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Indie brands – one year later, what are the new drivers?

As unparalleled disruptors, indie brands fascinate. In just a few years, these newcomers have turned the beauty market upside down by taking over an astonishing portion of the market's revenue. Some have even reached iconic status, like Glossier. What is behind this tremendous success? What new drivers are emerging in 2019? Shared perspectives.


Just one year ago, Leïla Rochet, founder of the Cosmetics Inspiration & Creation agency and Albéa, led the Indie Beauty: Between Fascination and Disruption conference at the Makeup in Paris 2018 trade fair. On the cusp of the 2019 edition, Leïla and Audrey Landon, Customer Marketing Manager at Albéa, two passionate beauty experts, share their vision for indie innovation based on four main themes. 



1.    The skincare momentum is flowing over to indie brands 


Leila (Cosmetics Inspiration & Creation): “The first new phenomenon to note is the massive emergence of skincare on the indie scene. Overall, the skincare market is growing fast, especially in the US, where its growth is gradually overtaking that of makeup, especially on the premium segment. The emphasis on notions of realness and naturalness are boosting the movement we call ‘skin up’. It's the art of makeup with skincare to reach well moisturized, very glowy skin, which is the new holy grail of ‘healthy’ beauty. On this first point, indie brands have truly invented a visual archetype that is popular among Generation Z and Millennials. In addition, indie makeup brands are expanding to skincare: take KylieSkin (Kylie Jenner) and Revolution, for example. Other indie brands that are 100% skincare are exploding. They are becoming the new buyout targets for major groups that are currently repositioning themselves. Drunk Elephant is apparently valued at $1 billion, and Tatcha and Garancia were bought out over the course of a few days by Unilever (Source: Wall Street Journal).”


Audrey (Albéa): “Yes, skincare is really booming. And let’s talk about how much packaging is designed for this market. Ultra-protective airless packaging for sensitive or preservative-free formulas, foam pumps to create light and airy formulas, tubes with applicators to activate the active benefits of formulas or to target application... And also cotton mascara brushes to apply serums and other repairing formulas.”



2.    A “green” wave, and the rise of responsible brands

Leila (Cosmetics Inspiration & Creation): “This is a new vision of skincare that’s being brought forth by indie brands, who have very strong mission statements brought by their creators, raising their voice for change, who are often inspired by nature even if they’re not necessarily ‘all natural.’ We have been witnessing that change in the food industry with fruit juice brands like Innocents and Yumi: the tone is very chill. The language is fun, less guilt-inducing, and also very holistic, with foodie references to watermelon or avocado, like at Glow Recipe. In terms of Clean Beauty, more and more retailers and coaches are suggesting consumers ‘swap’ their routines, like at Detox Market and Follain in New York, or at the French brand Oh My Cream. 


As transparency is becoming an imperative for consumers, they switch to the indie brands that seem more authentic. This quest has been accelerated by the digital world, with applications like Yuka. But the impression that small brands are more transparent than large ones isn’t necessarily accurate. We're seeing some amazing initiatives from large brands like Guerlain, which has created BeeRespect, a platform that lets users trace the entire life cycle of its products.


Finally, things are changing in packaging. Brands like Lush have initiated the a ‘naked’ approach (packaging-free), while others are trying give a new meaning and utility to packaging by streamlining it.”


Audrey (Albéa): “This search for meaning and utility in packaging resonates with Albéa. Indeed, we were the first cosmetic packaging suppliers to sign the Ellen McArthur Foundation’s New Global Plastic Commitment, meaning we are committed to making our packaging reusable, recyclable, or compostable, and making sure they include 10% recycled material, by 2025. We have developed a packaging offer to move in that direction: tubes, lotion and foam pumps, and mascara and lip gloss tubes made from what’s called PCR (Post-Consumer Recycled) plastic.


This PCR plastic is made from single-use packaging (milk or drink bottles) that households use and recycle for processing at recycling sites. Each year, Albéa produces about 33 million tubes containing PCR polyethylene. Using PCR reduces a tube's carbon footprint by 16%. One million PCR tubes produced means 16 metric tons of CO2 emissions avoided.”



3.    “Time to market” is diminishing


Leila (Cosmetics Inspiration & Creation): “These days, speed is a new imperative in beauty. The startup spirit is flowing over to indie brands, which are making quick decisions. They have a certain boldness in the way they operate, especially in the US, where people aren’t afraid of failure like in France. It's a Jack Ma type attitude: learn from your mistakes, and don’t be afraid to try. They are also extremely consumer-centric, and many indie brands were born directly out of social media. Those are called ‘DNVB ’ (Digitally Native Vertical Brands). A model that eliminates traditional intermediaries and brands maintain a direct relationship with consumers, who become stakeholders in product development. These same consumers participate to the behind scenes of the brand, all the way from manufacturing to sales.”


Audrey (Albéa): “And to respond to quick new demand without intermediaries, to launch collections on the market more quickly, to create limited editions, and to satisfy consumers and their desire for novelty, we launched the Fast-Track Beauty offer. Fast-Track Beauty is a selection of packaging tubes, mascaras, and airless packages available in under four weeks in small batches (meaning under 10,000 units). This offer also lets indie brands develop products in small batches to launch on the market, or test new collections in record time.”



4.    A customization wave?

Leila (Cosmetics Inspiration & Creation): “Customization isn’t really a new phenomenon, but it is becoming more and more common for everyone, large brands included. Above all, custom packs have exploded in retail with, for example, more and more palettes composed in store. There is also customization that extends to creating one's own shade, such as at By Terry with Palette Factory. Beyond customization, there’s the importance of having products that are suitable for everyone. We're seeing a Fentification of beauty, meaning greater and greater inclusivity to match up with consumers’ needs whatever their complexion, gender, or skin type.”


Audrey (Albéa): “Instagrammability of packaging is more important than ever: unicorn decoration, marble effect, pearl texture, bright colors, etc. The Million Vibes decoration collection is a sneak peek of the infinite possibilities for decoration and surface finishes that Albéa offers. Also, to let brands test out new packaging decoration, a little while ago we launched Mix&Match, a configuration tool for tubes and pumps to directly customize packaging: that includes choice of applicators, materials, and colors. 


Finally, to take customization even further, at the beginning of the year we launched Onyx +, a smart makeup case that includes NFC (Near Field Communication) technology. It links digital content from brands to the smart case, instantaneously tracks consumer interaction, and measures marketing campaigns.”

About Cosmetics Inspiration & Creation
Cosmetics Inspiration & Creation is a beauty and innovation trend and consulting agency. For over 15 years, it helps brands in crafting their DNA, creating their innovations, and generating brand content. Known for its international trend services, the agency also offers What's Up reports (US and Korea), Retail intelligence, Beauty Tours, and custom services. Contact the agency to learn more.

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Albéa x Cosmetics Inspiration & Creation