Big brand talks: In conversation with Unilever, REN, Beiersdorf, Bulldog and Beauty Kitchen

Loop power: Big beauty brands see ‘great opportunity’ in reusables

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

There are currently seven personal care brands participating in Loop's waste-free UK e-commerce platform, though not all have officially launched durable products yet
There are currently seven personal care brands participating in Loop's waste-free UK e-commerce platform, though not all have officially launched durable products yet

Related tags TerraCycle LOOP durable packaging reusable packaging Unilever REN Clean Skincare Beiersdorf Nivea Bulldog Skincare Beauty Kitchen

Unilever, REN, Beiersdorf, Bulldog Skincare and Beauty Kitchen are all dedicated to continued innovation around durable beauty with TerraCycle’s spin-off Loop, but each brand says there remain challenges ahead.

Earlier this month, Loop launched its UK pilot e-commerce retail platform in partnership with Tesco​, offering a selection of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) in waste-free, reusable packaging.

Among the offering – spanning food, drink, household cleaning and beauty – there were seven personal care brands: Nivea Men, Love Beauty and Planet, REN Clean Skincare, Bulldog Skincare, Beauty Kitchen, Molten Brown, and Noice Natural Toothpaste.

CosmeticsDesign-Europe caught up with some of these brands to find out more on their thoughts around the future of reusable, durable packaging and circular shopping concepts in beauty.

Unilever – durable is ‘an equal challenge and opportunity’

Last year, Unilever announced it would halve virgin plastic use by 2025​, slashing 350,000 tonnes of its annual plastic footprint by cutting use completely or using alternatives like cardboard, bamboo and recycled materials. Innovation towards refillable and reusable packaging, therefore, would be key to meeting this target – particularly if achieved at scale, said Sebastian Munden, executive vice president and general manager at Unilever UK & Ireland.

“It’s great to be able to confirm our partnership with Loop here in the UK and that three Unilever brands – Persil, Love Beauty and Planet and one of our prestige brands REN Clean Skincare – will be launching their products in striking reusable packaging available on Loop’s website in the coming months,”​ Munden said.

Unilever's Love, Beauty And Planet Loop packaging
Unilever's Love, Beauty And Planet Loop packaging

“…The products not only look great, but they are great for the planet too with a circular approach to packaging which reduces plastic use and waste.”

However, Munden said creating products that could be used, cleaned, refilled and re-used had been “an equal challenge and opportunity”​ for Unilever’s packaging and innovation teams. The company was therefore looking forward to continued work with Loop on testing and learning more about refills and how consumers responded to them, he said.

REN – refills ‘more complex’ with technically advanced skin care

In 2018, REN Clean Skincare announced a collaboration with Surfrider Foundation with a 'Clean to Skin, Clean to Planet' initiative​ as part of its wider eco-friendly brand push. And David Delport, global brand ambassador for Unilever-owned​ REN Clean Skincare, said the brand had been working with Loop since 2017 - collaboration that would help edge the brand closer towards its zero-waste goal by 2021. 

REN Loop reusable packaging
REN Loop reusable packaging

Delport said the first wave of refillables developed with Loop had been cleansers and moisturisers because they were “simple to store, clean and refill”.

“The story gets more complex when you work with more technically advanced products like serums where product needs zero oxygenation. And REN Clean Skincare does not use any parabens, so this is even more essential so there is no degradation in product efficacy,” ​he said.

“...At REN Clean Skincare we are working towards a waste-free future. Sustainability is key and we are proud to partner with TerraCycle on this essential and exciting platform to reduce waste​."

Beiersdorf – Loop platform a ‘great opportunity to learn’

Nivea Men Loop reusable packaging
Nivea Men Loop reusable packaging

Beiersdorf’s Nivea brand was recently highlighted as the number one ‘most chosen’ beauty and personal care brand in Europe​, with Kantar Worldpanel’s 2020 Brand Footprint detailing it was purchased by over 50% of households in the region.

Its Nivea Men range was now stocked on Loop’s UK e-commerce platform – a move the brand had been working on since January 2019.

A spokesperson for Nivea said: “Loop offers a great opportunity to learn about reuse and to gain experience. It is an important step for us to drive the topic of fully circular resources.”

Working with Loop, they said, would help further advance Beiersdorf’s efforts in sustainability and recyclability.

“Sustainability is a major issue for our consumers and a global skin care company. We are well aware of the challenge we are facing: we want our skin care products to be used every day around the world and at the same time, we want to provide these products in the most sustainable way. Reusability is not new to the consumer and has been used in the PET sector for years. It is only a question of time that such concepts will become established in the personal care sector.”

Bulldog Skincare – Loop project and carbon neutral goal ‘inextricably linked’

Bulldog Skincare Loop reusable packaging
Bulldog Skincare Loop reusable packaging

In 2019, British men’s grooming brand Bulldog Skincare certified its flagship original moisturiser CarbonNeutral​ and said the certification was simply the start of wider plans.

And Caroline Mallet, general manager at Bulldog Skincare, said the company’s carbon neutral efforts and collaboration with Loop both formed an important part in its sustainability push.

“While our partnership with Loop is a distinct project in its own right; the two are inextricably linked and we will be working with Loop to review the carbon efficiency of reusable packaging,”​ Mallet said.

“Ultimately, all our sustainability work ladders back to our overarching goal of reducing our impact wherever possible.”

Bulldog was currently developing a roadmap with Loop, with the first stage set to see “a carefully selected group”​ of its products available in the UK, she said.

Beauty Kitchen – ‘living up to the message’ through Loop

Beauty Kitchen refillable hand sanitiser
Beauty Kitchen refillable hand sanitiser

British indie brand Beauty Kitchen recently developed and launched refillable organic hand sanitisers​ in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Packaged in glass bottle sprays with a larger refill in an aluminium bottle, both products were included in the company’s UK ‘Return. Refill. Repeat’ programme that it launched in 2018.

Jo Chidley, founder of Beauty Kitchen, said the presence on Loop’s UK e-commerce platform showed Beauty Kitchen was “living up to the message that we are shouting to the industry”.

And that message was simple, Chidley said: “Collaborate with your suppliers, customers and competitors so that we can give the consumer access to the circular economy. Our vision is that reuse becomes the norm and we need retailers, brands, service providers and consumers to get on board and collaborate to make it happen.”

Durable packaging, rather than recyclable, was certainly the future, she said – with Greenpeace and The Ellen MacArthur Foundation also in agreement. “We are great believers in cradle-to-cradle design and multi-attribute certification. Reuse is the only answer, recycling is just being ‘less bad’.”

However, a more widespread shift towards durable in beauty would take time, she said. “Unfortunately, most beauty businesses are very passive in helping to drive the uptake until it is in high demand and commercially proven. But that’s why we exist; to pioneer change.”

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