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The Lure of Organic Ingredients

By: Abby Penning
Posted: October 26, 2012, from the November 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Sabará continues, “The disadvantages can be that the organic ingredients sometimes are more difficult to be incorporated in a formula and, as they have more added value, the prices can be higher compared to a synthetic product.” Fondots agrees with this assessment of price sometimes being a problem, but notes that the market is coming around to address this. “Many beauty brands are dealing mostly with mass market products that are more difficult in justifying these higher-priced ingredients, whereas the specialty brands and the smaller brands who get $80 to $100 and more for a two-ounce anti-aging cream can afford to formulate the organic ingredients a lot easier than the mass market people,” he says.

The biggest factor in the high cost of organic ingredients is their lack of dependable availability. “If you look at farmland, basically an acre of farmland that produces organic ingredients versus an acre of farmland that produces conventional ingredients, you are going to find, because of things like modern pesticides and modern agricultural techniques and modern fertilizers that are maybe not allowed in the USDA Organic standard, the acre of land producing conventional, non-organic ingredients is going to produce a greater amount of crops,” comments Gill. Fondots, however, notes that this issue is gaining more attention too. “I think in time, and I’ve already seen this in the past few years, a lot of these cost issues will go away,” he says. “The difference between conventional ingredients and certified organic ingredients—that delta is getting smaller, as more growers look to grow and provide organic raw materials and ingredients.”

Potential variations in quality is another issue that can arise in using organic beauty ingredients. “That’s one of the biggest problems; you have to be extremely vigilant and very, very cautious when you actually make organic products,” Gill explains. “Anybody can make an organic sample in a lab, but producing the same product over and over again consistently is when production can fall flat.”

“Organic production of cosmetic products has to incorporate not only quality control, not only sales—it also has to incorporate the production side of things as well,” he continues. “You have to tighten up your spec on what is approvable, what isn’t approvable and how to make your batch very, very consistent over and over again. It’s not easy, and actually, it’s not the usual way we make products in the cosmetic industry. But when you deal with organics, you have to really throw in a sensory component, as well as very strict quality control. Not just in terms of accepting raw material but pilot batches. Even when you have a new raw material, or an old raw material from a different supplier or a new lot of a new material from the same supplier, we have to run pilot batches, making sure the consistency of the product is not going to change. And if consistency issues arise, the formulation itself has to be adjusted to make sure we have the same, consistent product even though the consistency of, let’s say, organic cocoa butter will change from lot to lot. We have to make sure the lotion made from the cocoa butter will always be the same so the consumer will never notice a difference.”

There can also be the expectation from consumers that organic or naturally leaning products don’t work as well or aren’t as effective, but that hasn’t affected the growth of the organic beauty market much. “I see the organic and natural industry is just still blossoming and is really, really taking off,” Gill observes, and Sabará says, “There is an ever-growing demand for green cosmetics, and they have been gaining more and more space on retailers’ shelves.”

Gill follows this further, saying. “We even see some of the larger retailers—Walmart, Rite Aid, Walgreens, all these big box retailers in mass food and drug—are actually setting aside special kiosk areas just for natural and organic products that are separated from all the rest of the products. And in most cases, these are actually end caps or they are set farther up in front of the store, rather than in the back of the store where all the conventional hair care and skin care products are being held.”

Hot Options

With all this growth, there are also organic options that are becoming the “it” ingredients beauty brand owners are seeking out. Sabará acknowledges the continuing popularity of organic vegetable oils and organic extracts, and Fondots agrees, saying, “Several of the nutritional oils and butters—products like shea butter and argan oil and açai oil and pomegranate seed oil—are popular. Also, I’m seeing a lot of demand for certified organic botanical extracts, whether its green tea extract or cucumber extract or triple tea extract or rhubarb extract, and on and on.

Fondots continues, “Those companies who wish to make an organic claim on their labels and in their promotions, we’re also seeing a lot of requests that the extract themselves be organic. Of course, shea butter, argan—they’re certainly ‘hot,’ but they’ve been around awhile. What I’m also seeing is some of the South American—and even African-sourced products—especially the nutritive oils and some of the other botanicals, ingredients that we’ve never heard of like baobab and maracuja and others—are materials that are gaining popularity. Maracuja, which is another name for passion fruit, oil, is another example. These ‘exotic’ materials will, in time, become more commonplace. I’m seeing a lot more of those becoming hot items. That means that, globally, we are going to be searching for more exotic places—getting oleoresins from Indonesia, getting cinnamon or corcomin from Southeast Asia. And South America is just beginning to put out very interesting botanicals. It can offer so many fabulously interesting foods, oils, roots and nuts there, and not only in the Amazon region, but other places, as well. They will have a very good marketing story to tell.”

Terry Labs’ Anderson also notes that you can’t really discount any of the organic ingredients. “It seems as though all products are cyclical. What was hot yesterday is now hot again today,” he explains. “Aloe vera is in a moment of being a steady organic ingredient that functions as a great marketing tool for beauty products.” And expect other traditional organic ingredients to come back around in popularity, too.

A Marketing Edge

Organic ingredients can also be a boon to the marketing efforts of a beauty product. “The inclusion of organic ingredients is a sure way to draw consumers to a beauty product,” notes Anderson. “It screams safety to the consumer.”