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Innovation has always been at the heart of Unilever, from successfully re-inventing soap in the late 19th century to pioneering sustainable living today. Their current innovation agenda is fueled in part by a strong ecosystem of groundbreaking programs that explore growth opportunities beyond their existing portfolio, like China’s Uni-Excubator, the Positive Beauty Growth Platform, and Unilever Ventures.
Also on the innovation agenda is The Uncovery, a brand incubator led by CEO Selina Sykes and CMO Laura Fruitman, that brings together the best of Unilever’s capabilities with the spirit of organic experimentation, to develop and launch new brands in high growth spaces and drive portfolio transformation in beauty and wellbeing.
Discovering what consumers need and delivering it fast
“While Unilever’s core beauty brands focus on landing innovations for consumers, at the Uncovery we’re enabled by our agile model to develop and experiment with digitally native brands which access spaces beyond the priority scope for our big brands. Our model allows us to move fast – our fastest launch to date has been 39 days from idea to delivery,” says Selina Sykes, VP, New Business Creation at Unilever. “Beauty and wellbeing is a rapidly evolving market. In order to be at the forefront of trends and serve the consumers of the future as we wish to, we will need to be able to innovate and adapt as efficiently as possible.”
The Uncovery is enabled by its agile innovation model to develop new, digitally native brands in high-growth spaces that drive the transformation of Unilever’s portfolio. It has built a data-driven brand development process that uses revolutionary insight capabilities, and an ecosystem of collaborators to enable the delivery of breakthrough innovation. In this way, the cross-functional teams of The Uncovery can ideate, test and experiment at speed to solve meaningful consumer problems and provide solutions for underserved needs.
“Our brands at The Uncovery are providing consumers with product solutions that they not only want, but need,” says Laura Fruitman, Chief Marketing Officer of The Uncovery. “We identify consumer needs and demands in spaces that are currently underserved and work quickly to find superior solutions that we can launch and test as brands with them.”
Developing purpose-driven brands
In 2021, The Uncovery piloted the development of purpose-led brands including Mojo, For Every Type, and Ferver. Each brand was created and executed by a lean dedicated cross-functional team in a disruptive end-to-end innovation model, delivered, from idea to production in 6 months, and co-creation network of third parties and customers:
- Mojo a product line focused to support women to feel their best through menopause, offers holistic perimenopause solutions. The goal is to build a brand that addresses a consumer segment that often feels invisible, through a community of support, expertise and advisors.
- For Every Type was launched around the same time to offer premium hair care for protective styling that’s healthier for natural hair. The ambition is to leave a long-lasting, positive impact on the black beauty industry with clean formulations and innovative formats.
- Ferver is responding to the demand for clean skincare by employing fermentation, an active powerful natural process with potency at its heart, to supercharge the efficacy of skincare actives.
The Uncovery also serves to further build Unilever’s capability in strategic territories, such as delivering digitally native brands with direct-to-consumer and eCommerce exclusive pure-play propositions.
To date, The Uncovery has brought 7 eCommerce-focussed new brands in various high growth spaces to launch on the US market with skincare brand Ferver now available at Target.