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Burt’s Bees to Launch Makeup Line

Burt’s Bees Beauty is a full-fledged color cosmetics line across the face, eye, lip and cheek categories.

Makeup formulated with natural ingredients is making its way to the mass market — and Burt’s Bees is aiming to lead the charge.

The Clorox-owned personal care brand best known for its cult beeswax-based lip balm is introducing its most comprehensive beauty initiative to date — Burt’s Bees Beauty, a full-fledged color cosmetics line with products across the face, lip, cheek and eye categories.

The products — eight stockkeeping units in total and consisting of liquid and powder foundations, blush, eyeshadow palettes, eyeliner, brow pencil, mascara and a glossy lipstick — will roll out to Wal-Mart, CVS, and Whole Foods doors in September, and will also be sold on Amazon (which, of course, just completed its acquisition of Whole Foods). Target will launch a test of the line in January.

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Burt’s Bees worked for two years with a panel of makeup artists and trend experts to develop the products and formulations, which are derived from natural ingredients like the brand’s signature honey, meadowfoam, bamboo, and various oils such as mango, moringa and jojoba. The foundations are formulated with skin-care ingredients and are without silicones, parabens, phthalates, SLS, petrolatum, talc and synthetic fragrances. They are priced from $8.99 for lipsticks to $16.99 for foundations.

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This is not the brand’s first entry into makeup — in 2013, Burt’s Bees expanded into the lip segment with a line of glosses that ultimately grew to include lipsticks, lip oils and crayons. But those products have until now been merchandised along with the rest of the Burt’s Bees assortment in the natural aisles of mass retailers. With the new line, all Burt’s Bees Beauty products — that’s 115 total items including all shades — will be grouped in the cosmetics aisles.

This sizable step into makeup is significant for the company — general manager Jim Geikie noted he expects makeup to become the third pillar of the brand’s business along with lip and skin care. But from a broader perspective, the launch of Burt’s Bees Beauty — the first major natural makeup line to enter mass retailers in a big way — indicates that consumer demand for better-for-you products is continuing to permeate beauty and personal care across all segments.

Though brands touting naturally derived ingredients and nontoxic formulations are the current growth-drivers at mass — think Johnson & Johnson’s OGX and Maui Moisture, Biore’s new charcoal-based line of facial cleansers, Garnier’s Whole Blends and SkinActive ranges boasting superfood-based ingredients, and Sundial’s SheaMoisture — that movement has primarily been limited to the skin and hair segments. Until now, naturally propositioned makeup has been the final frontier in natural products in the mass market, challenged by what retailers and experts agree on is the inherent difficulty of developing natural formulations that have the same efficacy as conventional ones but at a similar cost.

It is not for lack of demand.

“Mass retail is ripe for it — the trend started in food, and it’s just seeping through to the other aisles,” said Jeanine Recckio, beauty futurologist at MirrorMirror Imagination Group. “Brands have dabbled in [natural makeup], but a power brand like Burt’s Bees making such a large statement with a full-on collection is strategically smart and exciting.”

The Burt’s Bees Beauty launch comes at a time when retailers themselves are ramping up their natural product assortments — CVS and Target both revealed this year that they would be banning a slew of toxic ingredients from their respective in-house personal care and beauty lines. And Wal-Mart is launching Found, its own private-label natural skin-care and makeup brand in September.

Next month, Burt’s Bees Beauty will ship first to 3,100 CVS doors, and the retailer is getting behind the launch in a big way. Maly Bernstein, vice president of beauty and personal care at CVS, said the drug chain is moving Burt’s Bees Beauty to the start of the cosmetics aisle and giving it four feet of space off the bat — a sizable expansion considering the brand currently occupies only a few shelves in the facial skin-care aisles at CVS stores.

“We continually get pitched natural [makeup], and the reason we got super excited about Burt’s Bees is that we already have 78 lip [shades] in our assortment today, and those have been performing at higher growth rates than a lot of our other color segments. That shows there’s a pent-up demand for [natural] color,” said Bernstein.

CVS is going even deeper into natural makeup — it is testing Mineral Fusion, a line sold primarily in natural grocers, in 500 of its doors.

Natural makeup has ramped up in the prestige market, particularly in the last year — this summer, Sephora quietly ushered in a bevy of natural indie makeup brands such as Antonym and Lilah b., and Jane Iredale just entered its first department store distribution deal with Neiman Marcus. Makeup artist Rose-Marie Swift’s RMS Beauty, meanwhile, made its debut in Sephora stores after testing e-commerce.

Geikie saw the opportunity for Burt’s Bees to cascade natural makeup into the mass channel.

“We saw the gap in the mass market for makeup brands that are naturally formulated — it’s the most underdeveloped natural segment that exists in health and beauty,” said Geikie. “Consumers tell us they’re looking for a more natural look in general with their beauty routine — however, they’ve been using synthetic products. There’s a disconnect between the look they’re trying to create and the products they use to achieve it.”

Geikie noted that what has been lacking in natural makeup at mass thus far has been efficacy and brand credibility — unlike consumers shopping in the natural channel, drugstore shoppers are less likely to trade their synthetic formulations for less-efficacious and often more expensive natural ones.

“What we found in the market are products that don’t really deliver on expectations in terms of performance, and they tend to be more expensive than what consumers are willing to pay,” said Geikie. “We are really excited about the quality of the product and performance, coupled with the fact that we’ve worked very closely with our retail partners to be hitting the price points consumers were prepared to pay.”

Geikie believes Burt’s Bees’ reputation as a trusted natural brand in the mass space will lend credibility to its makeup line. He credited his team of product developers, sourced from firms such as L’Oréal, Chanel and Elizabeth Arden, and a panel of experts — the Burt’s Bees Beauty advisory board — with achieving the best possible color payoff meant to rival that of prestige products.

“I didn’t sugarcoat my opinions — we were honest about how we felt along the way and the brand was super open to incorporating our comments into the products,” said Toby Fleischman, a celebrity makeup artist and member of the advisory board.

A television campaign launches Oct. 15, and Geikie noted the brand is putting substantial dollars towards a digital marketing campaign. Despite considerable shelf space allocations in CVS and Wal-Mart, he noted that e-commerce will be a big focus for the line.

Though this year’s launches are focused on the essentials of a makeup routine, Geikie said Burt’s Bees Beauty will quickly pivot into 2018 with more trend-focused products and shades.

He is confident that the company can break into the top 10 mass makeup brands within a year of launch. That might not be far off — according to IRI data tracking the year ending Aug. 8, Burt’s Bees lipsticks were up 27 percent versus overall category growth of 3 percent.

Bernstein expects sales of natural products to only increase — but instead of cannibalizing from other brands, she thinks natural makeup products will encourage CVS customers who may not have previously been shopping the makeup aisle. “People cocktail — they’ll be excited that they don’t have to just rely on Josie Maran or Juice Beauty in specialty retailers to get natural [makeup] products.”