BBAM: More and more beauty companies brand themselves along terms like ‘clean beauty, ‘conscious beauty’, ‘green beauty, ‘blue beauty’ – are there clear definitions and criteria for these terms?
Michael Nolte: Not only is there no internationally accepted, industry-wide definition, the criteria vary across categories, because the ingredients and manufacturing processes involved are at times fundamentally different. A truly sustainable brand would consider the entire life cycle of its products. This means every step – from the moment you start the production of your ingredients to packaging and what happens to it after the product has been discarded – needs to be documented and scrutinized, including parameters such as water usage, carbon footprint, etc. This requires a lot of research and analysis. Generally, brands tend to tick some, but not all of the boxes. Where most stumble is on the packaging front. It is absolutely vital that brands take full responsibility for the tons of waste they create.
And while green includes keywords such as organic, biodegradable, fragrance-free, or ocean-friendly – the beauty industry also needs to start focusing on quantity. For the moment, we produce more than we can sell, and we buy more than we need, which is completely unsustainable. So while we see a shift towards minimalism on ingredients lists, this movement also needs to include the sheer amount of products that are currently out there. Following the health crisis, we do predict that people will consume less but better, so it does make sense to reconsider unnecessary new product launches and elevate the basics in your portfolio – not just for the planet’s sake but for your business’ sake.
As a rule, whatever you do, in order to avoid green-washing, be transparent, give consumers a choice. There is no shame is saying: “Look, we’re trying, but this formulation is not 100% organic, because for now, we haven’t been able to find a substitute for one of our formula’s ingredients that is both sustainable and efficacious.” This is particularly true for hair-coloring products where it’s tough to combine both in one recipe.
Consumers are not dumb. The younger generations are particularly sceptical, so if you claim you are green, you better explain what you mean, and then back it up with some facts.
BBAM: You have been researching an important trend affecting both the beauty industry and today’s lifestyle: the Solo Movement. How do you think the extended lockdown and isolation will be influencing this trend?
Michael Nolte: The SOLO Movement we are forecasting for SS21 will clearly gain momentum. As SOLO is about self-indulgence and taking time for yourself, this story will be more relevant during and after the crisis. COVID-19 has taught us that self-care is a key factor of well-being, and we expect consumers to seek out brands and products that actively communicate this shift, helping them embrace solitude and create moments of disconnect which we know contribute to mental and physical health. SOLO, of course does not mean lonely, in the original context of the movement. Being single is a conscious choice and no longer taboo in many countries. With Covid-19, however, many non-SOLO consumers have been forced to adopt the SOLO lifestyle, and they particularly will be driving this trend, which presents great opportunities for brands.
BBAM: As the industry will continue to see important shifts throughout the year, what are the top three trends do you think companies should be aware of?
Michael Nolte: There are indeed many shifts happening, but among the most immediate and long-lasting are hyper-localism, evolution of the ethical, and at-home beauty. As many consumers will get used to staying in their own countries, even during holiday seasons, they will re-discover local traditions, which in turn will drive demand for hyper-local ingredients. Vice versa, companies can no longer exclusively rely on shipping and travel for their supply chains and sourcing practices, and will need to adjust accordingly.
As for ethical, it no longer just means “vegan,” “cruelty-free,” or “green,” but puts a spotlight on the companies’ behavior vis-à-vis their employees, as consumers become more empathic towards others, following their own strives during the crisis. “Who is producing my concealer, and how are they being treated?” they will ask. Therefore, offering products that are safe for the consumer, the environment, and the people who make them will be considered a basic requirement going forward.
Meanwhile, as people are getting used to spending more time at home – both for work and pleasure – (and we can expect them to continue to do so, as they continue to avoid mingling with larger crowds), salon-like treatments for the home will become more prominent. We see here great opportunity across the categories, including skin care, personal care, hair, and nails.
BBAM: As ‘healthy beauty’ trends are more relevant today, how is the industry coping to adjust and accelerate innovation in terms of new healthier formulations, manufacturing processes, supply chain relationships and ingredient sourcing?
Michael Nolte: As said before, we would first need to define what “healthy beauty” actually means. At the moment, true innovation and “self-evaluation” is predominantly coming from the indie sector. Much like in fashion, there are beauty brands that are so local, they refuse to ship outside of the country, because that would shoot their carbon footprint through the roof, and because they engage in small-batch production, which of course is highly laudable. However, big change must come form high-volume brands. Here, we still have a long way to go. Just take a look at the “clean-beauty” lists of retailers such as Sephora, Credo, or Detox Market. Most of the brands you will find there are small and independent. That said, being clean pays off on a number of levels, not least in today’s context, in which consumers associate “clean” with “safe.” As a result, clean beauty is growing at lower double-digits, while traditional formulations are declining at a similar rate.
BBAM: Many beauty businesses have been developing new sanitizing products and focusing on ecommerce, while most others are simply struggling now – what are the top development or operational adjustments that you think may help struggling companies?
Michael Nolte: This is a good time to hit the pause button and take a strategic moment to rethink sourcing and production. Your primary goal should be: produce where you sell. Don’t export. Viewing the supply chains and business structures that are currently in place, this is of course no easy task. One solution would be to support each other. We live in times of crisis and that calls for true collaboration. Consider working with your competitors to share infrastructure that is already in place. You-give-them-yours-they-give-you-theirs-type-of-deal. Create a real differentiation factor – e.g. if you both produce hand sanitizer, come up with a different type, so you don’t kill each other. And especially: Be original, don’t copy.
Focusing on e-commerce is always a good idea, even if you are not ready to ship far and beyond. More than ever, brands need to play the role of storytellers, rather than mere merchants, if they want to survive. Unless you have a base product like Nivea or Neutrogena that everybody knows, you need to tell people about your merchandise in order to make it attractive. And where better to tell a story than online, where everyone has access?