The Hustle: Meet the Innovation-Driven Executive Helping Make Beauty More Sustainable

Get to know Luana Bumachar, vice president of owned brands & innovation at Grove Collaborative.

Luana Bumachar

Byrdie / Luana Bumachar

Welcome to Byrdie's new series, The Hustle, where we profile diverse, interesting women and woman-aligned folks in the beauty and wellness industries who are usually behind-the-scenes. From the cosmetic chemists formulating your holy-grail serum to CFOs driving the biggest beauty companies forward, these women are the definition of career goals, and they're getting real about the journeys that led them to where they are—the highs, the lows, and everything in between.

Luana Bumachar is a beauty veteran who has a firm grasp on where the industry has been and where it's going. Bumachar's tenure in beauty began in 2002 when she joined Unilever as a trade marketing trainee at the company's Brazil office. She spent the next 18 years with Unilever, working in various roles that involved growth marketing, consumer innovation, and eCommerce. Her nearly two-decade-long stint at the multinational consumer goods company allowed her to work and live in Asia, Latin America & North America.

Wanting to embark on a new chapter in her career, Bumachar joined Grove Collaborative as the vice president of owned brands & innovation in May 2020. There, she has been able to help develop and shape sustainable brands like Peach (whose new deodorant and body care products launch today) and Superbloom. Ahead, Bumachar discusses her career journey, why it's okay to make pivots in your professional life, and how living abroad has influenced her perspective on beauty.

Tell us about your background.

I'm Brazilian, and I was raised in a small town in Brazil. I graduated with a degree in journalism and worked in politics and public service before moving into the world of marketing and brand building. I ended up in the multinational consumer packaged goods (CPG) world almost by accident. I was looking for a consulting firm to help us in the Department of Education. I just went on this website and got to know Unilever, which was one of the biggest companies. I think it's the biggest CPG in Brazil. Then, I applied and joined Unilever as a trainee. And that's how my life changed because I moved from journalism to start working at a CPG company. I moved from my small little town to São Paulo, one of the biggest cities in Brazil. Since then, I've lived and worked in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and now I'm in North America for the second time.

I'd love for you to talk about your time at Unilever. What were some of the roles you held there?

I changed quite a bit in Unilever. And that's why I stayed very long—18 years. It makes me feel very old every time I say that [laughs]. The reason I stayed is that I worked in so many categories and so many different roles. I held multiple roles in many countries. I spent four years in Singapore. I've been in the US for almost nine years. As I said, it's my second time here. I've been here before for work.

Throughout my career, I've done a lot of brand building and brand activations. My last six years at Unilever were probably the most exciting time for me. As I mentioned, I'm a trained marketer in brand building and traditional marketing, but I often get bored. So, I got bored and needed to pivot my career, and that's when we were building an innovation and trends lab for beauty and personal care. I raised my hand and told Unilever that I wanted to do that. I helped build the innovation and trends lab for Unilever in New York. The whole principle of that lab is to design consumer-centric brands and products. We made magic happen within three or four days. It was pretty intensive. I think we built about 20 brands across the company—things that we hadn't done before.

Once we did that, we needed to nurture those brands. And we needed to nurture the brands in a very different environment. When I started my career, we focused on traditional marketing. But at that point, which was between 2015 and 2018, we needed to pivot and nurture this brand in a digital lab environment. So we evolved the lab to focus on innovation of physical goods and end-to-end digital marketing and e-commerce. So once we did that, we thought about how to bring that to the main business. And that's when I came back to become the general manager of eCommerce and digital marketing for beauty and personal care, which is the largest category for Unilever in the US and outside the US.

Luana Bumachar

Byrdie / Luana Bumachar

Was there a certain point where you realized you wanted to leave Unilever? What attracted you to Grove Collaborative?

I have a lot of admiration and love for Unilever. I spent 18 years of my life there. And I say my life because my son is American and my daughter was born in Singapore. My life was intertwined with my career at Unilever. So there's a lot of love for that company. I was not looking to leave Unilever, but I learned about Grove Collaborative, and something stuck with me. The mission of Grove Collaborative is that CPGs should be a positive force for good. That is what touched my heart. [Grove Collaborative] can build the leading sustainable CPG companies for the next 100 years. And I wanted to be part of that journey. For me, it was a no-brainer [to join the team]. To be honest, I think what Grove is doing will help the consumer and the planet and help elevate this industry to move in the right direction. I hope that, together with Unilever and other competitors, we can build a better planet for future generations.

As the vice president of owned brands and innovation, what are your day-to-day duties?

I oversee the owned brands' portfolio and growth. We have seven brands in our portfolio. But the most exciting part of my job is defining a better future for us as people and the planet. That's what we are constantly doing. We are a highly consumer and planet-centric company. We don't compromise on sustainability, the consumer experience, or the performance of our product. My role on a daily basis is to ensure we meet those three pillars in everything we do. One of the biggest barriers for people to move to more sustainable products is that they believe the products don't perform as well as conventional products. We are here to demystify all of this and show that we can design products that are healthy for you, your family, and the planet and still deliver the experience you would expect. 

Is there a specific project or brand launch that you've worked on that you're really proud of?

Wow, we've done so much. I love this job. We've done so much in so little time. We have a pretty nimble team, and we move really fast too. I'm really proud of Peach. It's a brand that's close to my heart. I've worked in the beauty and personal care industry for the majority of my career. And I think about the amount of plastic we as an industry are putting out in the world right now. For beauty and personal care alone, it is 120 billion units of plastic every year. It's crazy the amount of plastic that we have around us.

The whole idea of Peach is to demystify that you need plastic. We first started in the shower, creating shampoo, conditioners, and body and facial bars. Now, we are launching our first plastic-free deodorant and body care products. When you think about deodorant sticks, you can find plastic-free deodorant sticks, but you compromise on the experience. You have to push it or hold your finger. It's not great. You also have refillable deodorants, but there are a ton of plastic seals. We combine the best of both worlds in a very clean, EWG-verified deodorant that protects against odor for 40 hours. And there's no plastic with the products whatsoever. Another thing about Peach, we think we can make sustainability fun. The issue is serious, but the solution doesn't have to be. 

So that's my main project and brand. I can talk about it for hours, but my honorable mention is the launch of our homecare brand Grove Co. in Target this year. We are now an omnichannel company, and that is very exciting. 

Peach Products

Byrdie / Peach

Can you share a few pieces of advice for people who want to work on the innovation or marketing side of beauty?

One of the biggest issues marketers have is when we put out the marketer hat, we forget we are consumers. We look at things from a brand perspective instead of a consumer lens. Put yourself in the shoes of yourself as a consumer. Take a step back and say, "Before thinking like a marketer, who am I as a consumer? What do I like? What  don't I like?" I think a lot of insights come from that.

The second [piece of advice] is a very personal one. As I said, I get bored. So, the idea that you need to be on the lookout for new things is really important. Do not accept the status quo. Because if we accept the status quo, we can never create the future. To define the future, you need to start today, which means you can't settle for what is currently being done.

The third thing, which is one of my favorites, is to try to develop innovations with the end goal in mind. What usually happens a lot of time is small, incremental innovations. Usually, as marketers, we are trying to incrementally evolve towards the solution and design a product that incrementally better than the current product. For me, what is really cool about this job is we're trying to solve a consumer issue or offer a planet solution. When we look at Peach, for example, we're trying to look at how we can eliminate plastic. Instead of saying, "How can I reduce plastic on my product?" start with the end goal in mind, even if that requires a much more radical change. 

You've lived in so many different places throughout your life. How has experiencing so many different cultures influenced your philosophy on beauty?

I think living abroad defines who I am and how I see the world both personally and professionally. I have very deep connections with Southeast Asia. My first daughter was born there. And even beyond that, I am a Latina. I grew up in Brazil, and now I live in the US. So, I think that fully defined who I am. I cannot even tell you what I would be or how I would see the world if I hadn't moved and lived in these places.

For me, the key thing about beauty is that it doesn't matter if you feel good the way you are or if you want to change your body a little bit to feel good about it. I think what is most important is when you feel good, you feel beautiful. Each person is unique, and what beauty means to me may be very different than it means to you. I think it's really important that people just feel comfortable in their own skin and appreciate their imperfections. And if you feel that something is bothering you, change it. Who cares if you're going to change your body or want to put makeup on every day? Do what makes you happy and feel good about yourself. And once you do that, you feel empowered to conquer the world. That's what matters to me.

What are your current favorite beauty products?

I'm going to be biased. Peach is my favorite. My favorite personal care products are their deodorant, lotion, and facial cleanser. To move away from my own brands, Supergoop is my favorite sunscreen. I also dye my hair every four to six weeks. I've dyed my hair every color you can imagine. I swear by Olaplex treatments because I don't think I would have hair at this point without it. A glass of wine is also important in my routine. There's always one in the fridge. I definitely need that at night. It's more important for me than any cream I apply at night.

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