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Tesco diverse plasters
courtesy of Twitter/@ApollonTweets

Is Tesco’s diverse plaster campaign more of a cover up than it looks?

The supermarket announced a diverse range of plasters, but a black-owned independent company claims the idea was stolen

Last week, Tesco became the first supermarket to launch a range of plasters that caters for more than just white skin tones.

In an effort to better represent the diverse range of ethnicities in this country, the plasters come in three shades: light, medium, and dark. The new collection is a welcome and long-overdue move for everyone, especially those who have not been able to find plasters in their shade – just one more microaggression that othered them in our racist society. Tesco’s have received wide praise for this decision, even if delayed (the tag line for the campaign was “about bloody time”). 

The plasters were developed by Tesco in response to a tweet from Dominique Apollon from US racial equality advocacy group Race Forward. Last April, Apollon tweeted out an emotional response to finally finding a plaster that matched his skin tone. “For the first time in my life I know what it feels like to have a ‘band-aid’ in my own skin tone,” he wrote. “For real I'm holding back tears.”

Speaking of the launch, Paulette Balson, chair of the BAME at Tesco network, said “One of the main objectives of our network is to help Tesco better serve our customers from all backgrounds and communities.” Adding, “Through our research within the network, we know how emotive a product like this can be. For example, one colleague reported that their child had felt self-conscious wearing a plaster on their face to school recently because it didn’t match their skin tone and stood out.”

However, now Lovette Jallow has come forward accusing Tesco of copying the idea from a friend of hers. In a series of tweets posted yesterday, Jallow writes that two years ago Vivian Murad of Skin Bandages (now part of Nünude) pitched the idea of skin-coloured plasters to the supermarket. She says that Tesco took samples and then copied and repackaged the work, in the process shutting down yet another small POC-owned company.

“They are thieving ideas and replicating them as their own,” Jallow tweeted. “This is what big companies and white-owned companies do. Convince us there is no market then turn around and sell us the same products they stole.” 

“You can’t fake diversity. If you want true diversity you work with the demographic you are trying to reach and uplift them. That’s what Vivian for Skin Bandages has done,” she adds. Jallow also included screenshots of purchases Tesco allegedly made from Murad’s Etsy page which she says show how the supermarket copied the products before repackaging them. 

It’s not clear whether the claims have been verified. While Tesco has yet to address these claims against it, if true this is symbolic of a much wider concern within the beauty and health industry – the co-option of small, POC-run businesses by larger corporations who steal and then benefit from the diversity of authentic brands. Either way, we’re hopeful for a move to a more inclusive beauty industry to better serve individuals.