How did fmcg and supermarket beauty and healthcare products perform in 2023?

The lipstick effect played a big role in how fmcg health and beauty performed in 2023

The lipstick effect took on a literal meaning in 2023. As the cost of living crisis deepened, Brits were determined to put a pretty face on their financial woes.

That’s come through in the performance of cosmetics, one of the few Top Products categories to deliver both value and volume growth. It’s up £83.4m and 8.1 million units.

Female skincare has benefited from the same effect, up by £65.5m and selling an extra 5.1 million packs.

But Brits aren’t just splashing their cash on any old pick-me-up. Boots says customers “are discovering ways they can get more bang for their beauty buck”.

That’s been to the detriment of established brands such as Rimmel and L’Oréal, down 2.5% and 1.6% in volume respectively.

Instead, shoppers are moving towards lower-priced lines with a high-end feel. And no brand embodies this trend better than Revolution. Selling mascaras at a starting point of £3, it delivered one of the biggest rises of the year: 26.3% in value and 26.1% in volume. Sub-brand Revolution Relove racked up £2.5m in its first full year on sale.

“We are continuing to see the growth of value brands at £5 and under,” says Nicola Saunders, senior analytics executive at NIQ.

That growth is particularly strong among brands that offer “‘dupe’ alternatives to luxury products”, Saunders reports. In the case of Revolution, its lines have been compared with the likes of Charlotte Tilbury and Dior on social media.

#budgetbeauty on the rise

“Established brands will need to rise to the new challenges presented by the emerging brands, taking into consideration the rise in importance of social media platforms,” Saunders sums up.

She’s not the only one to stress the importance of social media. Boots highlights the popularity of the #budgetbeauty hashtag on TikTok, which has had more than 270 million views. “More communities of like-minded beauty fans are popping up on forums like Reddit, while ‘get ready with me’ content is making a comeback on TikTok,” the retailer says.

In the case of skincare, these social media communities are eagerly discussing the scientific credentials of products, too. Boots points to the rise of ‘skintellectuals’, who look for scientifically proven active ingredients in their skincare. The retailer names peptides, ceramides, niacinamide and lipids as particularly hot-selling points.

Fast-growing brands such as Elf, which has more than doubled its value in skincare, have taken note. Its bestsellers include a £10 eye cream with hyaluronic acid and peptides, and a £6 daily cleanser with ceramides.

As in cosmetics, more established skincare brands are lagging behind. Simple has registered flat volumes, while Nivea is down 9.6% in unit sales and Olay has fallen 15.5%.

In the case of Olay, it took action with the launch of its own “ingredient-backed” lines at the start of this year. A Hyaluronic 24 + Vitamin B5 range was shortly followed by its Niacinamide + Vitamin E lineup. This innovation has been “delighting consumers across the multiple jobs that need to be done”, says Ian Morley, VP of sales at brand owner P&G.

But established players such as Olay don’t just have competition from brands. They’re also fighting off increasing rivalry from own label. While it’s still a small proportion of female skincare – only 15% of value, according to NIQ – it’s growing fast. Volumes are up 6.3%, while branded volumes are up 2.6%.

“With 46% of consumers purchasing own-brand beauty or grooming products in the past 12 months, it comes as no surprise that the best-selling mass skincare brand at Boots last year was our own-brand range,” Boots said in its 2023 trends report.

Healthcare capitalising on ‘manscaping’

The health & beauty retailer has since bolstered that lineup with its science-led Future Renew skincare range.

Luckily for the likes of P&G, own label poses far less of a threat in other areas of the market. Such as razors, where it only accounts for 4.3% of value. Or shaving preparations, where it also sits under 5%.

In these areas, P&G is making great strides in innovation. In September, it unveiled the Gillette Intimate range to capitalise on the ‘manscaping’ trend.

The waterproof trimmers, razor, shave cream and cleanser were launched in response to “an insight that one in two men have injured themselves when grooming their intimate area”, says Morley.

So far, Intimate “has really driven category growth in the ever increasing and important area of body grooming,” he adds.

Although our data period doesn’t cover sales since September, Gillette was already faring well – adding an extra £2m across razors and shaving preparations.

And male grooming could certainly do with a boost. While cosmetics and female skincare are soaring ahead, more male-dominated areas of the market are lagging behind. Shaving preparations, for example, are down 6.2% in volume. And male skincare is down by 1.5%, with double-digit unit slumps for Rockface and Mancave.

Looks like the male skincare market could do with some ‘skintellectuals’ of its own.

Top Launch 2023

Future Renew | Boots

Boots future renew

Nearly 100,000 shoppers had joined the waiting list for the Boots Future Renew Range before its official launch in April. Being own label and science-led, it certainly plays to the key trends in the market. The range of four skincare products – a serum, eye serum, night cream and day cream – uses a “world-first ‘super peptide’ blend” to reverse the visible signs of skin damage. Boots says it is the fastest-selling No7 product range since records began. Prices start at £24.95 for the eye serum.

Face off: Top Products Survey 2023 pits brands vs own-label