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2020 Year in Review: Consumer Transformation

Kristin Marshall, Analyst
March 15, 2021

Consumers want it all – they want products with greater personalization and better performance, tied with a sustainable bow in time for the holidays. To meet these lofty demands, materials innovation and process changes are desperately needed. Near-term technologies like bio-based materials and digital tools enabling the circular economy are examples of solutions that can help fit the sustainability ticket. But manufacturers and material suppliers must also be able to adapt quickly to the other fast-moving consumer trends (or pandemics) that shift the landscape of what is being bought and sold. We saw this theme play out in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic led to a rapid rise in demand for hygiene products and personal protective equipment.

As we reflect on 2020, we take a look back at some of the most important materials-related developments that occurred in the Consumer Transformation theme.

COVID-19 inspired a wide range of innovations centered around consumer health & protection

COVID-19 will be responsible for the creation of entirely new products and industries. As a result of shifting consumer sentiment, many stepped up to support the production of PPE, disinfectant, and other products to fight the virus and keep consumers safe. 

  • Many companies stepped up or were ordered to support the production of medical personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfectant. One of the companies we highlighted this year was Louis Vuitton for producing disinfectant gel at its facilities in France just 72 hours after the French government issued a call to industry to fill gaps in medical supplies. Its agile and decentralized operations supported the company's rapid response.

  • A number of players focused on the development of antimicrobial and antiviral coatingsHeiQ, for example, launched the antiviral coating "Viroblock NPJ03," which it claims is effective for the COVID-19 coronavirus, with a 99.99% reduction of the virus on textile materials. The company has partnered with nine startup brands for reusable face masks.

  • Unilever published new patents detailing an emulsion coating technology for its personal care and cosmetic products that acts as a film to prevent external pollutants (including microorganisms) from lingering on a person's skin. Others, including Dow Personal Care, have been developing similar technologies for a while, but such innovations are more attractive to consumers in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

New technologies drove personalization in the CPG space

CPG companies have started using 3DP, AI, and IoT to develop personalized products and solutions. These personalized products are disrupting the CPG market based on product differentiation and consumer stickiness. Questions remain about cost and whether consumers feel comfortable trading personal information for products made just for them. 

  • LG Electronics announced the new LG ThinQ front-load washing machine at CES 2020. The washer provides customized detergent and softener dosage, motion, temperature, and time according to the detected volume and weight of the laundry load and the fabric types identified by the AI and advanced sensors.

  • L'Occitane venture Duolab launched personalized, on-demand skincare technology in the U.K. Duolab uses a skin diagnostic tool in the form of an app that can assess the user's skin and will recommend a combination of ingredients from three moisturizing bases and five active concentrates.

  • Materialise invested in and partnered with Ditto on 3D-printed personalized glasses frames. Ditto uses AI to conduct facial analysis, make glasses frame recommendations, and provide virtual fitting to give customers a more personalized glasses-buying experience. 

Brands continued to look for material alternatives for their products & packaging, some going plastic-free

Choosing more sustainable material inputs can be one of the most important choices companies can make to manage the impact of their products. Packaging is often a particular focus, as it creates further ill effects when it becomes waste, but inputs for the product itself can also be improved.

  • Mattel announced the limited release of Mega Bloks made from Braskem's bio-based polyethylene.

  • Diageo (parent company of the Johnnie Walker brand) formed a JV called Pulpex to develop 100% plastic-free paper-based bottles, starting with Johnnie Walker spirits in 2021.

  • L'Oréal partnered with LanzaTech and Total to launch a cosmetic plastic bottle made from industrial emissions.

  • P&G licensed breakthrough technology to Cargill for the production of bio-based acrylic acid.

The apparel industry doubled down on recycling but also found opportunities in _closing the loop_ for reasons beyond the circular economy

In 2020, the apparel industry saw investment to accelerate process development and scaling of textile recycling infrastructure. Still, textile collection infrastructure is lagging in most regions. Online resale and reuse saw increased consumer adoption in 2020 that will continue into 2021. This is driven by the apparel industry's slowdown due to the decline of in-person shopping, apparel brands' and retailers' adoption of all-online retail due to COVID-19, and further economic pain in the first half of 2021.

  • Tyton BioSciences received an $8 million investment from Tin Shed Ventures and others to accelerate its market entry and scale its textile recycling operations.

  • ThredUP announced a partnership with Reebok and Abercrombie & Fitch for its "resale-as-a-service" platform

  • Swiss-based running shoe startup On announced its shoe subscription program with its Cyclon shoe. The shoe is intended to be sent back for recycling after use.

Performance-driven skincare was advanced by better understanding and utilization of microorganisms

Microorganisms are poised to revolutionize the personal care space, impacting how and what products are being made and creating the potential for more personalized skin care treatments. 

  • Geltor raised $91.3 million to expand fermentation-derived collagen applications. The company will use these funds for scaling up its fermentation platform and expanding applications of its structural protein ingredients like collagen and elastin.

  • Givaudan announced a new product as part of its "natural" ingredients portfolio to combat digital stress. Personal care products made from bio-based or more "natural" ingredients have been steadily growing. Still, products that protect from external threats are an emerging market opportunity made possible by insights into the skin microbiome.

  • L'Oréal partnered with bacteriophage company Micreos for skin microbiome applications. Micreos develops the "Staphefekt" endolysin, a phage enzyme that selectively kills Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
  • Bayer partnered with Azitra to develop skin microbiome-targeting products and expanded the collaboration by leading Azitra's $17 million Series B. Bayer looks to leverage Azitra's microbiome modulation technology with a focus on Staphylococcus epidermidis bacterial strains, targeting several skin conditions, including eczema and atopic dermatitis. 

  • Deinove and Hallstar France are co-developing new skin microbiome-targeting cosmetic actives like BIOME Oléoactif, which contains branched fatty acids extracted from the extremophile Deinococcus.

In addition, the Lux Materials Team curated the following "Analysts' Choice" for further reading on the Consumer Transformation theme.

  • Antimicrobial and antiviral coatings were some of the most asked about technologies of 2020. This infographic lays out the landscape.

  • Will fish leather reel in consumers? We dive into the murky waters surrounding this technology to help companies net new business opportunities while navigating issues of scalability.

  • Greenwashing was an increasingly high-profile issue in 2020, with groups like NPR hitting out at everything from Tesla to recycling

  • Despite the pandemic making human contact unhealthy, reusable packaging began to find adoption. But does this really make sense – and who will really make money?

This blog is part of the Lux Materials Team's Year in Review series examining the highlights and key developments of the materials industry in 2020. For an overview of the other storylines in the accelerating materials innovation program, keep an eye out for our upcoming blogs and subscribe to our newsletter.

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