10 years, 10 brands: Unilever’s Prestige Continues to Grow

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Vasiliki Petrou, CEO of Unilever Prestige
Vasiliki Petrou, CEO of Unilever Prestige

Unilever Prestige, our luxury beauty business, marks its first decade with a portfolio of 10 brands, 13 consecutive quarters of volume-led growth and 2023 turnover of €1.4 billion. We caught up with Group CEO Vasiliki Petrou, who has led the business since its launch.

Vasiliki, how did Unilever Prestige get started?
Back in 2014, we were starting with a blank sheet of paper. We saw rapid market growth in the prestige beauty sector which, at the time, was a gap for Unilever – so we made our play.

We were, and always have been, incredibly selective in the brands we acquire, only choosing those which will enhance our existing portfolio. Founder-led brands is a place that works nicely with our strategy and in many cases the founders are still involved. Now, ten years on, I’m extremely proud to say Prestige is one of the fastest-growing parts of Unilever, growing ahead of the market.

How would you sum up the 10 brands in Unilever Prestige?
Three of our brands play in the ‘clinical derma-cosmetics’ space – the fastest-growing area in prestige skincare: Dermalogica, Murad and Kate Somerville.

Three brands are in the ‘clean and clinical’ space: Paula’s Choice, REN and Garancia.

And four of our brands operate in other high-growth spaces, from science-led haircare to luxury colour cosmetics and skincare: K18, Tatcha, Living Proof and Hourglass.

Dermalogica and Paula’s Choice are among Unilever’s Power Brands – 30 of its biggest brands which represent just over 75% of turnover.

A photo of Tatcha Indigo Overnight Repair – a white rich cream in a blue glass jar with a small gold applicator.
What impact has acquisition had on the brands in the Unilever Prestige portfolio?
Since 2017, around 60% of our turnover increase has come from organic growth.

We have doubled and tripled the turnover of some of our acquired brands since they joined Unilever. Hourglass has tripled in size, and Tatcha has doubled.

How does Unilever’s global reach help Unilever Prestige brands?
Unilever reaches consumers all over the world every day. We work a bit differently in Unilever Prestige, prioritising a select few markets where we see the greatest opportunities for our brands. In Prestige, a certain level of scarcity drives desirability.

Our largest market is the US which accounts for about 60% of the Prestige business.

What other markets are among the largest for Unilever Prestige?
China is our second-largest market with Dermalogica, Tatcha, Hourglass and Murad all performing extremely well there.

The UK is also a key market for us, with Tatcha expanding into the country in 2022.

An image of Hourglass Glossy Balm, a soft rose pink lipstick in a gold case. The background matches the shade of lipstick.
How does being part of Unilever help Unilever Prestige brands to grow?
Our ability to tap into Unilever’s world-class R&D capabilities plays a huge part. Our scientists are leading the way when it comes to getting pioneering innovations and ingredients to market, fast.

For example, our scientists developed Hourglass Red 0 – the first fully vegan red lipstick made without carmine, a pigment derived from crushed beetles.

And Unilever’s consumer insights undoubtedly have a positive impact on our brands too. We have vast amounts of data at our fingertips, which helps to identify consumer preferences, predict trends and ultimately shape new products.

What are some of the successful recent Prestige products that have come from these insights and breakthrough innovations?
Our labs have been behind some incredible new launches. One of my favourites is Paula’s Choice 25% Vitamin C + Glutathione Clinical Serum, which visibly brightens the skin and improves elasticity.

Dermalogica Phyto Nature Oxygen Cream, an ultra-premium product which firms, lifts and revitalises skin.

And Hourglass Veil Skin Tint – an instant hit beloved of beauty editors which contains hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin while adding a dewy glow.

Five products from the Paula’s Choice range including AHA and BHA Liquid Exfoliants. Products are dark grey and white.
Your newest brand, K18, is extremely innovative. What made it the right fit for Unilever Prestige?
K18 sits at the intersection of beauty and biotechnology. Its novel K18Peptide™ molecule mimics the human keratin structure to reverse chemical damage in all hair types in minutes, helping to replace complex hair treatment routines with almost immediate results.

Science-led products are a core part of our portfolio and with an established presence across professional salons, retail and e-commerce in North America, the UK and Australia, we’re excited to help K18 grow.

K18 is the second most-watched brand on TikTok.

How important are social media and influencer marketing to Unilever Prestige?
We are obsessed with modern marketing! Endorsement from trusted experts and influencers who trial and test our products has a significant effect on the credibility of our brands.

In the US, one of our Living Proof products has been a top ten revenue-driver on TikTok Shop across all categories, not just beauty. And we move quickly to turn organic moments into marketing wins. For example, when a beauty blogger posted about how much she loved Murad’s Instant Spot Corrector, we worked with her, multiplying authentic content across our channels for greater reach.

Looking ahead, how would you like Unilever Prestige to evolve in the next 10 years?
Any brand that joins our portfolio has to be globally relevant, have innovative concepts and have a competitive advantage. We will wait however long it takes to find the right brands.

With €1.4 billion turnover last year and strong volume-led growth, I’m excited to see what’s next. We’re in a fast-growing market, and I always say the best is yet to come.