The nation’s bathrooms have a problem: plastic waste. A survey in 2021 by ethical beauty brand WeDo found UK bathrooms produce more than 152 tonnes of empty plastic bottles each year.
It’s this scourge of waste material that has prompted a wave of challenger brands to offer personal hygiene products in refillable, reusable and plastic-free formats.
Take Wild. The brand has delivered volume growth of 173.7% with its refillable deodorants, which comprise an aluminium case and a fragrance stick packed in bamboo.
That performance is way ahead of the overall deodorant sector, up just 1.7% in unit sales. Wild’s success follows such launches as a Candyfloss refill exclusive to Superdrug.
Penetration in the market “needs to be driven forwards with innovation”, insists Wild co-founder & CEO Freddy Ward.
“We need to focus really carefully on appealing scents and case designs to engage new customers. Wild’s unique product offering does see us buck the penetration, being one of the only brands bringing new consumers into the category.”
The latest scents in deodorant
Fellow refillable deodorant brand Salt of the Earth has also grown volumes at a lick. They’re up 19.4% – which MD Thomas Laird puts down to innovation such as the Neroli & Orange Blossom variant for its spray format. “This is a great new scent, and it performed particularly well over the summer months,” he says. “We also rolled out a reformulation and mini rebrand across our spray and roll-on lines. This has improved product performance, improved fragrances and increased shelf presence.”
As part of this overhaul, Salt of the Earth honed its key marketing messages to three main points: Be Free – Your Deodorant, Your Way; Certifiably Natural; Ready to Refill. “These messages have really seemed to resonate,” Laird adds.
They also reflect the brand’s core mission to offer sustainable and natural products. “We do not look at launching a product without a clear sustainability story,” he says.
And to underline its commitment to natural, Salt of the Earth is a signatory of the international COSMOS standard for organic and natural cosmetics. “This is run by the Soil Association in the UK and is one of the highest natural and environmental standards you can be a part of,” Laird explains.
Bio-D’s plastic-free Soap Bar lineup has “outperformed expectations since its 2022 launch”, says sales manager Lucy Sowerby. “We have seen a definite shift in consumer habits towards solid bar items.” This is due in part to “an increase in demand for zero-waste products, as shoppers become increasingly conscious of their environmental impact”.
Smol is also eyeing this trend with the plastic-free range it unveiled in summer – including shampoo bar, body bar and antiperspirant. “Our fantastic formulations come from industry experts and award-winning labs,” says Smol founder Hilary Strong. “They perform as well as, if not better than, the big-name brands and they’re proven to be gentle on sensitive skin.”
Meet Cinthia, the virtual face of Dove. She made her debut in September to raise awareness of female under-representation in video games. An ad saw her – the star of such fictional games as Badlands and Odyssey – wield a purple laser-sword to defeat a monster in a CGI hell-scape. Once in her dressing room, she removed her body-forming armour and make-up to transform from a chesty male fantasy to a more realistically powerful woman.
Still, the big name brands are also working to be kind to the environment and skin. Unilever’s GM for personal care, Chris Barron, points to the supplier’s Dove and Radox shower ranges.
“Radox has invigorated its collection with new, mood-boosting fragrances and redesigned bottles, so they can be refilled and reused,” he says. “Dove has redeveloped its shower range, rolling out a new vegan formula and introducing a hypoallergenic body wash which addresses specific skincare needs for dry and sensitive skin.”
Both brands are looking good in the shower market. Radox has grown volumes 11.7%, while Dove is down just 3.4%. That’s behind the 5.2% decline for overall brands, which have also experienced a 12% rise in average price per pack.
How personal hygiene brands are staying affordable
This inflationary trend can be seen across all personal hygiene segments in this report – driven by higher costs for suppliers.
“Input costs have hit us hard,” admits Paul Brown, sales & operations director of eco-brand KinKind, “but we have tried to absorb as much as possible into margin, as sustainable alternatives are already premium priced.”
Bulldog Skincare has also worked to keep itself affordable, says GM James Barnes. “We’re exceptionally proud to have maintained competitive pricing, offering our consumers exceptional products that don’t require them to compromise on quality, price, or the environment.”
Strong at Smol adopts a similar stance. “For us it’s key that our products remain accessible,” she says. “That’s the way we can deliver the biggest impact. This means keeping prices as low as we can, while also guaranteeing great product performance.”
And, of course, keeping Britain’s bathrooms free of single-use plastic.
Top Launch 2023
Body Wash | Wild
Having made a success of refillable deodorant, Wild turned its attention to the shower in September. Its refillable Body Wash bottles come in Black, Aqua and Pink (rsp: £12). They’re made from aluminium, while refills (rsp: £7) are packed in 70% bamboo starch and 30% plant starch from agricultural waste. Each refill bottle “will biodegrade faster than a banana peel”, Wild promises. Fragrances are Fresh Cotton & Sea Salt, Jasmine & Mandarin Blossom and Coconut & Vanilla.
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