“Dove did it. Secret and Old Spice did it. And now, sustainability-focused disruptor brand Grove Collaborative has done it. They’ve introduced a refillable deodorant system. But in Grove Collaborative’s case, the deodorant package—a cylindrical, aluminum “forever case”—is plastic-free, which is not the case, it says, with the packaging offered by its larger CPG competitors, as well as by some other, smaller personal care producers.
Grove’s Peach Deodorant & Body Care Refill System, launched in mid-May, is an expansion of the company’s Peach clean, vegan personal care line, which, like the rest of its product lines, “is on a mission to eliminate plastic from the personal care routine.”
“Peach’s purpose is to spark a mass movement to sustainable living by proving that sustainable beauty and personal care can be highly efficacious and fun,” says Luana Bumachar, VP Owned Brands and Innovation for Grove Collaborative. “Thus we are on a mission to eliminate plastic from the personal care routine. We started in the shower with hair, face, and body cleansing, but we knew that was just the beginning. From the inception of the brand in 2019, we have been exploring new categories in which we could deliver an amazing plastic-free experience. And deodorant and body care were the next obvious steps in the journey.”
In developing a more sustainable packaging option for deodorant and body lotion, Grove looked at other non-plastic formats such as the paper tube, a package that is rapidly being adopted by a number of natural deodorant brands. But, says Bumachar, there’s a significant tradeoff on consumer experience with paper packaging. “With many of the paper tubes, there is not a seamless propel/repel mechanism that consumers are accustomed to with conventional packaging,” she says. “The consumer needs to keep holding the bottom of the deodorant for it not to slide down during application. The top of the paper packaging also does not hold up well and gets quite messy or degrades over the lifetime of the product. For Peach, our objective was to design a product that is not only 100% plastic-free, but also has no experience tradeoffs—both on the actual product and on the packaging.”
Instead, Grove Collaborative opted for aluminum, a material Bumachar says has several advantages over plastic. “First, as we are trying to eliminate single-use plastic, the aluminum forever case of Peach deodorant and body care encourages consumers to reuse an item that traditionally they would toss after the product is finished,” she explains. “Second, aluminum is infinitely recyclable. So even if someone decides to stop using their case, or when disposing of their refill, the materials can be fully recouped and will reenter the value stream without any tradeoffs—unlike plastic. And lastly, it helps set a new expectation of what responsible consumption looks like, and that taking steps towards living more sustainably does not have to be difficult or come with tradeoffs.”
The Peach brand, Bumachar adds, is highly consumer-centric, so with the design of the refill system, the consumer experience needed to be uncompromised, both functionally and aesthetically. This meant the packaging needed to be engineered in a way that made it intuitive and simple for the consumer to remove a used deodorant insert and replace it with a new one. It also needed to be easy to travel with, “so consumers can live plastic-free wherever they go,” she says.
Aesthetically, the packaging needed to be decorated in a way that reflects the optimism of the brand—to put a smile on the face of the consumer every time they use the product, Bumachar adds.
Package development was done in collaboration with an outside design firm, while a team inside Grove focused on the consumer experience of the product. Although Grove’s design partner brought deep engineering and manufacturing expertise, Bumachar shares that there were challenges related to working with aluminum. One is that aluminum is more malleable than stainless steel, which was a consideration when designing the case and refill cartridges to be as lightweight as possible for on-the-go convenience. A mechanism used on the refill cartridge also required tight tolerances to ensure the components would not bend or alter shape during the manufacturing process or in transit.
To ensure the components fully comply with Grove’s approved specs so that consumers only receive “impeccable products,” the company implemented a tight Q&A process.
The resulting packaging system comprises the forever case, with the body and cap made entirely from aluminum, that can be refilled with any of the 1.78-oz Peach deodorant sticks or 1.67-oz Peach body care refill sticks. The refill inserts come in a 100% aluminum cylinder and are designed with a platform and a threaded spindle on the base that clicks into a hexagonal opening at the bottom of the forever case, “so that you experience the same propel and repel functionality as a conventional deodorant,” Bumachar explains.
Included in the line are three clean-ingredient, vegan deodorant varieties—Cucumber Sage, Citrus Vetiver, and Coconut Jasmine—a body balm stick in a Coconut Pineapple scent, and a body lotion stick in Lavender Coconut. The refillable deodorant cases and refill sticks are packaged in 100% recyclable paper cartons made from FSC [Forest Stewardship Council]-certified paper with some recycled content.
Graphics for the packaging were done in-house by Grove Collaborative Creative Director Nicholas Guy with the goal of conveying the optimism, inclusivity, and sustainability of the Peach brand. “The brand system uses messaging to encourage consumers on their journey to plastic-free, not shame them into it,” says Bumachar. “We make sustainability fun.”
Both the case and carton include the logomark, “peach not plastic™.” The body of the case reads, “A little care goes a long way,” while copy on the carton includes the words, “Look at you being all sustainable” and “Sustainability looks good on you.” In addition, cartons for each product include copy on the primary benefits/reasons to believe that focus on performance and scent experiences.
A color-coding system on both the forever cases and the cartons is used to differentiate product varieties. Says Bumachar, the bright and vibrant hues of orange, lime green, yellow, lavender, and blue are meant to be a welcome change from the neutral tones consumers expect with natural products and were chosen to convey the bright and positive personality of the brand. She adds that the forever cases are decorated using a powder-coat process that enhances the vibrancy of the colors….”