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A natural beauty evolution

BWX Group CEO and Managing Director Dave Fenlon talks about the impact COVID-19 has had on the personal care market and the rise of conscious beauty.

While the clean-living movement shaped the past two years, 2020 has seen a new movement surface – conscious beauty. Consumers are choosing to take a more holistic approach to their consumption habits, says Dave Fenlon, Group CEO and Managing Director of BWX Limited. The CEO Magazine sits down with Dave to discuss the role BWX has played in this shift, the impact COVID-19 has had on the personal care sector and how he’s prioritising innovation.

How has the sector evolved?

There is a surging consumer desire for sustainability, which is revolutionising the beauty industry’s pivot towards green, clean and now conscious. People want personalised skin care that is safe, effective and ethical – this is core to BWX’s belief system. Since 2007, our hero brand, Sukin, has pioneered this movement in Australia as one of the first brands to say no to harmful and toxic chemicals and processing, including animal testing. We believe that everything we need to nourish, rejuvenate and enhance our bodies can be found in nature.

How has COVID-19 accelerated this evolution?

COVID-19 continues to disrupt many aspects of the world we live in, and it has heightened people’s attention to good hygiene, health and wellbeing. The natural and organic personal care market is already outperforming the broader market, which we expect to be further bolstered by this greater social consciousness about what we consume, the way we consume and the impacts of how we consume.

It has also forced companies to adapt and innovate at great speed. To give you an example, our team developed a new, completely natural sanitiser in just 21 days during March, which will now be a core product staple for the foreseeable future.

Other opportunities for efficiency are happening too. The use of ecommerce – with instore trips being replaced by online shopping – can mean more direct-to-consumer exchanges, which brings upside for brands, particularly those with a strong online presence and quality digital infrastructure.

“Brands that are affordable, consumer-led in their product development and innovative in their functionality stand to benefit.”

In a recessionary environment, affordability is critical. We know skin care is a staple entrenched in everyday routines – sales globally weren’t affected by the GFC. While the premiumisation of beauty has been a growing trend, brands that are affordable, consumer-led in their product development and innovative in their functionality stand to benefit.

There are also regulatory tailwinds that will accelerate the switch to natural. The US cosmetics industry is, in my opinion, underregulated and does not require products and their ingredients to have FDA pre-market approval (except for colour additives). With increasing demand for greater transparency on ingredients, we think this will naturally create customer churn with many (especially millennials) choosing to switch and stick to all-natural, sustainable brands like our own Mineral Fusion – the number one cosmetic brand in the US natural channel.

How will BWX leverage these trends to benefit consumers?

Consumers want high quality, value-for-money products that function well. These are the foundations for creating brand trust and loyalty. For BWX, we have defined four key pillars for guiding and accelerating our growth.

First, we are obsessed about ‘Connecting with Consumers’. This is critical for understanding and meeting their needs, educating them about the benefits of natural and turning feedback into quality insights for new products.

We have to ‘Go Global, Go Mainstream’ to not only diversify our revenue base, but to compete against mainstream skin care and thus maximise BWX’s exposure to the global tailwinds that are driving the industry’s evolution towards natural. In Australia, our research shows that Sukin’s brand awareness is second only to mainstream brand Nivea in total skin care. In the natural channel, Sukin is the clear market leader. Cosmetics have also been buoyed by social media, the selfie generation, self-expression, and the personalisation and premiumisation of beauty.

We must practice what we preach. Responsible operations mean we’ve had to ‘Get Clean, Get Healthy’ through greater investment into technology, reinvestment in efficient operations and raising awareness via our brands about maintaining a healthy environment. BWX is led by Sukin when it comes to sustainability, carbon neutrality, vegan and cruelty-free ethos, which was strengthened in 2018 through our partnership with Greening Australia.

Continuous improvement and ensuring we ‘Invest in Ourselves’ is our fourth pillar. Our people live and practice our company values of wellness, diversity, bravery, respect and innovation. We are always upskilling and training to create the best team to lead the natural industry and be an employer of choice.

What kind of innovation can we expect to see from BWX?

Innovation is a core company value. We have a dedicated team focused on driving BWX’s innovation platform to fuel future growth, supported by data insights from Nourished Life. Looking ahead, our product development pipeline will feature personal care solutions based on clinical science and inspired by natural ingredients. The innovation doesn’t stop there – we are constantly reviewing ways we can educate our consumers to reduce waste through enhanced packaging and ongoing community activism.

BWX’s house of natural brands is leading the wellness revolution because we know natural is a movement, not a trend.

Read next: BWX tomorrow: Allison Smith

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