The personal care landscape is undergoing a complete overhaul, from staid categories owned by incumbents for decades to completely new categories appearing on retail shelves that are breaking taboos and filling whitespace. The global beauty and personal care market is expected to grow from USD 493.34 billion in 2018 to USD 756.63 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 5.81% during the forecast period 2019-2026, according to a report published by Fior Markets.
The deodorant category was one of the first traditional personal care categories to be upended, notably by Schmidt’s, founded in 2010 by Jaime Schmidt selling product at local farmers markets, and Native, launched in 2015 with a DTC model by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Moiz Ali. These start-ups challenged category incumbents with a simple proposition—clean, natural formulas at a time when consumers began to express ingredient safety concerns.
These brands created a tipping point mainstreaming “natural” deodorants, and strategics took notice, balancing their traditional antiperspirant/deodorant portfolios with acquisitions of natural alternatives. The end of 2017 saw the acquisition of Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant by Unilever, owner of Dove, Degree, Suave, and Axe, and deodorant brand Native was acquired by P&G, owner of Secret, Gillette, and Old Spice, in a $100 million cash deal.
The deodorant category has become flooded with start-ups in a land grab, each trying to seize a piece of the category. Clean beauty indies like Kosas are even using deodorant as a gateway to personal care, while incumbents innovate to maintain market share. Fortune Business Insights predicts the global deodorant market size will reach $30.76 billion by 2026, exhibiting a CAGR of 4.0% during the forecast period.
In a second wave of innovation, a new group of disruptors is tackling the plastic problem in the category with paper tubes becoming more widely adopted, while others are tackling sustainability through refill concepts. Venture-backed DTC start-ups Myro (launched in 2017) and by Humankind (launched in 2018) are leading the charge.
DTC start-ups have led the deodorant refill revolution with cool packaging and clean formulas appealing to millennials’ and Gen Z’s commitment to the environment. While the cool kids of personal care have already adopted refillable deodorant concepts, this time around big beauty is playing its part. Dove kicked off 2021 with the launch of their chic refill concept that makes the venture-backed indie disruptors look slightly dated, while also indicating refillable deodorant may finally be reaching a tipping point.
The refillable deodorant brands all leverage pretty much the same formula. Custom industrial design embodies the aesthetic of the brands in either recycled plastic, aluminum, or other metal, offered in 3-5 colors. The refillable cartridges or pods use as little plastic as possible and, in some cases, make compostable claims. In all these propositions, clean formulations are table stakes and offered in 3-5 fragrances. And finally, they are based on a subscription business model.
In the end, consumers looking to make a commitment to refills will make their decision based on package design, brand values, and price.