Beyond Veganuary: How can beauty brands create long-term behavioural change?

Almost every country in the world signed up to participate in Veganuary in 2023. That’s a lot of people and a lot of customer opportunity. The campaign to get people to consume less meat and dairy products has become the norm at the start of each year, as people look to change their behaviours for the better.   

Veganuary so far has mainly focused on diet, but many values underpin veganism and the importance of adopting the lifestyle as a whole. Animal agriculture is proven to harm the environment as a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. This isn’t the only factor that drives people towards Veganuary – many prioritise minimising cruelty towards animals for product testing across industries including beauty, pharmaceuticals and healthcare.  

This is a huge opportunity for brands – not just in food, but a whole range of sectors that offer vegan alternatives. The beauty sector has a unique challenge. How do beauty brands attract and retain customers with their vegan product ranges both during and after this generally food-dominated period?  

The key to success is understanding the true motivations and values of beauty buyers. What do they really value? Why are they buying? What factors and biases are at play, and how can they be leveraged to drive customer retention when Veganuary itself ends? It’s all about asking the right questions… 

Why is Veganuary so significant? 

 Veganuary is a month-long campaign raising awareness of the benefits of veganism and a cruelty-free lifestyle. Since 2014, Veganuary has encouraged people to try going vegan – with 700,000 signing up in 2023 and millions taking part every year without officially registering. 

The popularity of Veganuary has driven up the availability of vegan products and menu items, with more than 820 new products and 790 vegan menus launched for Veganuary in 2023. The campaign presents a brilliant marketing opportunity for brands, retailers and hospitality to gain or retain customers wanting to make more conscious lifestyle changes for the month of January, with the hope of embedding these more sustainable habits into their day-to-day lives. 

 So, where do beauty brands fit in?  

Veganism isn’t just for a month. For many, it’s for life. While some brands jump on the Veganuary bandwagon for a month and do little throughout the rest of the year, many have vegan values engrained in their mission, vision and identity. These brands have the greatest opportunity to use Veganuary as a foot in the door, helping to expand people’s awareness of veganism and a cruelty-free lifestyle in the beauty and wellness industry. 

While vegan beauty might not be top of mind for people embarking on Veganuary, the vegan values that shoppers become more in tune with during the month could translate into buying habits that go beyond diet. 

 With the public’s consciousness about plant-based and cruelty-free living heightened, brands can use the momentum to help people make behavioural shifts towards vegan toiletries, cosmetics, skincare and accessories. 

 Following in the footsteps of vocal brands 

The Body Shop have pioneered sustainable and cruelty-free beauty from the start. The brand has always been open about their product range being 100% vegetarian, with 60% of their products being completely free of animal-derived ingredients, such as honey, milk and lanolin. 

At the end of 2023, The Body Shop became one of the first global beauty brands to achieve 100% vegan products certified by The Vegan Society. It’s no coincidence that The Body Shop tactically released the news of their vegan certification in January, a time when people across the world are gaining an interest in veganism. 

 Beauty brands can follow in the footsteps of the likes of The Body Shop and LUSH, who are known for their stance against animal testing and advocating vegan formulas. While brands may not want to focus their marketing on shouting about these values, there is scope to communicate how easy and beneficial it is to shop vegan and cruelty-free when it comes to beauty products in the month of January and beyond. 

Do consumers really care about being kind? 

Ask most people, and they will say yes. Take this at face value and base your decisions upon it, and you risk a lot. How can brands create an accurate picture of how finances and ethics compete with each other during purchase decisions?

There’s a common misconception that vegan and cruelty-free products are less effective and more expensive than their counterparts. In reality, this isn’t always the case, as shown by NYX cosmetics, and showing that household names like No7, Aveda, The Body Shop and LUSH are on board with this wider movement and selling high-quality, affordable products can help to quash this view. 

Gen Z ( aged 12-27) is a critical demographic when it comes to the uptake of vegan beauty. Research from The Vegan Society shows that 43% of students say they never buying beauty products that are tested on animals. There’s no doubt that the influence this young, digital generation has on brands and retailers is going to continue to drive demand for vegan beauty. 

 Generation Alpha is already following Gen Z’s sustainable preferences, as 57% of 13-year-olds prefer to use eco-friendly beauty products. These young people are taking to social media to learn about and share their budding knowledge of sustainable skincare, using their own money to invest in eco-friendly and vegan products. 

Beauty brands can use Veganuary to their advantage 

Beauty brands can leverage the popularity of Veganuary to encourage consumers to shift their buying behaviours towards vegan and cruelty-free products.  

It’s clear there’s friction in adopting vegan toiletries and cosmetics into daily routine compared to consuming meat and dairy-free food products. So what can brands do to remove this? 

  • The purpose isn’t to ask consumers to completely overhaul everything they own. But rather when they run out of their favourite products, try gradually swapping them for vegan alternatives. This way, brands can meet demand and connect with conscious consumers that align with their values. 
  • However, the only way to get to the root of what these values are, and how consumers really think when faced with the choice between vegan and non-vegan products, is to close the say-do gap.