Recycling receives the most consumer attention in the so-called 3-R hierarchy of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. But in terms of minimizing environmental impact, reducing and reusing are more effective.

Tabletop with various makeup products and tools.

Consumer brands have made strides in reducing packaging, which benefits them as well as consumers and the environment. And recycling programs are widespread, with ordinary consumers amenable to putting their sorted recyclables by the curb or taking them to recycling centers. 

Reusing containers and packaging can be more challenging for both consumer brands and consumers, yet when done consistently, it can keep products out of landfills and reduce packaging that has to be recycled. Beauty brands represent one consumer product category where experimentation with refillable packaging is finding success.

Refilling containers can save 70% in terms of CO2 production, 65% on energy, and 45% on water compared to throwing containers away and replacing them. It does, however, require effort on the parts of manufacturers, retailers, and consumers, so manufacturers must make the process as simple and convenient as possible to gain widespread adoption. And they must tailor their consumer marketing to emphasize the benefits of refilling versus replacing.

Millennials, Generation Z Conscious of Beauty, Sustainability

Millennials – the biggest consumer demographic – and their younger counterparts in Generation Z are conscious of personal care, and they’re also conscious of sustainability. Awareness of environmental problems caused by over-reliance on landfills and the effects of plastics on marine ecosystems is strong with these consumer demographics. Beauty brands that speak to these concerns in creative ways have an extra way to build brand loyalty and competitive differentiation. As a result, beauty brands are rolling out refillable packaging in product categories where it hasn’t previously been an option.

Brands That Have Had Success with Refillable Packaging

Beauty brand Kjaer Weis was built on the concept of sustainable beauty, and their “intelligent refill” system is designed to provide luxury cosmetics in packaging that is both refillable and recyclable. The silver outer containers of the company’s compacts, lipsticks, and mascaras are designed to be both beautiful and to be refilled repeatedly. Refilling is a simple matter of pulling or popping out the inner container layer, replacing it with the refill (which is sold as a discount compared to the full replacement product), and recycling the used inner container layer.

Large refillable perfume bottle.

Fragrance is another beauty category that has done well with refillable containers. Memo International, which owns fragrance brands Memo Paris, Hermetica, and Floraiku offers refills for all three brands. Other perfumers are following suit. They have found that refillable outer containers designed to covey style and prestige, coupled with refills that are cheaper than full product replacements make a combination that appeals to consumers. Customers can save money on their favorite products while reducing environmental impact, creating a win-win situation.

Beauty Brands Must Educate Consumers, Make Refills Simple

Making refills work for beauty brands requires a few essential practices. For one thing, the refill process must be extremely simple and straightforward, or else people simply won’t bother. For another, they must educate their customers about refills, raising awareness and being certain that consumers know how to refill the products and where they can get refills. 

Brands must also provide the refills at a discount. The triple combination of cost savings, easy refilling, and actively taking steps to embrace sustainability is effective at getting consumers to adopt packaging innovations like refills. 

Finally, beauty brands – and any other consumer brands interested in refillable packaging – must ensure that their consumer marketing practices support their refill programs and emphasize how sustainability ties in with other brand values. Hangar12 is at the forefront of CPG marketing strategy and more. Subscribe to our blog to stay up-to-date with our latest insights.

Topics product category