Today, big brands across industry were moving to more sustainable formulations and packaging, like Unilever’s Love, Beauty and Planet’s move to add bar soap hair care and metal bottles and transition to 100% biodegradable ingredients, and the Garnier Green Lab line, with vegan products and no parabens, dyes or mineral oils, both mass market.
But Jillian Wright, co-founder of the Indie Beauty Expo, said independent beauty brands had also been innovating, in many cases much earlier and much faster, to incorporate biodegradable and ethically-sourced ingredients into formulations, and replace and minimize packaging.
“Now, the bigger conglomerates, I don’t want to say that they’re behind, but they really do need to catch up,” Wright told CosmeticsDesign. “Because indies are so nimble and so quick, they can turn on a dime, talk to their packaging supplier or ingredient supplier and make demands.”
Supply chain challenges and the ‘small order’ hurdle
However, there were challenges for these smaller brands when it came to working with biodegradables and sustainable alternatives, Wright said.
Whilst suppliers were increasing transparency around the origins, processing and certifications of raw materials, making biodegradable and sustainable ingredients more accessible to indie brands, she said more needed to be done to ensure workable partnerships with indie beauty brands making small orders.
Supply chain issues related to COVID-19 had also raised prices and created delays on biodegradable packing and ingredients for small, indie brands, like other segments of the economy, she said.
Despite the challenges related to packaging and ingredient supply chains, Wright said integrating sustainable elements into a brand was becoming essential for indie brands. Some indie companies were focused on developing zero-waste packaging, for example, including ceramic packaging developed by Ayuna for its Terra collection, which broke down into dust when disposed of.
Beauty tool company Kitch were also moving towards solid, bar shampoo and conditioners which do not require plastic bottles. Wright said even small brands like deodorant company Coco and Cleo were able to make large impacts in the indie space with their focus on zero-waste packaging.
“After we get through the supply chain issues of COVID, I think these conversations will become greater and more in the forefront,” Wright said. “Six years ago, we were trying to prove ourselves, and now you can’t even be a brand without talking about some sort of sustainability.”
Consumers want change, indie beauty has ‘collective’ power
Additionally, consumers had a taste for the products, Wright said, and with climate issues appearing across media platforms, they were increasingly interested in products which focused on sustainability, driving interest in products they wouldn’t typically use like bar soaps for body and hair care.
Wright said indie brands have gained power among consumers and were serving to drive changes in the overall industry. While the mass-market brands were moving more slowly, she said innovations in indie would inform future moves for larger companies.
“When this becomes mainstream, that’s when change is going to happen,” she said. “I don’t want to say indie in niche anymore, and indie brands have a lot of power, especially as a collective, to make change.”