Garnier sets its sights on being the world number-one in natural beauty

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Delphine Viguier

Garnier, L’Oréal Group’s number-two brand and the third-ranked beauty brand worldwide, has been providing millions of consumers with hair and skincare products for over a century. Garnier Global General Manager Delphine Viguier outlines her strategy for turning the brand into the world leader in natural, sustainable and responsible beauty.

Taking inspiration from nature, targeting the top spot

Garnier is a turning point in its history. Founded in 1904 with the launch of the first-ever patented plant-based hair lotion, the brand, which has gradually established itself as a benchmark in skin and haircare, now wants to take a new step: “We want to be the world’s top major natural beauty brand”, says Delphine. “For Garnier, being number-one is not just a goal – it’s where we need to be. After all, we have spent over a century building a brand that people spontaneously associate with natural products.”

This ambition is consistent with Garnier’s long track-record of offering naturally-inspired solutions to protect skin and hair against the effects of stress, fatigue, acne and UV. Growing demand among consumers also plays a role in Garnier’s determination to go further. As she explains: “People nowadays are very suspicious of big brands, especially in the USA and Western Europe. In France, just 30% of consumers spontaneously trust the beauty industry, partly because of repeated challenges by consumer associations and social media stories. Sceptical consumers are turning to the safe haven of natural brands and expect them to be flawless in every way, from their products to their manufacturing methods, communication and engagement.” Garnier is going for all-out transparency and is stepping up its investment in naturals: “Everything is in place for us to move to the next level. After embracing L’Oréal’s CSR programme, Sharing Beauty With All, we can look forward to unprecedented performances in this area.”

With its demanding charter and ethical sourcing policy, Garnier is working to be even more sustainable and responsible

For this reason, the brand has created a demanding charter setting out its commitments for its entire product catalogue: “In terms of formulae, we have amended the charter to be in step with consumer expectations. We no longer use parabens in our new formulae and we are gradually phasing them out of the existing catalogue. We are developing silicon-free ranges by minimising synthetic ingredients to concentrate on plant-based agents, which is raising the percentage of natural ingredients in our formulae. On the packaging side, we do our very best to use recycled PET, and we are using plant polymers to achieve softer, smoother textures.”

Garnier has also brought in a strict sustainable sourcing policy: “It’s vital for us that raw materials should be sourced in an ethical, responsible and planet-friendly way. That’s why we carefully select suppliers whose methods comply with our specifications.” A great illustration is Garnier’s Burkina Faso subsidiary, which supplies the brand with shea butter. Not only does the outfit provide a livelihood for 300 local women but it also sources ingredients as sustainably as possible, using highly efficient cookstoves to prepare the shea nuts. To prevent energy insecurity and deforestation, over 5,000 improved-efficiency cookstoves were distributed to replace traditional stoves. This has saved over 10,000 tonnes of firewood – the equivalent of 10,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Education and community action: two core values that will take Garnier forward

But the idea is not only to shift towards sustainable and responsible production. “We are determined to take a holistic approach on this front”, says Delphine.

Starting with consumer relations, where Garnier, Delphine explains, is focusing on education and clarity. “There is still plenty of confusion and mistrust among consumers about ‘natural’ products and ‘naturalness’. Which is why, for our latest product launches, if the percentage of natural ingredients is over 90%, rather than list the ingredients, we say where they come from and how we chose them, as clearly and informatively as we can.”

Garnier is also working hard to make a difference through its community action. The partnership with UNICEF on safeguarding children’s rights is a good example. “Our values have always included sharing, family and mutual support. This is why it is so important for us to work with a partner that truly has the capacity to effect change”, explains Delphine. In 2017, the brand inaugurated a partnership with UNICEF and provided backing with support from three pilot countries – France, the UK and the USA – to help children facing humanitarian emergencies. “Our contributions went towards a fund to assist millions of children and their families, helping to build child-friendly spaces that create a safe environment in which to deliver emotional and psychosocial support.” In the space of a year, 1,300 children have benefited from these UNICEF-led programmes, including in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. In Yemen, UNICEF has distributed the equivalent of about 6,700 hygiene kits to around 34,000 people and provided psychosocial support to over 285,000 kids. Three more countries are set to join the partnership in 2018.

The delicate trade-off between efficient and natural

Garnier’s nature revolution is underway. The brand wants constant progress, and the initial results are encouraging. Delphine says most of the pilot brands already have several successes to their credit after launching more natural ranges. “To give one example, we gave Fructis a complete makeover, turning it into a far more natural brand. Similarly, our new Skin Active range, whose products contain up to 96% natural ingredients, has been warmly received by consumers and the trade press.”

Heartened by these accomplishments, Garnier plans to push on. The challenge is to maintain the same standards of efficiency. “More natural also means more expensive and harder to make, so we need to come up with even more ingenious ways to ensure that our consumers always enjoy the same standard of quality.” Delphine ends with these words: “This is what has driven our success from the very beginning. We have to continue along this road if we truly want to become the market’s number-one natural cosmetics brand.”

Innovation | November 2017