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Jostein Solheim, formerly CEO of Ben & Jerry’s, took the helm of Unilever’s health and wellness division in June 2021. He brings over 30 years of experience at Unilever and guides the 4-year-old division through its acquisitions so far. Wellness and supplement brands included Nutrafol, Liquid IV and Olly. He said the company has high hopes for the new division, which has net sales “north of €1 billion” annually. On this week’s episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast, Solheim weighs in on what’s driving what he calls the “merging of wellness into beauty and beauty into wellness.” How health brands ban women on topics like hair loss; And what wellness trends Unilever is looking out for in future acquisitions. Below are some highlights from that conversation.
What is driving the global wellness boom?
“Obviously, the main theme for everyone is empowerment: ‘I want to be in charge of my health; I want to optimize my own results.’ Health is not the absence of disease. Health means ‘I feel positively good’.
I think the impact on health care systems is more subtle. The tendency to take control of your health and well-being and not think you are healthy just because you are not sick is a global trend. And we see it everywhere. It’s something people everywhere aspire to. “
Addressing the stigma surrounding female hair loss with Nutrafol
“You have to be very sensitive if you want to address taboos and really understand your right to speak your perspective. How does it look to others? How can you really support? This cannot be about selling more product. Because if it’s about selling more product, that’s not true, and I don’t feel you have that right. So let’s try to separate it. We try to be very pure, ‘how do we address taboos around hair loss? How do we support people to do that?
“To acquire one company, we usually engage with about 60. It is a very large funnel. We’re constantly looking for people doing amazing and unique things, and there’s a lot going on in our industry. So we definitely hope to expand further.
The area of the microbiome is exploding in our knowledge, learning and understanding – not just the gut microbiome, which is so powerful, but the face, hands, hair. We have a really interesting area of science, and a lot of powerful products that we can bring to that space.
I think women’s health is a very powerful space. There is a lot of work to help and support us, not to mention some taboos in women’s health, to support different life stages.
There is much more to beauty from within [including] Hair, skin health, etc. We believe it has more potential.
The area we haven’t really looked at yet is longevity – or as I like to call it ‘healthy years’. I don’t think people want to live forever, but they want to live as healthy as possible. And a lot of science goes into it at this point. The question is, ‘When can we have products that really help, support and drive impact in that space?’ We haven’t found it yet. But I’m sure it’s out there.”