These players want to capture a sliver of what is currently a healthy, albeit utilitarian, personal care segment. According to Information Resources Inc., sales of deodorants in US multi-outlets rose a hefty 6.0% to $3.21 billion for the 52 weeks ended Aug, 11, 2019 although unit sales rose a scant 0.2%. Unilever and Procter & Gamble command the No. 1 and No. 2 positions, respectively, and while their sales have risen over the past year, the next three players did not fare as well (see chart below).
If You Can Beat Them, Join Them
Many (if not all) of the new players in the space have been challenging the status quo of the mainstream market by pushing a “healthier ingredients” agenda, opting to exclude materials they find concerning—aluminum, phthalates, parabens and even baking soda.
The CPGs with market-leading brands have taken note—not to mention ownership of those with early success. For example, late last year, Procter & Gamble paid a reported $100 million in cash for then 2.5-year-old deodorant brand Native. A few weeks later, Unilever picked up Schmidt’s, a Portland, OR-based firm that had been selling natural deos since 2010.
Still, many other small/indie players remain; some have been around for decades, others have only just jumped into the market. And while they are all touting similar products with similar messaging, how they arrived in the category varies. Here at Happi, we have met with and reported on deodorant company formulators that hailed from Silicon Valley to those who started their business after suffering from illnesses and loss.
Nala, for example, is a Vancouver, Canada-based indie brand founded by a mother-daughter duo inspired to create cleaner products after the loss of their husband/father to cancer. Last month, this new brand announced it would begin to offer personalized deodorants (which will retail for $29). Customers can select one of Nala’s three bases (each has varying levels of baking soda) and one of four fragrances—unscented, eucalyptus, woodsy or citrus.
“We love that natural deodorant is gaining mainstream attention,” said co-founder Mila Juristovski Bosnic, who is a biotech engineer. “A unique differentiator to Nala is that in addition to different scents, all of our deodorants are different strengths, too. We believe that in order to be an effective body care brand, much like medicine, the product needs to be customized to the individual. We have created a product that is made for your complex and evolving needs.”
While Nala’s founders may not have had in-depth experience with underarms before their venture, Lauren Lovelady, co-founder of Each & Every, was much more of an insider.
“I worked in the deodorant business for years on mainstream brands like Secret and Old Spice,” she told Happi. “I was always interested in using more natural products but found that they just didn’t work for me. I was inspired by the challenge to create something with clean ingredients that worked as well as the mainstream brands I had grown up using and working on.”
For Lovelady, the focus was on formulation, hence the name of her brand.
“We believe that each and every ingredient matters and we want to ensure that every single ingredient we use is simple (no confusing chemicals), safe, and fully disclosed so you know exactly what you’re putting on your body,” she said. Her team spent more than a year in the development phase, tossing “out ingredients traditionally used in deodorants and instead hand selecting each and every one for its safety profile and ability to deliver effective odor protection.”
The end result: a vegan and cruelty-free formulation that does not contain aluminum, parabens, synthetic fragrance or baking soda that sells for about $15. The brand’s current best-seller is Citrus & Vetiver, which Lovelady described as a “beautifully designed” scent made with 100% natural essential oils. “The citrus gives it a zesty punch while the vetiver brings an earthiness that is reminiscent of prestige fragrance,” she said.
Backed by venture capitalists like Obvious Ventures (which has a stake in Beyond Meat), Eric Ryan (co-founder of Olly and Method), Serena Williams’ Serena Ventures and Melo7 Tech Partners (co-founded by Carmelo Anthony), Myro is a new DTC brand that sells refillable deodorants. While only available in the market since 2018, this New York-based indie brand landed inside Target stores (and Target.com) in September.
“Target gives us the ability to scale Myro’s mission and do positive things for people and the planet, in a way that can have a real impact,” founder and CEO Greg Laptevsky said in a statement.
Myro, which has a subscription service, features refillable cases and what it calls “mood-inspiring” scents. There are five pre-filled case-and-scent pod combos that can be found in both women’s and men’s aisles: Moss + Chill Wave, Blush + Pillow Talk, Flame + Solar Flare, Royal + Big Dipper and Slate + Cabin No. 5. The refill pods, which will be available to purchase separately in Target, are fully recyclable and made with about 50% less plastic than traditional deodorant brands, according to the company.
In terms of formulation chemistry, Myro’s deos feature bacteria-neutralizing citrus, probiotics and sage to fight odor, and cornstarch to absorb wetness. Like other new brands, it shuns aluminum, parabens, triclosan, steareths, phthalates, baking soda and talc.
Others are also ditching aluminum. New from Dr. Teal’s is a range of aluminum-free deodorants that are formulated with magnesium, arrowroot powder and baking soda and come in variants like Coconut Oil, Eucalyptus, Lavender and Charcoal.
While ingredients such as aluminum are cast aside by some brands, CBD is an ingredient getting a warm welcome across personal care categories, including deodorants.
One of the brands in this growing space is Lafe’s Natural BodyCare. Its new dual-use CBD roll-on deodorant, made with natural/organic ingredients, essential oils and 50mg of full-spectrum CBD oil, is clinically proven by a third party for 24 hours of protection, according to the company.
In fact, clinical testing, or the lack of it, is a point of contention for Lafe’s Founder Lafe Larson.
“We are one of the few, if not the only brand that does 24-hour clinical testing of our deodorants,” he told Happi. “If you are going to buy a product that has one purpose, you really want to make sure that product is going to do its job.”
Many brands aren’t, he insists.
“We are seeing a lot of new brands coming into the marketplace. We are seeing disruptors that because they offer a different ingredient, a charcoal or something, or perhaps have recycled packaging, are getting a lot of marketing play and lot of interest. But the question goes back to: are those natural deodorants really effective? I do a lot of trade shows, and the number one comment I hear from people is: ‘I tried those naturals deodorants and they just don’t work very well.’ Or, the other comment is: ‘I have my natural deodorant with me because I have to reapply three times a day to make sure it works.’ That is not how we think a natural deodorant should work.”
Larson continued, “It needs to be a product that’s effective, that’s had some third party testing and that can support claims about effectiveness so the consumer is comfortable using that product and is not concerned that it won’t work effectively.”
Leading mass marketers are taking note of what is gaining favor among deodorant consumers. In addition to buying indie brands that show promise, they’re adding buzzworthy ingredients to keep pace.
For example, Secret Deodorant recently rolled out Secret with Essential Oils. In a press statement, Sara Saunders, associate brand director, called the new collection a “true game-changer in its unique blend of strength and beauty.”
Free of parabens and dyes, the formula features essential oils derived from the roots, stems and flowers of plants that are extracted through cold pressing and steam distillation, according to P&G. It contends the “rigorously-tested formula” is not only gentle on skin and rich with nourishing skin emollients and residue maskers for a premium application experience, but also delivers 48-hour sweat and odor protection for long-lasting protection.
“While antiperspirant has typically been viewed as a more functional product, we are challenging that notion with the launch of Secret with Essential Oils,” noted Saunders. “Thoughtfully crafted with an elevated scent and look, this is the first antiperspirant that truly sits between the beauty and personal care aisle and reframes what to expect from an underarm product. This collection creates an experience that feels indulgent but that still gives our consumers the protection and strength against sweat that they need.”
With an $11.99 suggested retail price, Secret with Essential Oils is available in Coconut Oil + Mandarin, Lavender + Eucalyptus, Rose + Charcoal and Cedarwood + Citrus variants. The invisible solid form is currently exclusive to Target; however, P&G plans a national rollout next year.
There has been plenty of activity in the men’s deo space, too. Also offering upscale scent profiles is Method Men deodorant, part of the home care player’s expansion into personal care. The deodorants, available in sea + surf, cedar + cypress, juniper + sage and bergamot + lime options, do not contain aluminum, parabens or phthalates.
Another new player with an upscale feel comes from a start-up called Bravo Sierra, which is selling clean, made-in-the-USA products formulated without parabens, phthalates, SLS/SLES or phenoxyethanol and housed in packaging components that are Cradle-to-Cradle certified. Co-founders of the brand—Justin Guilbert and Benjamin Bernet, successful personal care and nutrition entrepreneurs who have played leading roles at beauty, grooming and wellness brands— have found support from investment partners that delivered a $6.75 million seed round of funding.
Bravo Sierra’s deodorant ($9.50) is “engineered with an innovative plant-derived, bio-based propylene glycol.” The proprietary cassava plant root-based formula, which is free of aluminum salts and baking soda, is said to deliver all-day odor-blocking potency without irritating sensitive skin, according to the company which will also offer skin care, body wash and hair care products.
What Matters Most
With so many more options on shelves and online today, consumers have much more to consider when it comes to their underarm maintenance. But are they adventurous? According to a recent Morning Consult survey cited by online marketplace OnBuy.com, deodorant is the personal care product in which American consumers are most loyal to a particular brand.
Whether one opts for traditional chemistry or a formulation that boasts more natural ingredients, loyalty will come only if the deo delivers its core competency.
“The worst thing you can have is a deodorant that doesn’t work for you—and you are sometimes the last person to know that,” concluded Larson.