Cover Girl is going cruelty-free.
The Coty Inc.-owned brand has achieved Leaping Bunny certification by Cruelty Free International, which aims to end animal testing for cosmetics. The certification is the first step in a larger, long-term partnership between the animal protection and advocacy group and Coty, which has committed to obtaining Leaping Bunny certification on at least one other Coty brand by 2020.
It’s the latest move by a big beauty company to support efforts to end animal testing. In October, Unilever announced its partnership with Humane Society International, and cruelty-free accreditation for its Dove brand from PETA. Also last month, Natura-owned The Body Shop delivered a petition against animal testing to the United Nations, as part of Forever Against Animal Testing, its partnership with Cruelty-Free International.
In the U.S., consumer demand for cruelty-free beauty products is on the rise — sales of cruelty-free brands in the prestige market jumped 27 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to the NPD Group.
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Cruelty-free brands are less prevalent in the mass market. Amongst traditional drugstore makeup brands, only Markwins-owned Wet ‘n’ Wild has achieved PETA’s cruelty-free certification. Sales-wise, Cover Girl is the biggest brand to achieve Leaping Bunny certification.
“As a big beauty company, we wanted to show that our brands can embrace this cause,” said Laurent Kleitman, president of consumer beauty at Coty, who noted that Cover Girl was a cruelty-free brand before obtaining Leaping Bunny status, but wanted to get certified to send a more overt message to consumers. “Partnering with Cruelty Free International means our internal standards have been reviewed, we’ve established new protocols with suppliers, undergone rigorous audits on supply chain materials, and we’ve agreed to be reviewed regularly — this is demonstrating a total commitment.”
Cover Girl is going cruelty-free at a time when consumers are looking to align brands with their values, particularly younger consumers. It is one of the first in the mass market to attain official certification status.
“Consumers want brands with a cause, brands that are thinking beyond the commercial relationship, and that’s what we’re doing here,” Kleitman said. “By being the biggest mass brand [to become cruelty-free], we’re demonstrating that this isn’t [just] for niche, expensive brands…it’s becoming affordable and accessible to the large majority of consumers.”
Like the majority of trends presently shaping the beauty industry, Millennials and Gen Z have been a key part in the swell of interest in ending animal testing, but Kleitman noted that cruelty-free cosmetics have a wide appeal. “It’s broader than that — this is a cause that is going through generations and age groups. You’ll find a bias on young consumers because of the awareness we see on social media, but definitely this is much broader, and it’s why you see the industry moving that way.”
Kleitman stressed the long-term nature of the Cruelty-Free partnership, and emphasized that Coty is working to certify at least one more brand in its portfolio by 2020.
For Cover Girl, Leaping Bunny certification is the latest step in a total revamp the brand introduced last year, encompassing everything from packaging, faster, more inclusive and trend-driven product rollout and a new tag line, “I am What I Makeup,” designed to appeal to today’s younger beauty shoppers.
“We have a lot of consumer requests asking if we’re cruelty-free or not,” said Ukonwa Ojo, global chief marketing officer of Cover Girl and Sally Hansen. “Consumers now [can] have the complete piece of mind that we share their values fully, and we have certification that validates that.”
Today, Cover Girl will unveil a sizable marketing campaign across digital, print and social media. Outer product packaging has been updated to include the Leaping Bunny certification seal.
Cover Girl has struggled to return to growth after it was divested from Procter & Gamble to Coty in 2016, and despite the launch of its new marketing campaign last year and new product rollout in January. Cover Girl sales were down 7 percent in the last four weeks ending Oct. 6, versus a decline of 16 percent at that time last year, according to Nielsen. Going cruelty-free in a market with few options could certainly help give the brand a needed edge.
“Nobody should have to choose to pay more than they need to get products that align with their values,” Ojo said. “There are [many] brands certified in the mass market, and now [consumers] can get [cruelty-free makeup] in mass.”
Achieving Leaping Bunny certification involved significant logistical work for Coty, which dedicated a team to the endeavor, under chief scientific officer Daniel Ramos. “The amount of innovation that goes through a mass makeup brand like Cover Girl is huge.…We had to make sure that everything [and] everything going forward, every new innovation that comes through Cover Girl. We have to make sure that every new material meets CFI requirements,” Ramos said. “The second part of the process is that we have to demonstrate that we have a system in place to maintain it — achieving certification only gets you in the door.”