To show how sustainability is at the heart of a business, beauty brands are using food waste to market their ingredient stories.
In April, sustainable skincare brand Circumference launched a cleanser made from olive leaf extract, taken directly from the leftover leaves in excess and unusable in the olive oil making process. For the $ 48 product, the 3-year-old brand has teamed up with olive oil company Brightland to use leftovers from their California farms. The cleaner is the second product to be launched as part of Circumference’s Waste-Not Sourcing Initiative. It first launched a moisturizer using leftover grape leaves from the wine industry in 2020 – it’s currently the brand’s # 1 bestseller and sells for $ 120. Farmacy also picked up on the trend, launching its own limited-edition cleansing balm in April that contains leftover apples, for $ 34. Farmacy called the apples a “recycled” ingredient. She receives the leftover apple extract from her ingredient supplier, who processes the waste and prepares it for cosmetic use before sending it to Farmacy.
The remaining ingredients are often discussed under the umbrella of sustainability, as food waste can create a circular system. As sustainability has become popular in recent years, brands are trying to show their customers real-life examples of how it’s permeating all parts of the business. While Farmacy does not refer to the remaining use of apples on their product description pages, they did mention it in social posts on Instagram during the cleansing balm launch.
“The industry was already doing it, but nobody talked about it,” said Kseniya Popova, research and development director of Farmacy. “But now we are becoming more aware [of sustainability], and we want to put more into it. Instead of a [leftover] ingredient by formula, we want [potentially] make a complete formula out of waste.
While the valuation of leftover food as a sustainability tactic has started to emerge, its use is still in its infancy. Beauty brand Klur is using food waste in its limited edition Surrounding Surfaces Cuticle Oil, for $ 44. It uses avocado and tomato seed oils which are commonly discarded in the commercial food industry. But Klur does not refer to the food waste supply except in the ingredient list on its product description pages. And skincare brand Superzero uses leftover blueberries from the juice industry to create their cold-pressed blueberry seed oil for their Heavenly Hydration & Blue Light Defense Hand Balm Bar, which sells for at $ 22. This is explained on the brand’s product description page. Meanwhile, zero waste mask brand Loli Beauty bases its entire ingredient portfolio on leftover organic foods like plums and sea buckthorn, and displays this information prominently on its e-commerce website. .
“The customers I have spoken with are surprised and excited about the Waste Not Sourcing initiative. When the public thinks of sustainability and conscious consumerism, they think of recycling or waste reduction. They think about the end product, but not how something was created in the first place, ”said Jina Kim, Founder and CEO.
While using leftover food as ingredients may make sense for supposedly zero waste brands like Circumference and Loli Beauty, little information suggests that small brands that do so would have a noticeable impact on sustainability. Food waste is a significant problem in the United States The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that it accounts for 30-40% of the total food supply, or about 133 billion pounds and 161 billion dollars in food , according to 2010 data. Consumer food brands have tried to step in and monetize it, like Hungry Harvest and Imperfect Produce, which offer subscription boxes of leftover or “ugly” fruits and vegetables. But these efforts have been criticized, in part, for not alleviating a problem, but rather for making it worse.
But another key benefit for brands is that using food is inexpensive. In terms of costs, a Farmacy spokesperson said that typically the supplier provides the waste for free or for a small fee, while the brand pays the costs of processing and shipping. The remaining biomass is then sold to other companies to be used to make animal feed, enzymes, pectins or organic acids. It’s a similar situation for Circumference, which collects an indeterminate amount of leftover olive leaves once a year for free, but pays for transportation to its labs, said Chris Kim, COO Circumference and sustainability manager. After extracting the oil from the leaves, Circumference sends the rest back to California or to farms in New York, where it is used as mulch.
“Retailers, publications and influencers are all looking for ways to crack down on the term ‘sustainability’, and they are all looking to talk about sustainability in beauty,” said Chris Kim. “[Sustainability] it is not only a question of recycling packaging, but also of understanding the idea of zero waste; it is a simple story that anyone can understand, tell and translate. “