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The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has impacted not just developments and processes in the cosmetics industry but most importantly, the global economy, in various ways. Most notably, it has influenced consumers’ purchase decisions and spending habits. 


A recent Mintel research report shows that coronavirus will also affect clean beauty ingredients, labeling, formulation, packaging, and shelf-stability for years to come. Other sectors that have been in constant change are beauty retail, order fulfillment, and manufacturing.


Clean beauty and sustainable innovation


Prior to the pandemic, natural consumers avoided preservatives and artificial ingredients in BPC products, however, with new concerns regarding shelf-stability and sanitation across consumer-packaged-goods (CPG) categories, consumers are already more willing to accept these ingredients. As long as the labels provide evidence of efficacy and safety, both from a health and environmental perspective, consumers will focus less on preservatives and artificial ingredients. (, 2020).


Packaging in a ‘new era of transparency’


Consumers, even during this pandemic, are not only looking for clean beauty, but for recycled and sustainable packaging that has a minimum environmental impact. Current regulations and technical constraints make incorporating recycled materials into the many types of plastic packaging the cosmetics industry uses, a challenge nearly impossible to meet. 


Why is it so hard? All cosmetics products manufactured and supplied in the UK and across the EU are governed by the Cosmetics Regulation (EC) No.1223/2009 and its amendments.


The guidance document acknowledges that although there are ‘’no specific regulations governing the inclusion of recycled content in cosmetics products’’, packaging purity and stability have to exist to ensure the safety of final products. With the novel coronavirus invading and changing the normality we are all used to, just last month,  the European Commission adopted its latest Circular Economy Action Plan for Europe, which sits at the core of a wider European Deal published late last year.


Christine Lawson, sustainability and technical affairs manager at CTPA, said that the guidance is also important for how labeling and artwork should now be better incorporated in the packaging process in order to produce a ‘’fast-moving and incredibly innovative’’ cosmetics and personal sector.


‘’It will inform and help companies build-in decisions from the early stages of product development to create the most sustainable ways of presenting products with minimum environmental impact and enhancing circularity of resources,’’ Lawson said.


Product formulation and labeling changes


We see changes in the way consumers now understand the notion of natural, bio, and organic from their trusted products’ labels. They will further push the idea that natural isn’t always better, especially when it comes to ingredient safety and shelf life. From an ingredients perspective, the pandemic has enabled the creation of formulas that will rely on safe synthetic ingredients, which could potentially improve shelf life. 


Mintel analyst, Clare Henningan, discusses the importance of keeping pace with the evolving requirements of post-COVID-19 labeling quality and processes without compromising brand integrity and visibility. The time is now for brands to consider introducing a better-developed form of central control and transparency across everything that is going out to the market globally.


In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, one of the major opportunities that cosmetic brands will have to focus on is waterless formulas, which could appeal to consumers’ safety and environmental concerns. But formula changes will result in cosmetics businesses undertaking what could be a monolithic re-labeling project. In a time where efficiency and cost optimization is key to survival, cosmetic businesses would be advised to take on these sorts of changes by first creating a single source of labeling truth – of approved, current content components, which form the basis for all forms of future labeling. If anything changes to the brand, the product or its ingredients, to the manufacturer’s information, or to regulatory requirements, this should be managed in a controlled and robust way from a single to a central vantage point.


Opportunities for accelerated & automated label construction


We will all need products that mitigate risks of contamination by utilizing touchless formats and offering extended shelf life, making them stand out as safe and dependable. Brands that can demonstrate dependability, transparency, and willingness to take action to ensure product safety will be able to survive the already existing tough competition and the economic uncertainty and consumer shifts caused by this virus. 


Having an enterprise labeling management solution isn’t just about centralizing the construction and improving the quality of control applied to global labeling. It can also help transform the process involved in changing brand standards, adding additional transparency, and making necessary product improvements. This is especially important during these challenging times, as consumers become more concerned with safety implications and ingredients visibility.


With coordinated control and end-to-end visibility of all labeling activity globally, brand owners are better able to spot any labeling and artwork issues ahead of time and apply changes quickly and efficiently. With time being such a critical factor during the current pandemic, trusted labeling will help to safeguard the brand and maintain public confidence in the quality and safety of products produced.


Unfortunately, COVID-19 data has already shown us that there will be winners and losers that surface in the onslaught of all this uncertainty.  Cosmetics businesses are already threatened by changing buyer behavior, with consumers focusing less on unessential beauty purchases and more on hygiene and personal safety. 


The cosmetics businesses that can rapidly adjust to new consumer expectations while increasing transparency and safety of their products will come out on top. A dedicated, intelligent control around label construction will enable cosmetic businesses to increase efficiencies, improve visibility, and reduce regulatory errors for better brand control that align with new consumer expectations.

Beth Peckover