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Putting on a New Face—Environmentalism’s Impact on Ingredients and Packaging

By: Liz Grubow
Posted: July 6, 2009, from the July 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Unilever has standardized the number of containers it uses. For Ponds, it chose to utilize primarily white bottles/jars to showcase the brand. Since consumers are simplifying, a question remains whether they will reward brands that do the same or spend more on specialty products that capture their interest and imagination. Around the globe, there is strong consumer awareness of going green—including in China where changes in consumption to improve the environment have already taken shape. The use of refillable products is a practice that is widely accepted in Asia, and is also prevalent in Europe. For example, Crede shampoo is one of the most popular brands from Japan, and is offered in several refillable sizes. Parfums Givenchy offers several refillable products, including lipsticks and compact foundations. Stila Cosmetics are packaged in recycled cardboard with the logo in simple typeface. Consumers can pop their favorite Stila eye shadow or cheek color pans into an environmentally friendly, refillable compact.

The slower experience of refilling containers creates a higher level of emotional engagement; however, U.S. consumer culture is not as accepting of refillables. Perhaps the convenience factor overrides the benefits as well as the hygienic perception of individually wrapped products as a prevalent driver of purchase. The new value equation forecast calls for less hyper-churn disposable SKUs and more meaningful product innovation. Perhaps the recent push of reusable bottles for water will continue to set the tone for other consumer segments.

Alternatives to Attract Consumers

There certainly are many companies trying to draw consumers to their brands by offering inventive alternatives

The Body Shop sells approximately 25 hand-mixed products in distinctive green bottles, which can be refilled in its shops. Founded in England, the company currently operates in 51 countries. From that first day in 1975 when the late Anita Roddick founded The Body Shop, its policy has been “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” It is currently introducing bottles made from 100% postconsumer recycled plastics. On the ingredient front, palm oil from sustainable sources in Columbia is used in its soap bars. Hemp is also used in The Body Shop product formulations. In addition to moisturizing and protection properties, hemp is an environmentally friendly crop. It requires little fertilizer, and, because it has few natural predators, it can be grown without pesticides. Its deep roots actually prevent erosion and improve the condition of the soil. In addition, the brand/retailer’s shopping bags are reusable and made from organically grown cotton produced without the use of pesticides.

MAC Cosmetics, based in Canada and sold worldwide, uses simple black and white, recyclable packaging. It encourages recycling with its “Back-to-Mac” program. Consumers are given a free lipstick, lip gloss or eye shadow of their choice with the return of six empty containers.