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Transparency and authenticity: the new consumer standards?

Blind trust in companies, brands, institutions or the media is a thing of the past.

As consumers’ suspicion grows, the attraction for transparency and authenticity in consumer packaged goods progresses. This article highlights initiatives from different industries.

In a world of distrust

According to Mintel, most industries are in a distrust crisis. Figures speak for themselves:

  • 68% of French adults agree that companies are more interested in making profits than making high quality food and drink(1).
  • In the UK, only 39% of consumers trust the beauty industry as a whole to ensure products are safe for use(1).

Where does it come from?

The past years have seen lots of broadcasted cases of product recall in the food but also in the beauty industry. Besides the financial consequences, it impacts the brand image on a long-term and it is also damaging for the whole industry. As example, the French company Lactalis has recently been charged over baby milk salmonella cases dated from 2017. Earlier, in 2013, 54 whitening products from the brand Kanebo were recalled, accused of favoring vitiligo-like symptoms.

Generally speaking, consumers have become more and more worried about what they consider as hidden “nasties” in the food (preservatives, sugar, fat…) or beauty products (paraben, silicones…).

Moreover, new generations of consumers (generation Z and current teens) are characterized by an increased health anxiety and are more prone to suspicion and criticism towards consumerism.

Facing a distrust context, different levers are successfully activated by brands to regain consumers’ confidence.

Authenticity as an answer

The locavore movement primarily appeared in the USA West Coast with consumers giving the priority to food farmed closed to their home. It progressively expanded to the beauty industry, benefitting to both brands and consumers. The cosmetic industry finds in the locavore movement the opportunity to highlight forgotten local ingredients and to inject dynamism into regional economies. Consumers find in this “local spirit” a resonance with their value and a kind of reassurance.

Thus, cosmetic creams containing algae from the Mont St Michel bay, lavender from the French Provence area, green tea from Jeju Island in Korea are promoting the ingredients’ origin at the service of safety and efficacy.

The ”farm to face” skin care is the apogee of this idea of enhancing the value of  lands and ingredients with a well-defined geographical origin. In this brand model, cosmetics companies are also farm owners, thus able to guarantee the control of the whole supply chain at the service of freshness and qualitative ingredients.

The “Made in” claim is as a sign of excellence, which stimulates curiosity and engagement from consumers.

A view from behind the scene

Besides authenticity, the initiatives of brands to increase their transparency are booming.

The adoption of an « open-kitchen approach » is relevant in a context where consumers request more information, clarity and honesty from brands.

It takes different forms:  

  • The transparency in communication with the use of the brand website, packaging, advertising to reveal manufacturing secrets. The emphasis here is made on manufacturing costs, composition and the people (workers) behind the products. As an example, an American brand of clothing built its communication on transparency diffusing pictures and videos of its factories as well as information regarding the production’s costs for a T-shirt.

  • In beauty, formulations can also leverage trust in recognizable ingredients. Transparent textures and inclusion of pieces of plant like rose petals are giving reassurance to consumers, skeptical about the content in the jar.

The new beauty heroes

For years, big players have established trends in the beauty industry.

But as consumer changes, so does the brands landscape. Indie brands are creating a market revolution, reshaping the cosmetic industry with new communication standards.

In 2023, Kline estimates that retail sales of independent beauty brands in the US are expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 14% by 2027(2).

Their business model strongly resonates with younger consumers’ philosophy, especially those of millennials and teens. Independently funded, they offer artisanal qualitative skin care products designed to answer the needs of a niche target. Doing so, they provide convenience and personalization to consumers who expect being considered as unique. Moreover, their innovative use of social media reinvents marketing rules and compels strong brand stories placing them under the radar system of big beauty players.  

Thriving days presumably ahead for the Indies…


(1) Lightspeed/Mintel 2017, 1000 internet users aged 16+ per country
(2) https://www.happi.com/issues/2023-01-01/view_features/up-coming-indie-personal-care-brands-for-2023/