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The Rise Of The Vegan Cosmetic Industry In India

From being an alien concept, to something one would associate with animal-rights activists, to a common alternate lifestyle, veganism has indeed caught on fast in India

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma


If India’s economic growth story were a Bollywood movie, the Indian consumer would be the movie’s superstar. Even as the Indian consumer’s love affair with mainstream consumerism roars on, there’s a small, but important sub-plot that’s taking shape. That’s the story of the informed consumer, or the thoughtful consumer. From choosing environment-friendly alternatives such as eco-friendly vehicles, organic, pesticide-free foods, water/ electricity-saving appliances and using less packaging, to opting for cruelty-free cosmetics, there’s a growing body of consumers who are asking questions and finding answers to the issues they have come to care about.

The beauty market as well, is seeing early, but definite, signs of consumers thinking hard and asking tough questions, before buying. And an evolving preference for vegan beauty products is just one such example of changing consumption trends. The term ‘vegan’ essentially refers to a product that is entirely plant-based, and free from animal ingredients or animal-derived ingredients such as beeswax, honey, albumen, carmine, gelatine, keratin and lanolin. Also, the products should not have been tested on animals. At the core of veganism lies thoughtfulness – towards other living beings with feelings, and towards the environment. Today, more than ever, compassionate consumers are choosing products that have not used animals for ingredients or for testing. Although vegetarianism is a widely accepted and practised way of life in India, veganism is relatively new.

The Demand for Vegan Cosmetics

Increasing awareness related to mistreatment of farmed animals and the widespread environmental degradation associated with rearing animals for milk, meat and other products has led to the rise in demand for vegan alternatives. The urban Indian consumer joins this league of new generation global consumers who are looking to move away from cosmetics that make animals suffer needlessly in cosmetic creation & testing.

Also, today’s modern woman is more aware about how cosmetic ingredients affect her skin, and she makes sure she reads the label on the back of the product, and looks them up online for information on safety and ethics. This is great news for vegan products, because vegan products, by virtue of being developed more recently, tend to have modern formulations that do not use some of the traditionally unsafe chemical ingredients developed in the industrial era.

India's cosmetic market has been growing with a CAGR of 17% over a period of five years. According to the latest estimates, the industry is valued at around USD 950 million and is expected to nearly treble to approximately USD 2.68 billion by 2020.  According to Market Research Future, globally, the ‘cruelty-free’ cosmetics market is set to grow by 6.1% from 2017 – 2023, with India projected to be one of the top exporters of these cosmetics. As ethical beauty continues to inspire consumer choices, one can expect the market for cruelty-free and vegan products to grow faster than the broader market.

What Lies Ahead

From being an alien concept, to something one would associate with animal-rights activists, to a common alternate lifestyle, veganism has indeed caught on fast in India. In the last year, more than forty brands offering vegan products have launched not just in the food services industry but also in the fashion & beauty segment. As more consumers apply serious thought while choosing products, those products based on natural and safe ingredients, have a promising future ahead. And what’s perhaps most exciting is that there is tremendous scope for innovative new products, and a lot of space for innovators to bring these innovative products to the discerning Indian consumer.Now that has all the makings of a sequel, and some sequels are better than the originals!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Shankar Prasad

The author is Founder and Director, Pureplay Skin Sciences

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