HUL to drop word ‘Fair’ from skincare cream ‘Fair & Lovely’

FMCG major Hindustan Unilever on Thursday said it will remove the word ‘Fair’ from its popular skincare brand ‘Fair & Lovely’, as part of a global rebranding exercise by its parent Unilever.
While the move has come at a time when there are growing voices against racial stereotyping, the company insisted that its step has got nothing to do with the current anti-racism movements in the West, saying it has been working on the evolution of the Rs 2,000-crore brand for many years.
The company said its other skincare portfolio will also adopt a new holistic vision towards the beauty that cares for everyone and celebrates all skin colours.
This, the FMCG major said, follows its parent Unilever’s policy for all its beauty and personal care brands, which will evolve “to a more inclusive vision of beauty that celebrates and cares for all skin tones, and no longer uses the words white/whitening, light/lightening or fair/fairness”.
“This is not a decision, which we have taken today. The story has been evolving from last few years,” HUL Chairman and Managing Director Sanjiv Mehta told PTI when asked if the name change has anything to do with the anti-racism campaigns in the West.
“A big brand, which is a Rs 2,000 crore brand and a highly analytical company like us, we do not change without a huge amount of research. This is something, which has been there in offing for many years and only after we have researched the proposition, understood what the consumers’ evolving needs are, that is when we went for a new proposition,” he said.
Mehta further said HUL had already filed the name change application last year but has not disclosed the name in order to keep counterfeiters at bay.
“We could have disclosed the name, the reason which we are not disclosing, I am very clear, is that it will pave the way for counterfeiters to come in. This is a brand which always attracts counterfeiters,” he said.
Activists were campaigning on Change.Org, a platform where supporters mobilise to seek change in communities, through petitions asking the company to drop the brand or its name.
Chandana Hiran, who started the petition and calls herself a feminist and change-maker in her Twitter profile, said she thanks Unilever on behalf of more than 10,000 people who had signed her petition.
“I have goosebumps as I read this! Kudos to you @Unilever I’m so so so happy rn. And I thank you on behalf of over 10k people who signed my petition for this to happen,’ she tweeted.
The HUL CMD said in 2019, the company had removed “the cameo with two faces as well as the shade guides from the packaging of Fair & Lovely and the brand communication progressed from fairness to glow which is a more holistic and inclusive measure of healthy skin”.
Apart from changing the name, Mehta said HUL has also been evolving the formulations of the product to address needs of overall skin health.
“The brand has been progressively changing its formulation and included vitamins like B6, C & E, allantoin, which are known to improve skin health and protect the skin from external aggressors like UV and harsh environment. That is the reason why we are able to talk about the holistic well being of the skin which is blemish-free, even tone and glow. That is what consumers want,” he added.
The new name is awaiting regulatory approvals, HUL said adding it expects to change the name in the next few months.
Nida Hasan, Country Director, India, said, “It is hard to ignore the role of Fair and Lovely advertisements in shaping colourism in India. The decision by HUL is a much needed acknowledgment of India’s diversity. Just recently, Johnson & Johnson announced a similar move based on a citizen driven petition.” Over the years, many women have dared to call out colourism and racism inherent in these ‘fairness’ products through petitions on, Hasan said, adding that she is “glad that Change.Org was a part of this citizen-driven story that challenged the status quo and resulted in a celebration of diversity”.
As part of the rebranding, the company will also be announcing the new name for the ”Fair & Lovely” Foundation, set up in 2003 to offer scholarships to women to help them pursue their education.
Mehta said that ‘in addition to the changes to Fair & Lovely, the rest of HUL’s skincare portfolio will also reflect the new vision of positive beauty’.
The company said it will continue to evolve its advertising, to feature women of different skin tones, representative of the variety of beauty across India.
On being asked as to whether HUL would extend the new brand into some other products, Mehta said: ‘We would absolutely look at it. Brand extension again is a very thought-through decision and we do not do it indiscriminately. We look at this, brand extensions should not only stand on its own but it should also be able to feed and strengthen the core.’ Presently, 70 per cent sales of Fair & Lovely is from the rural areas and rest 30 per cent from urban markets, he added.
Commenting on the development, Unilever President (Beauty & Personal Care) Sunny Jain said, ‘We are fully committed to having a global portfolio of skincare brands that is inclusive and cares for all skin tones, celebrating greater diversity of beauty.” He further said, “We recognise that the use of the words ‘fair’, ‘white’ and ‘light’ suggest a singular ideal of beauty that we don’t think is right, and we want to address this. As we’re evolving the way that we communicate the skin benefits of our products that deliver radiant and even tone skin, it’s also important to change the language we use.’ Stating that the company has been working on the evolution of Fair & Lovely brand, which is sold across Asia, Jain said the brand has been progressively moving to a more inclusive vision of beauty that celebrates skin glow.
Several FMCG companies are concerned about their brands after ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests across the globe. Recently, the US healthcare and FMCG giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has stopped the sale of its skin-whitening creams globally, including India.
Skin-whitening cream is considered to be a big market in India in the personal care segment and several FMCG players, including Procter & Gamble, Garnier (L’Or’al), Emami and Himalaya operate in the segment with their respective products.