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Brand Value: how legacy ingredient maker Croda is reaching indie brand leaders

several personal care products shown in muted pastel colors and simple line drawings
Image by Bianca Van Dijk from Pixabay

this post is sponsored by Croda

Independent beauty brands today influence every sector of our industry and command a substantial percentage of market share. Over the past decade, these brands (and the infrastructures that support them) have become increasingly sophisticated.

And it seems as if everyone in and adjacent to our industry is offering resources to today’s emerging beauty brands. Retailers, manufacturers, ingredient makers, market research firms, formulation platforms, consultants, and other service providers are running incubators and hosting accelerator programs, all of which promise to help the so-called ‘indies’ reach their full potential in this crowded and competitive industry.

Indie Beauty at Croda, a look behind the scenes

To find out how one legacy ingredient supplier, in particular, is connecting with beauty’s most entrepreneurial brand leaders, I caught up with the team at Croda to look closely at their indie-facing products, resources, and services.

Croda is a global specialty chemicals supplier headquartered in East Yorkshire, England; the company has been in business since 1925. And while the team has always believed in and worked with brands of every size, in 2018 they developed a specialized strategy to support indies with dedicated sales, marketing, and technical resources. It’s a personalized experience for indies and a two-way channel for education that is helping ensure our industry remains collaborative as we move into the future.

“We used to only cater to contract manufacturers, but we saw an opportunity to work directly with the brands to find out what they were looking for even before they were looking for it,” Michelle Yip, a Business Development Specialist with the company, tells me.

“Rather than going through a middleman,” she says, “we wanted that direct link. We wanted to ensure that these brands had access to the vast knowledge and expertise which Croda could provide to help them innovate and grow.” It’s the sort of relationship and level of transparency entrepreneurs often appreciate, given that connection, authenticity, and integrity are key motivators for these brands.

Providing Services and Support that Brand Founders Expect

Nearly every brand starts small. And small brands don’t need (and are rarely able) to purchase ingredients at the same scale that major multinationals do. But—as the term indie would suggest—they are often rather independently minded and keen to develop their own distinctive product formulations.

Knowing this, the research and development team at Croda works one-on-one with indie brand leaders to craft product prototypes that align with each brand’s particular formulation strategy.

“Our R&D team can really support small brands because we’re able to make completely custom formulations based on the claims they want to make and the ingredient restrictions they have,” confirms Applications Team Leader Kumpal Mehta. “We’re able,” she says, “to run stability [studies] for them, support claims testing, and work closely on achieving a final product that meets their needs.”

Additionally, Croda has adapted to the expectation for small pack sizes, building it into their ingredient develop process and signing on partners to supply indies with more practical MOQs.

Content that Educates and Creates Connection

In my experience, beauty entrepreneurs truly appreciate the opportunity to build relationships and to have access to practical resources that can support their brand’s growth.

So the dedicated indie beauty landing page that Croda has on their site is of real value. It’s a space where the ingredient maker is sharing content that connects brand leaders with educational materials as well as with the Croda team. It’s where founders and indie team leaders can download eBooks, infographics, and trend presentations as well as discover upcoming indie events, helpful blogs, and Croda ingredients.

To date, there are three eBooks available on that page: a guide for finding and partnering with CMs called ‘Everything You Need to Know About Working with Contract Manufacturers’; a sustainable ingredients reference titled, ‘Everything You Need to Know About Lab-created and Natural Ingredients for Indie Beauty Brands’; and the latest eBook in the series is called ‘Everything You Need to Know About Formulating for Indie Beauty Brands’ and helps brand leaders step through the cosmetics and personal care formulation process.

Plus there’s a monthly newsletter just for indies that includes timely insights, trends, and formulations that emerging brands can leverage to continue improving their businesses. It’s just one more way Croda stays engaged with its indie customers. And as Senior Marketing Manager Donna Petretti explains it, “We see ourselves as an extension of their team. We’re not just an ingredient supplier, we’re more of a partner. We’re proud to be part of their journey to market.”

The supplier is, of course, showing up at tradeshow to support indies. They’re also working with influencers, and posting videos on TikTok and Instagram showing footage from the lab, step-by-step formulations, and more!

Personal Care Leadership is about Listening and Learning The indie brands Croda works with are “purpose-driven innovators, agile enough to bring new ingredients and formulations to market quickly, while remaining authentic and eco-conscious,” according to my conversations with the team. “They are brands truly helping drive the clean beauty movement; and they’re often using digital marketing tools and techniques to target younger demographics. They strive to stand out and connect with their consumer.”

Plus they tell me, indie brands (which Croda defines as wholly or partially owned by a founder and not publicly traded) have some common expectations; namely, transparency, agility, science-backed claims, and exclusivity.

And as everyone working to support indie beauty brands will tell you, partnering with indies is as much about learning and building rapport as it is about anything else. “We’re constantly engaging with them and building relationships,” Donna Petretti tells me, highlighting how these connections lead to good things for both parties: “The indies are looking for loyal partners, and they trust us as a resource to help them find the information they need.”

Her colleague, Business Development Specialist Michelle Yip, concurs—the advantages of these relationships go in two directions. “Since we’re meeting with all of these individual indie brands, we’re learning along with them as well because they’re growing so fast, and we want to grow with them.”

Legacy and Leading-Edge Ingredients that Make Sense for Indies

I mentioned at the start of this article that indie beauty brands are influencing every sector of our industry. That includes the ingredients sector and suppliers like Croda.

Their Transparent Beauty Collection was inspired by indies and the focus on clean beauty. This product prototype collection centers product safety, ethical sourcing, and effective hair care, hair styling, and sun care. The larger One Croda Collection of starter formulations showcases the varried range of ingredients the company offers (through the Sederma brand, the Allban Muller brand, the Parfex brand, and the Crodarom brand). This collection is also about striving toward an inclusive, responsible, sustainable beauty industry. It comprises hair care, hair styling, and skincare prototypes as well as a solid lotion, a solid body oil, and barrier-repairing skincare.

Every supplier I talk with in the course of my work wants to reach indies and hopes to be an integral part of the value chain behind the next big breakout brand. Still, some of us might imagine that an ingredient company the size of Croda would do just fine without catering to the needs and expectations of beauty entrepreneurs.

Nonetheless, by freely sharing their expertise, taking time to build relationships, and providing on-going support to founders, Croda is nicely situated to support emerging, purpose-driven brands today and well into the future.

this post is sponsored by Croda


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