Brands that have purchased personal-care companies founded by Black individuals are now facing scrutiny from consumers who question their commitment to Black heritage. Companies like L’Oreal and Unilever have acquired brands targeting Black consumers and marketed them as authentically Black, with homemade formulas, personalized offers, and feel-good marketing. However, with the recent racial-justice protests, many consumers have vowed to exclusively support Black-owned businesses in order to promote greater racial equity.
For example, Carol’s Daughter, a multicultural beauty brand acquired by L’Oreal in 2014, addressed these concerns on its Instagram page. The brand emphasized that it remains Black-led and that its founder, Lisa Price, is actively involved in all aspects of the business. This includes product development and creative vision. Similarly, Unilever acquired SheaMoisture, a personal care company founded in Harlem by Liberian immigrants, in 2017. However, Black consumers threatened to boycott the brand in June due to its corporate ownership. In response, Cara Sabin, CEO of Sundial Brands, which operates as a standalone unit within Unilever, reassured consumers on Instagram that she is a Black CEO leading a brand that serves the Black consumer.
The Black community in the United States holds significant purchasing power, expected to reach $1.5 trillion by 2021. Black consumers have a strong influence on various industries, particularly in hair care, beauty, and women’s fragrances. In fact, in 2017, Black shoppers represented 85% of the total spend on multicultural hair care products, highlighting their substantial impact on the market.
However, with the recent focus on ownership, some consumers are now paying closer attention to the goods and services specifically targeted towards the Black community. This includes businesses such as bookstores, restaurants, and pharmacies. There is a growing call for social media platforms to clearly identify Black-owned businesses, and platforms like GoFundMe have seen a surge in support for Black-owned businesses.
In addition to the issue of ownership, the lack of diversity within the leadership of companies that profit from Black consumers is also being questioned. Many are demanding greater representation of Black individuals on corporate boards and in top executive positions. Shockingly, in 2019, 187 companies in the S&P 500 did not have a single Black member on their boards.
One brand that experienced criticism on Instagram for being sold to PDC Brands in 2015 is Cantu Beauty, a haircare company. Some shoppers expressed their intention to boycott the brand in favor of Black-owned businesses. Responding to the backlash, Cantu Beauty hosted an Instagram livestream chat to provide transparency about the brand’s operations.
All these concerns and criticisms reflect a growing demand for authenticity and alignment with values when making purchasing decisions. Brands that have acquired Black-founded companies will need to address these concerns and demonstrate their commitment to supporting Black heritage and equity. Actions such as increasing diversity within corporate leadership and clearly identifying businesses owned by Black individuals are just a few steps that can be taken to rebuild trust and retain the loyalty of Black consumers.