A pageant of clean and green products

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on July 11, 2021

Spoilt for choice: The clean beauty category is booming with a multitude of home-grown brands   -  ISTOCK.COM

Chemical- free, cruelty-free sustainable beauty labels are exploding as consumers get inscreasingly conscious

What happened in foods is happening in personal care, says Kannan Sitaram, FMCG veteran and now an investor. Sitaram who is Venture Partner at Fireside Investment from where he has a ringside view to new trends and new ventures in the consumer goods space points out, that just as people are now conscious of what they are eating, they have also become fastidious about what they put on their skin.

“Today consumers want natural, organic, sustainable and vegan,” he says. If farm-to-fork is seeing an uptick in the foods business, then it is farm-to-face in the beauty business.

Skin food

He feels this is why there is such an explosion of personal care brands that push the clean, natural and cruelty-free beauty line. In Fireside’s portfolio is the toxins-free brand Mama Earth, which pivoted from baby care to personal care and has seen explosive growth. It also has The Ayurveda Experience — a content platform that pivoted to products and has brands like iYura and Ajara serving foreign markets but launching Varaasa for the Indian market soon.

The category is booming with a multitude of home-grown brands. There is Juicy Chemistry, mCaffeine, Arata, Daughter Earth, SkinKraft, Love Organically, Ruby’s Organics… the list is never ending. Interestingly, many of these brands were born because the founders felt there was a gap or were personally looking for such products.

Take Juicy Chemistry, for example. It was launched in August 2014 by the husband-and-wife team of Megha and Pritesh Asher. “This idea came at a time when I was unable to find products entirely made of natural ingredients. It got Pritesh and me thinking. And so, Juicy Chemistry was born,” says Megha Asher.

Similarly, Dhruv Bhasin and Dhruv Madhok, co-founders of Arata, spotted a gap in 2016 and launched their brand. They say that virtually every personal care product on store shelves, barring a few, had chemicals in them. “We envisioned an honest personal care company that would offer trustworthy and credible products, made of the highest quality ingredients that were safe and clean.”

Or take mCaffeine which was launched in 2016. “When we started, the natural/ vegan/ clean label was just becoming a revolution. We were of the opinion that what was an achievement then would be a requirement five years down the line,” says Tarun Sharma, founder mCaffeine. This is why from day one, he says it was a 100 per cent natural, vegan, PETA certified, cruelty-free brand and a clean label focusing on sustainable packaging.

Crowded marketplace

Till 2018 or so, this might have been a white space, but today, this category is really crowded. You get a measure of this, speaking to Prateek Ruhail, co-founder, Vanity Wagon, a marketplace offering clean and sustainable beauty care alternatives that started in 2018 . “Starting with 10 brands then, today the portal has partnered with 130 plus brands, while there are 400 plus brands out there,” he says.

Is the clean beauty market big enough to accommodate 400 plus brands? Especially as these products are costly. Sitaram reckons the size of the target market to be around 40 million people or so, which he points out is the size of a European country.

Currently, according to industry sources, the Indian beauty segment is around $10 billion and expected to be $80 billion in a decade. Within this clean natural beauty is the fastest growing sub-segment.

Vanity Wagon’s Ruhail says that the clean beauty market in India is projected to be over $2 billion by 2025. Further, he says that according to industry estimates, the global clean beauty market is growing at a CAGR of 12.07 per cent and pegged to be $11.5 billion.

Despite its potential, it’s obvious that in a crowded market, the players need to differentiate to survive. Many have already crafted their unique positioning. For instance, mCaffeine’s Sharma says that caffeine is the strongest differentiating point for the brand. It has coffee scrubs, coffee bathing bars, coffee shampoos.

Unique approach

SkinKraft is taking the AI route to differentiate. It is unique from other brands, asserts its co-founder and CEO, Chaitanya Nallan, pointing out how unlike the industry’s mass production approach, it offers different formulae for different people. “SkinKraft collects over 30 pieces of direct information regarding a person’s skin, hair, lifestyle etc. when a person enrolls. Further, SkinKraft also collects information from the users in their life cycle of the usage of recommended products,” he explains.

All of this data is then used in a multi-class classification model to predict the right formulation. Nallan says that for a three-product regimen, it achieved an average precision of 72 per cent according to feedback received.

The farm-to-face approach is a strong differentiator for Juicy Chemistry. “We follow a backwards integrated approach, sourcing directly from small farmers, whom we closely work with. This ensures our ingredients retain their bioactivity and the products are effective on application,” says Asher.

And crowded though it may look, within beauty and personal care, there are an array of sub-categories where different brands are claiming their space. There is medical wellness, in which dermatologically promoted brands play. Then there is Beauty Plus, where ITC has recently forayed into launching ITC Dermafique. Whether other personal care majors will also launch something or pick up one of these start ups is the question.

There is also the Ayurvedic ingredients space where Varaasa is entering. It will be competing against Forest Essentials and Kama — brands that have captured mindspace in that area.

Rishabh Chopra of The Ayurveda Experience admits that right now it is a bit of a beauty bubble. “It will all hinge on who is going to solve the herb better, source better and deliver efficacy in the final product,” says Chopra. Eventually, there will be a blood bath and consolidation, industry observers believe.

Right now, however, the industry is gung-ho. “Personalisation, customisation, clean beauty, AI, e-commerce and beauty tech will go mainstream. Our estimation is that in a decade, 1.7 of 3 consumers will be buying customised bespoke products. We also estimate that online would become 60 per cent plus of the overall distribution globally,” says Nallan of SkinKraft. He also feels nutra-cosmetics is a major area that is developing.

Ruhail says that new trends in the clean beauty space to look out for include skin minimalism, sustainable packaging and ingredient based shopping — from vitamin c to hyaluronic acid.

Published on July 11, 2021

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