Capitalizing on trends in the sustainability space, beauty brand Birchbox launched its third private brand, with a focus on creating refillable beauty products.
Dubbed Re.fil, the brand "reimagines your daily beauty routine staples with clean products" that are also refillable, according to details the company sent Retail Dive. Birchbox is known for its sample-size subscription service, and Re.fil was introduced to customers in the April box that went out to members.
The first product in the line, a lip and multi-purpose balm called beauty balm, is 95% reusable and sold in a refillable case made from post-consumer recycled plastic. The refills are sold on Birchbox's website.
As refillable beauty solutions gain traction — from Love Beauty and Planet's refillable hair care products at Target to Loop's partnership with Ulta to create reusable containers — Birchbox is launching an in-house brand to tackle similar problems.
Birchbox co-founder and CEO Katia Beauchamp said in an email that the launch is about creating products that are easy for its customers to use and also save them time. Re.fil is also meant to be a simple way for its customers to tweak their beauty routine to be more sustainable.
"Everything we do is about simplification and making it fun," Beauchamp said. "This balm checks off all of those boxes — it's multi-purpose (you can use it on lips, brows, cuticles, dry or flaky skin anywhere, tame flyaways, as a diaper balm for your kids, as a highlighter to accent your cheekbones), comes in an easy-to-use format, it leaves a protective moisture barrier on the skin that is super smooth and not at all tacky, and it's refillable."
Lip balm was chosen to kick off the refillable product line in part because it's an easy way to have a meaningful impact, Beauchamp said, since "hundreds of millions of people" buy lip balm every year. The company is starting to think through other refillable product launches, but shied away from giving specifics on what products might be next.
The Re.fil launch is part of a broader sustainability initiative to reduce waste at Birchbox, including removing 70% of unnecessary packaging from samples by the end of the year, and creating a recycling program for customers' samples and other products.
Arrow Beauty and Love of Color, Birchbox's other in-house brands, are also getting a sustainable makeover, with Birchbox planning to create recyclable alternatives to its brands by 2025. In addition, the company is committing to having 10% of samples by the end of the year, and 10% of full-size products by 2023, come from sustainable brands.
While Re.fil gives Birchbox an in with customers looking to introduce more sustainable alternatives to their beauty routine, it also creates the chance for a repeat customer since Birchbox's website sells the balm refills. Beauchamp said Birchbox is focused on "creating strong paths to purchase" between the box and its e-commerce site, as well as other channels, and the exclusive products on Birchbox have been "huge drivers" of the business.
Outside of its subscription box and website, Birchbox has also experimented with selling through pop-ups at Walgreens, including 500 holiday pop-ups in 2019. It hasn't all been smooth sailing for the company. In March 2019, Birchbox raised prices, introducing a tiered pricing structure to combat increased costs of doing business (though Beauchamp said in the past customers were overall supportive of the change). And like many others, 2020 took its toll on the company, which in February last year cut its staff by 25%.