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Published February 5, 2020
Published February 5, 2020
Miika Laaksonen via Unsplash

Vegan beauty is definitely not just a trend, with the global vegan cosmetic market predicted to be worth $20.8 billion by 2025. The tipping point for all things vegan seems to have been 2019. The Economist declared 2019 as the year of the vegan, reporting that a quarter of millennials identify as vegan or vegetarian. The growing acceptance of vegan lifestyles among millennials is playing a crucial role in the growth of the global vegan cosmetics market. And as the spending power of Gen Z consumers increases as they age, their priorities of transparency and sustainability will likely accelerate the vegan moment.

Jenni Middleton, Head of Beauty at WGSN, explained to Global Cosmetic News how the millennial mindset has both environmental and ethical concerns. She stated, “It’s also the generation of future consumers—they are obsessed with making sure we do the right thing by the environment, and the vegan [and cruelty-free] movement is inextricably linked with the sustainability movement.”

The increase in the number of vegan products available has increased, and so has the market. Innovations in plant-based and eco-friendly materials, combined with increased consumer awareness, are the drivers behind changes in the beauty and fashion industries. As consumers become increasingly aware that their purchasing preferences and patterns have an impact on society and the environment, they are paying closer attention to raw materials, source origin, and the supply chain.

Up to now, vegan beauty products have fallen under the largest natural clean category umbrella, benefiting from consumers’ increasing concerns regarding ingredient safety. However, while many vegan products qualify as clean, it is possible to technically be certified as vegan and cruelty-free but not be clean, which has the potential to create a tremendous amount of confusion for consumers if brands are not completely transparent.

Danielle Saunders, Communications Manager at The Vegan Society, commented to Beauty Packaging, “Confusion definitely exists when it comes to distinguishing between cruelty-free beauty products (not tested on animals) and vegan beauty products, which have not been tested on animals and contain no ingredients derived from animals. Add to this the lack of legal protection around the term ‘vegan’ and we end up in a situation where ethical consumers can be forced to do a lot of digging before they are confident that they can buy a product.

“In support, we created the Vegan Trademark in order to make it easier for consumers to identify whether a product is suitable for their lifestyle. It is the most credible vegan label on the market, recognized internationally since 1990—the number of cosmetic products we have registering with the Vegan Trademark is growing exponentially.”

Vegan products are becoming a sizable and stand-alone product category. If you adhere to the belief that beauty follows food trends, there is a bright future for vegan beauty. In a 2018 report, the vegan food industry recorded a 20% growth over the previous year, with sales peaking at $3.3 billion.

The vegan category has been growing for UK retailer Cult Beauty. Alexia Inge, co-founder of Cult Beauty, shared, “We saw an 88% rise in searches for ‘vegan beauty’ on the Cult Beauty site last year, with our vegan category growing by 55% as we exclusively launched brands like Milk Makeup and more recently, Versed.” She continued, “We are also seeing a rise in non-vegan brands reworking cult products to fit into this category, so I predict similar levels of growth for 2020 if not more.” Olaplex no3 Hair Perfector was the top-selling vegan product on Cult Beauty in 2019.

A clear indication of the growth of vegan beauty is Kendo, the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy-owned beauty incubator. Kendo doubled down on the vegan positioning of Kat Von D Beauty, renaming the brand KVD Vegan Beauty immediately upon the announcement that founder Kat Von D sold her ownership stake and made a full departure from her namesake brand.

The Numbers:

  • According to Marketing Week, there has been a 175% increase in vegan cosmetics launches globally over the past five years.
  • Google searches for veganism has increased by 550% over the last five years.
  • The Veganuary 2018 campaign grew by 183%, with 168,542 people signing up to go vegan, and is expected to be double this year.
  • The global vegan cosmetics market size was estimated at USD 12.9 billion in 2017 and projected to be worth $20.8 billion by 2025, and progress at a CAGR of 6.3% during the forecast period, according to Grand View Research.
  • According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), vegan launches more than doubled in the past five years, growing by 175% from July 2013 to June 2018.
  • In Asia, sales of vegan products is at an all-time high, much of it driven by China, which boasted the fastest-growing vegan market in the world with a 17.2% jump in sales between 2015 and 2020.
  • In the UK, the number of people identifying as vegans has increased by 350%, compared to a decade ago, according to research commissioned by The Vegan Society in partnership with Vegan Life magazine.
  • Sales of vegan beauty products in the UK grew 38% in 2018.
  • Beauty discovery engine Cosmetify found that 56% of British women are purchasing vegan beauty products; however, 39% of this group do not actually identify as vegan.

The Drivers:

1. Ethical Consumerism: More “conscious choices” resonate with the fastest-growing consumer segments. Millennials and Gen Zs question accountability and do not shy away from challenging industries and brands on ethics, but the majority of consumers are increasingly taking into consideration animal rights and the safety of ingredients before making a purchase.

Animal cruelty is often enough reason not to buy a product. Artificial substitutes are perceived as unhealthy or even toxic to most customers who reject products with unrecognizable ingredients and opt for natural-based products. The second part of this equation is the unfortunate reality that animal testing was once standard practice in the beauty industry. Today this topic is one that most consumers have become vocal about and aligns customers with the value proposition of vegan beauty brands.

2. Technological Innovations: The overall cosmetics industry is highly competitive in nature and requires continuous innovation and development especially in vegan cosmetics products. Rising environmental awareness has encouraged many key players to avoid the practice of animal-derived raw materials by developing natural ingredients that are identical with better performance. Growing research and development will further global market growth in vegan beauty.

3. Banning Plastics: As beauty brands and retailers push to become more sustainable by addressing the plastic problem rampant in the beauty industry, manufacturers are exploring materials from plant-based alternatives.

4. Media Goes Vegan: In the USA, those identifying as vegan “increased by 600% between 2014 and 2017,” which is a trend reverberating across the globe. More recently, The Economist reported that a quarter of millennials now identify as vegan or vegetarian.

As consumers seek to adopt a vegan lifestyle, the trend is supported by the rise of plant-based and ethical consumerism and fueled by a vast array of online communities. The cruelty-free lifestyle, associated with healthier and more considerate choices for the individual and the environment, is reflected in the media across industries such as food, fashion, and beauty.

The Certifications:

  • Leaping Bunny certifies personal care and household product companies that ensure that no animal testing is done at any phase of the production process.
  • PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies Program lists every registered company that is either cruelty-free or both vegan and cruelty-free,
  • In the UK, The Vegan Society, the oldest vegan society in the world, has registered thousands of brands that are both vegan and cruelty-free.
  • Certified Vegan is the certification created by, one of the oldest and most visited vegan websites in the world, established in 1995.

Top Vegan Beauty Influencers:

  • Kiera Rose
  • Rhian HY
  • Mirror and Haze
  • Tashina Combs
  • Hannah Hagler
  • Cruelty-Free Becky

Vegan positioning is becoming table stakes even in big beauty. In November 2018, drugstore Goliath Covergirl announced it had earned the Leaping Bunny seal and was now the largest makeup brand to be certified cruelty-free.


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