ApotheCARE Essentials by Unilever makes waves in the natural beauty market

Corporate Startup of the Week

People are increasingly attentive to not only what they put in their bodies, but also on them. While awareness towards eating chemical-free and sustainably has been around for a while, movements like the No Poo Method have recently sprouted a higher consciousness and knowledge about the beauty and body care products we use, driving a lot of people to look for more natural alternatives to the traditional drugstore brands.

In an attempt to join the boat, Unilever took an unusual approach for the company. In September 2016, they gathered a small core team of about 5—a mix of scientists and beauty experts—and created a whole new brand, from idea to market launch, in just over 1 year. This is particularly impressive since it involved the research and development of new formulas for beauty products, which should normally take at least 2 to 3 years to accomplish.

The result was ApotheCARE Essentials, a brand that claims to offer the best of three worlds: nature, science, and beauty. Combining nature and technology, they focus on 6 handpicked base ingredients to create their current portfolio of 18 face, hair, and body products.

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Bundl Apothecare
“We saw a need to appeal to a consumer who craves the purity of nature paired with the efficacy of science, (…) This consumer is not afraid to use technology to optimize her beauty. Purity of nature, progressed by science, is at the heart of ApotheCARE Essentials. Through our Advanced Apothecary Approach, we precisely select signature natural ingredients, then use our science-forward methods, including phytoextraction and a unique slow blend process, to create optimized solutions for hair and skin. It was the right time to create a new paradigm in beauty with this brand.”
– Piyush Jain, Vice President of Hair Care at Unilever and and founding member of ApotheCARE Essentials

The goal is to keep prices under the $20 mark, in order to maintain Unilever’s competitive edge over the competition. The natural beauty market is largely dominated by expensive cosmetic brands, but ApotheCARE proves that you don’t need to sacrifice your wallet to have control over your beauty choices.

ApotheCARE is Unilever’s first new brand in decades, and it is expected to take a core place in the company’s portfolio. This venture not only proves that it is possible for a big corporation to innovate like a startup, even in the cosmetics field, but it also provides Unilever with a valuable blueprint to quickly and efficiently develop new brands.

Bundl Apothecare Hair rage
“We’ve obviously learned a lot in the crafting of this and we can leverage some of what we learned here, (…) There will always be a combination of doing things fast and entrepreneurial and also doing things traditional to match the rigor with what we launch with the resources put behind it and testing it.”
– Piyush Jain, Vice President of Hair Care at Unilever and and founding member of ApotheCARE Essentials

Molly Landman, Global Brand Director of the Hair Category at Unilever and part of the ApotheCARE Essentials’ core team, emphasizes the importance of having had a clear goal and unconditional access to the corporation’s resources for accomplishing such a feat. Together with Unilever’s marketing analytics team, they were able to almost instantly gather feedback from thousands of potential customers, in order to quickly make decisions and move forward in the process.

“The marketplace is evolving so rapidly and there are so many different business models and new brands coming in. It’s exciting that we at Unilever are piloting some of the new trends and even leading the trends.”
– Piyush Jain, Vice President of Hair Care at Unilever and and founding member of ApotheCARE Essentials

This approach by Unilever is a great example of how big corporations with a stable business still need to keep their focus on spotting new trends and market gaps. Instead of waiting for the competition to take away their share, Unilever used corporate venturing to instantly expand their market reach.

While it’s unlikely that Unilever will start extensively broadening their portfolio, we’re excited to see what other innovations the company will bring to the beauty world in the future.


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Mariana Abreu

Creative Content Creator