-store sales associate-to-customer education lever built in.
In July, the brand publicized a mission-driven video on YouTube delineating how its products spur “Small Acts of Love.” Though its audience is relatively small on the platform — about 2,400 subscribers — over 2,000 people viewed the video. Landman also pointed to its #smallactsoflove and #sustainablesummer hashtags on Instagram, which the brand has been promoting this season. Nearly 1,800 and 2,500 in-feed posts have been tagged thus far. Love Beauty and Planet currently has 44,000 followers on the social platform. Thus far, Unilever has not pursued television marketing for its Love Beauty and Planet launch.
These digital storytelling techniques have also proved advantageous for the brand’s partners, like Fabscrap, a one-stop textile reuse and recycling resource, which was facilitated through social entrepreneur agency Ashoka. Since collaborating with Love Beauty and Planet at launch in January, Fabscrap has dramatically increased operations, including enhanced community engagement and the number of pounds of fabric upcycled and sorted. Fabscrap has also increased its Instagram following to 12,600 — this time last year, it had less than 1,500 followers. The online push has also increased its reach in real life: Fabscrap has added 82 new companies to receive its recycling service, bringing the current total to 189.