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05/11/2022

Packaging innovations for sustainability

You don’t have to look far in the personal care space for innovative packaging. And the fact that many packaging innovations are designed to improve eco-friendliness is encouraging.

You don’t have to look far in the personal care space for innovative packaging. And the fact that many packaging innovations are designed to improve eco-friendliness is encouraging.

Companies making the effort to produce more environmentally-responsible products and packaging are likely to find sales dollar growth as a reward. In a study from the NYU Stern School of Business, Center for Sustainable Business, thirty-six CPG categories which comprise 40% of the total CPG market dollars were reviewed to measure consumer purchasing from 2013 to 2018, specifically looking at sustainability-marketed products. Although the thirty-six categories include many categories outside of the beauty or personal care segment, it’s still telling that across all categories studied, sustainability-marketed products increased from 14% share of market in 2013 to 16.6% in 2018.

Companies such as Unilever are making commitments to, and following through on, sustainability goals both short- and long-term. Niki King, head of sustainability for Unilever North America, stated, “Globally, we’re committed to a 50% virgin plastic reduction by 2025 and an absolute reduction of 100,000 metric tons.”

[Read More: Capitalizing on cosmetics in grocery]

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dove refillable body wash

In 2020 the company developed the Unilever Compass, a new, fully-integrated corporate strategy that lays a pathway to becoming the leader in sustainable business globally. The Unilever Compass includes multi-year priorities covering the full spectrum of their business and wider ecosystem.

Innovations for sustainability can be found across Unilever product lines. Dove recently launched new, more sustainable packaging for two core products, deodorant and body wash. Dove Refillable deodorants are available in three scents and include a stainless steel reusable case to house the deodorant refills. Dove Body Wash Reusable Bottles + Concentrate Refills 

offer two options. Consumers can choose between a 100% recycled plastic bottle or a recyclable aluminum bottle. The Concentrate Refill is poured into the bottle, water is added, and once the user has shaken it to mix the water and concentrate, they’ll have a wash with the same consistency they expect in a Dove body wash. King said, “After four refills of the 100% recycled plastic bottle or two refills of the aluminum bottle, the consumer has used 50% less plastic than if they were to buy the standard single-use 22-oz. bottle. There are also the additional environmental impacts such as reduced CO2 emissions and energy savings.”

[Read More: Delivering to consumer expectations]

King continued, “We’re working on a goal of 100% of our plastic packaging being recyclable, reusable, or compostable by 2025, and currently much of our packaging is recyclable.” One example King provided is a partnership with the Association of Plastic Recyclers to develop a detectable black plastic. “Black plastic has previously been problematic because of its colorant, which renders it undetectable to most sorting machines and so it therefore, unfortunately, ends up in the landfill despite being perfectly recyclable plastic. This detectable black plastic is now in use across Axe product lines,” King stated.

As exemplified at Unilever, environmentally-responsible products can be found in various personal care categories. HRG merchandising analyst, Cat Renwick, who is a member of HRG’s new item review team, offered recent innovative packaging examples of shampoo bars, refillable hand soap and floss containers, reusable makeup wipes, bamboo razors, and more. Renwick commented on some of the stand-out innovations she has seen in the last few years. “I think reusable period underwear is a great innovation for both the reduction in packaging and minimizing waste in landfills. Additionally, I think the refillable deodorants are revolutionary.”

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axe apollo deodorant

Unilever realizes that these package innovations are just the first step, according to King, and thus is getting involved in improving infrastructure to ensure packaging is actually recycled. “We’re investing in recycling infrastructure and have a commitment to collect and process more packaging than we sell globally by 2025,” King said.

[Read More: Consumer feedback is driving innovation in skin care]

King asserts that policy solutions are critical in enabling more widespread recycling. “One of the things Unilever is doing is supporting policies that drive strong environmental outcomes.” King continued, “For example, to create a circular economy for plastic, we need to accelerate investment in future-fit recycling and sorting infrastructure and increase the collection of plastics. We’re working with governments to support development of waste infrastructure.”

“We’re also supportive of well-designed EPR [extended producer responsibility] regulations that reflect the unique waste management required,” said King. “We do believe there should be a federal solution instead of a 50-state patchwork solution with differing regulations in each state. An effective EPR system can boost recycling systems, make sure money is invested in the right places, and hold businesses accountable for the packaging choices they make. All this would hopefully result in and enable a circular economy.”

Megan Moyer is HRGs corporate marketing manager. HRG is in the details of retail, working with product manufacturers, distributors, retailers, technology partners, and other industry organizations to provide data & analysis, shopper experience, brand development, fixture coordination, and retail communications solutions.

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