Consumers demand an ethical stance from beauty brands, and the latest focus is on product packaging. Mintel recommends three things to stay on top of beauty and personal care packaging trends while quenching consumers' thirst for greener packaging:

  • Act on sustainability: Sustainability has become more actionable than ever before, with brands taking steps to launch eco- friendly packs and products to resonate with environmentally-conscious consumers.
  • Be consistent: Eco-friendly beauty brands are expected to be more proactive in promoting sustainable practices, including usage of environmentally-friendly packaging.
  • Find a balance: Even small efforts in making packaging more environmentally-friendly (renewable, recycled, or biodegradable materials; or energy usage in production or shape of packaging), can help brands obtain a key point of differentiation and achieve sustainability targets.

The Environmental Focus Shifts Toward Packaging

Consumers are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about product ingredients, how they are sourced and their eventual impact on health, well being and appearance. This leads to the development of more natural beauty product formulations, or at least towards more careful selection of ingredients and methods of preparation. However, as consumers are also becoming more environmentally aware, beauty product ingredients and formulations are not the only product features that are being scrutinized.

Packaging is now central to environmental thinking, with more brands taking real actions in order to relate to eco-conscious consumers. Whether it is recyclable, made from recyclable materials or biodegradable, packaging has become a key focus of innovation for a growing number of beauty brands.

More Brands Are Developing Environmentally Friendly Packaging
Environmentally friendly packaging claims represented 9 percent of beauty and personal care product launches globally in 2017. However, their number has recently been on the rise.

Consumers More Mindful About Environment 
Mintel's trend Hungry Planet points out that consumers are becoming interested in brands that follow eco-friendly practices and support sustainable development.

  • In the UK, 39 percent of beauty and personal care consumers expect to be able to recycle all packaging for these products. 
  • In Brazil, 46 percent try to recycle as much as possible.
  • In the U.S., 26 percent of beauty and personal care consumers say packaging should be environmentally friendly.

Base: UK: 1,397 internet users aged 16+ who have bought BPC products in the last six months; Brazil: 1,463 internet users aged 16+; US: 1,978 internet users aged 18+ who purchase personal care products. Source: Lightspeed/Mintel

Beauty Products that Make Eco-Friendly Claims

  • Recycled paper: Enesti Day to Day Olive Hair Essence retails in an 80ml environmentally friendly pack made of recycled paper.
  • Less plastic: L'Oréal Professionnel Série Expert Liss Unlimited Intense Smoothing Shampoo claims to be using 8 percent less plastic to help the environment.
  • Post-consumer waste paper: Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Geranium Daily Bar Soap is in a recyclable pack made of 100 percent post-consumer waste paper.

Meeting Consumer Expectations Around Sustainable Packaging

Despite growing interest in more sustainable pack solutions, plastic remains a dominant pack material within the beauty and personal care industry thanks to its practicality and cheaper price. For instance, in the U.K., 40 percent of plastic consumption is from packaging, with 2.4 million tonnes of packaging waste generated per year - 1.7 million tonnes of which is from households. Moreover, the specific needs of beauty product storage often renders the sourcing of eco-friendly materials a serious challenge.

However, alongside the development of more environmentally-friendly beauty products, consumers are placing more pressure on packaging to be more sustainable and eco-friendly. This gradually encourages more brands to explore new environmentally friendly packaging initiatives, including the use of marine plastics.

Bulldog Opts for Sugarcane
Bulldog Skincare for Men, a U.K. brand that creates natural skincare products for male consumers, has announced the replacement of its traditional plastic tubes with packaging derived from sugarcane in order to significantly reduce its environmental impact and carbon dioxide emissions.
It is a logical step for a vegan-friendly, 'natural' brand that avoids the use of artificial colors and synthetic fragrances. In the year up to January 2016, the brand recorded a 27 percent sales increase and growing popularity among young men, especially within the 16-24 age group. News about sustainable pack launches should help this brand maintain its performance and potentially lead to further sales growth.

More Sustainability Statements Are Being Made by Mass Brands

At the beginning of 2017, Unilever announced that by 2025 all of its plastic packaging would be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable.
It is not the first of this type of commitment from the company. As a part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, it has already claimed to reduce the weight of packaging by one third by 2020, and to increase usage of recycled plastics to 25 percent by 2025.

As well, Garnier teamed up with and TerraCycle to raise awareness on beauty product recycling.

Transparent and Realistic Plans Can Help Achieve Sustainability Goals

With more information at their disposal, consumers are more able than ever to track and scrutinize sustainability promises made by beauty brands. And, as social media is a powerful tool in the hand of consumers, any mistakes in failing to achieve sustainability goals and deliver promised environmentally friendly products and packaging can be extremely costly. It is therefore key for beauty brands to set realistic and transparent goals as well as allowing consumers to monitor progress of real steps toward sustainable business practices.