‘A true pioneer' in digital: Unilever to acquire D2C brand Paula’s Choice

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

US-headquartered Paula's Choice has a large range of skin care products, including face cleansers, exfoliants, serums and retinol treatments, available across its global D2C network and select prestige retail outlets [Image: Unilever/Paula's Choice]
US-headquartered Paula's Choice has a large range of skin care products, including face cleansers, exfoliants, serums and retinol treatments, available across its global D2C network and select prestige retail outlets [Image: Unilever/Paula's Choice]

Related tags: Unilever

Personal care major Unilever will acquire US-headquartered direct-to-consumer (D2C) premium skin care brand Paula’s Choice, bringing it under its growing prestige portfolio.

Unilever signed the agreement to acquire Paula’s Choice from global private equity firm TA Associates for an undisclosed sum; a deal expected to close in Q3 2021. The personal care major said Paula’s Choice was a “digital-led”​ skin care brand and “pioneer”​ of science-backed products and direct-to-consumer (D2C) e-commerce.

“Paula’s Choice offers powerful content and digital tools to demystify the science behind skin care, including an extensive ‘Ingredient Dictionary’ that breaks down the research behind nearly 4,000 ingredients, and ‘Expert Advice’ – a curated online hub of skin care and ingredient knowledge,”​ Unilever said.

Founded in 1995, the brand offered a large range of skin care products, including face cleansers, exfoliants, serums and retinol treatments. Its products were distributed worldwide through a large D2C network and were also available in select prestige retailers in Europe, North America and Asia.

‘A mission-based brand rooted in truth and transparency’

Vasiliki Petrou, executive vice president and CEO of prestige at Unilever, said: “We are thrilled that Paula’s Choice will join our Unilever Prestige family. Paula’s Choice is a true pioneer in the digital space for beauty and has created a mission-based brand rooted in truth and transparency. We can’t wait to introduce the brand and its iconic products to an even bigger audience.”

Sunny Jain, president of Unilever beauty and personal care, added: “Developing Unilever’s portfolio in the high growth premium skin care segment is one of our strategic priorities and I’m excited that Paula’s Choice is joining us on this journey.”

Paula Begoun, founder of Paula’s Choice, thanked Unilever for believing in the company’s mission and values and said the acquisition would it enable it to build on its ongoing work and vision to create “brilliant products”​ and give people “the self-confidence that comes from knowing they are taking the best care of their skin possible”.

Prestige beauty to hit €3bn in few years

Unilever’s prestige beauty division had performed strongly in recent months, growing double digits in Q1 2021 despite an overall dip in sales for the quarter.

And in February this year, Unilever CEO Alan Jope said the aim was to drive prestige division revenues from €700m to over €3bn “within a few years”.​ Jope also hinted at potential acquisitions under the division​.

“Our first strategic choice is to develop our portfolio in high growth spaces – we will continue to evolve towards higher growth segments in home care, beauty, personal care and food. This will determine the choices we make for organic investment and particularly for acquisitions and disposals,”​ he told attendees at the online Consumer Analyst Group of New York (CAGNY) 2021 conference.

All of this came amidst a wider beauty portfolio reshuffle where in April Unilever unveiled a new division Elida Beauty​; a carve-out containing the company’s smaller beauty and personal care brands like Q-Tips, TIGI, Timotei and Impulse.

This carve-out, Jope said, would now “benefit from dedicated management focus”​ as Unilever explored “different options for value creation from this standalone business”.

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