For the latest in consumer and industry news, top trends and market perspectives, stay tuned to Mintel News featuring commentary from Mintel's team of global category analysts.

Vegan is a lifestyle choice in Europe and the US, where vegan cosmetics are fairly common. However, Japan has no foundation for embracing the vegan concept, calling for its further development in BPC and communication from a more ethical perspective.

Originally, vegan cosmetics started from specialty beauty retailers and indie brands, but now they are mostly familiar products to mass consumers. While indie brands still have a strong presence, vegan cosmetics can be purchased anywhere, including major retailers and pharmacies. For example, in the US, major retailer Target has unveiled its own private label. Sainsbury’s in the UK, as well as dm-drogerie markt (dm) pharmacies in Germany, are also launching their own brands. Not only are vegan cosmetics available anywhere, but reasonable prices make them an option that everyone can buy.

Are there any Japanese vegans?

Mintel research reveals that very few Japanese consumers understand what is truly meant by vegan and cruelty-free and that the majority have not bought, nor have any interest in buying, such products.

Not only do most consumers agree that it is best to avoid cosmetics that have not been safely tested on animals, but even those favourable to vegan and cruelty-free products feel uncertain about their safety. Mintel research highlights that cruelty-free is not always considered ethical in Japan. As such, it’s key to give consumers a sense of security by correctly communicating information on alternative testing methods, not to mention the safety of cruelty-free products.

Among new beauty and personal care (BPC) product launches in Japan from 2016-20, the proportion of vegan products fluctuated between 1-3%, according to Mintel Global New Products Database. In addition to little market activity, most consumers purchase vegan products without realising it, even from well-known brands including Lush and The Body Shop. Similarly, even at general or specialty beauty retailers that carry such products, it is not uncommon for shop assistants to lack an understanding of what ‘vegan’ truly means.

3 key opportunities in the Japanese vegan BPC market

1. Make employees your biggest fans
It’s becoming common practice for employees to decide the image of a product or brand, rather than the representatives of a company. First, let them understand why it is vegan and why it needs to be cruelty-free, and have them become the first fans of the product or brand. This is the most efficient way to share the appeal of products to many average consumers.

2. At a sustainable price
One purchase barrier is the image that ethical products are expensive both in Japan and the global market. While ‘cheap’ can never be classed as ethical, it’s also true that products cannot be ethical without a sustainable price. Implementing reasonable prices will likely lead to the long-term future expansion of the consumer base for eco-friendly and ethical products.

3. Realise the results of purchasing behaviour
Younger consumers who are more ethically minded have a strong tendency to say ‘it is hard to know how much my actions help the environment’. If they can feel a real sense of the result of their actions, it will provide motivation for their future behaviour. Making their actions visible to increase consumer engagement, rather than merely reporting results, is a point of ingenuity.

To learn more about consumers and industries in Japan, speak to your Account Manager or view the full list of Mintel Reports Japan available for purchase in the Mintel Store.