Posted by Ella Price
11th July, 2019

Insights brands raise the bar for waste free beauty Insights brands raise the bar for waste free beauty

Zero-waste is a lifestyle shift.

People are ditching fast consumerism and opting for brands that are actively investing in the future. Attention-grabbing aesthetics are no longer the be all and end all of a product; values speak volumes, and an increasing number of consumers are basing their purchasing habits on the ethos behind a brand.

According to Mintel, the zero-waste lifestyle isn’t a trend it’s a ‘ground-shaking new archetype’, and it’s forecast to hit the beauty and personal care industry worldwide. News of natural disasters is plastered across our screens and creating a call-to-action amongst the masses. For brands to successfully capture the hearts of their consumers, sustainability needs to be embodied as an ethos rather than merely an add-on. It is increasingly important for businesses to establish genuine foundations and build emotional connections with their audiences through authenticity and a genuine passion for change. For Mintel, being sustainable is a make-or-break scenario and brands that fail to respond to consumers’ demands may not exist in the future.

Sustainable supply-chains

Remember the biodegradable bag that was still intact and able to carry groceries three years after being buried? The image that circulated the internet challenged the public’s perception on the fight against plastic-waste; proving that, despite good intentions, rubbish often ends up in landfills and oceans. As a result, common terms such as ‘recyclable’ and ‘biodegradable’ have come under scrutiny and this has lead to widespread mistrust and confusion on how to best live a sustainable lifestyle.

Consumers feel empowered to act and want to embrace change, but may not know how to go about it. With the market becoming increasingly saturated with plastic-free alternatives, this is the time for brands to step up, be transparent and educate their customers so that they can make informed decisions. To build a strong relationship, brands should aim to provide education not just prior to a sale, but post-purchase too; this may involve giving information on how to responsibly dispose of a product or upcycle it. To truly champion a zero-waste mentality, brands need to be accountable for every stage of their supply-chain, not just the end-product that their audience sees.

“54% of UK beauty and personal care consumers often research products online before they buy them.”


Sales of soap bars are soaring

‘Sub-Zero Waste’ is a new trend predicted to impact the global beauty and personal care market over the next five years, however; sustainable self-care solutions don’t have to be innovative or break the bank. In fact, the fight against plastic-waste has brought back an unlikely hero product: the good old-fashioned soap bar.

Over the past few years soap bars have overcome the bad reputation of being ‘germ-harbouring’ and ‘skin-stripping’ and have made a stealthy comeback. Kantar Worldpanel has revealed that sales of soap bars are up 20% year-on-year at Waitrose, and in general, sales have increased three per cent faster than liquid soaps and shower gel. Whilst environmentally-friendly factors play a part in this success, solid soap also boasts of natural ingredients and high-performance results that may have contributed to its new-found popularity too.

“49% of bar soap users agree that they ‘avoid products harmful to the environment’ and this has grown from 43% last year.”

Kantar Worldpanel

Smaller brands have a head start

Household beauty names such as L’Oreal and Unilever have pledged to use 100% recyclable, reusable, and compostable plastic by 2025. However, they may struggle to compete with smaller brands that are relatively new to the beauty scene, but have already established strong ethical foundations from the get-go.

Ethique started in 2012 when founder Brianne West experimented with the production of natural beauty bars during her science degree. Since then, the brand has prevented ‘over 3.3 million plastic bottles from being made and disposed of into landfills’, and shows no signs of stopping.

The brand has Kiwi origins but has since found award-winning international recognition and has grown a global consumer base to match. The range has revamped the classic bar of soap and, to date, includes over 40 products for hair, face, and body. Consumers are educated and feel empowered when they make a purchase with Ethique — each product is accompanied by a card that details how much plastic the buyer has saved from landfill.

Insights beauty brand ethique Insights beauty brand ethique

Ethique is paving the way for plastic-free beauty and proving that waste-free needn’t be a compromise. This is a brand built on genuine foundations, and this passion for change is clear throughout the brand’s product, ethos and communications. To top-off its ethical credentials Ethique has the B Corp stamp of approval.

Lush was founded in 1995 and is an example of how bigger, more established brands can successfully lead the way when it comes to the waste-free beauty movement. Lush has always had a strong focus on high-quality, natural produce, and this has made their shift to plastic-free easier than it might be for many other brands of equal size.

Insights beauty brand lush Insights beauty brand lush

In keeping with their passion for ethical evolution, Lush launched their first ever UK ‘Naked’ store this January. Based in Manchester, the Naked Shop is not only a plastic-free haven full of solid deodorants and naked shower gels, but also an opportunity for discussion.

Alongside sustainable stores, Lush is also experimenting with the ‘Lush Lens’ and the ‘Labs App’. This technology is still in its infancy, but the take-home message is still the same: Lush is demonstrating how bigger brands can use their platform to test innovative solutions and bring about positive change.

“In Lush we work in an industry where the packaging costs the customer more than the product. Now, the customer needs to worry about how to recycle something they didn’t want to buy in the first place.”

Mark Constantine OBE, Lush Co-founder and Managing Director

Luxury is redefined

Soap bars are no longer seen as a basic product left to disintegrate in a puddle by your sink. Big luxury names have jumped on the bar bandwagon, adding versatility and sophistication to the mix, and redefining the zero-waste market. With more sustainable choices available for consumers, following a zero-waste lifestyle doesn’t have to be a compromise.

Less is more

Solid soap is stripping back personal care products and leaving consumers with just the essential ingredients, which makes for compact, concentrated, travel-friendly companions. Due to the reduction in size and packaging, bars have a better carbon-footprint and last longer than their liquid counterparts. In fact, both Ethique and Lush hair bars contain the equivalent amount of washes to three bottles of shampoo.

Moving forward, if Mintel’s predictions are anything to go by, beauty brands that focus on profit and fail to consider the demands of their consumers may not have the sticking power (unlike their plastic packaging). As brands are raising the bar for waste-free beauty, the focus is not just on how to reduce our waste and carbon footprint but also on how brands can actively create accessible ways to tackle plastic-waste.