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Sourced in the USA

Sara Mason
  • As the locally sourced ingredient trend continues to gain momentum, more beauty brands are looking for ways to incorporate these ingredients into their products.
  • Locally sourced ingredients can help with a brand’s marketing story, telling of its origins and background, as well as its commitment to the environment.
  • Beauty brands working with locally sourced ingredients need to be careful, as these ingredients aren’t always as voluminously available and need to be grown and harvested sustainability to maintain quality and availability.

While exotic ingredients continue to be a popular trend in beauty products and are often sought out for inclusion in formulations, local ingredient sourcing also is a seriously growing trend right now. International brands such as Natura, which capitalizes on local sourcing in Brazil for natural ingredients-based cosmetics, show it is possible to achieve a balance between social development and economic success, and by helping to develop and maintain communities and preserve environmental heritages, beauty brands that source in their respective regions not only find innovative sourcing solutions but also build a unique marketing story.

Even through challenging economic times, growth in the beauty market continues, and new brands from the East and West Coasts of the U.S. are successfully finding their way into the hands of American consumers.

West Coast

The Grapeseed Company creates botanical beauty products from the byproduct of wine produced in Santa Barbara, California, using certified organic and locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. The vinotherapy skin care and spa products are centered on a local, naturally antioxidant-rich ingredient winemakers discard after crushing grapes to make wine: grape seed.

For example, The Grapeseed Company’s Resroli Serum is an acne-fighting formula infused with local lavender; it also features resveratrol from local grape seed oil and grape seed extract. Recently, the brand also launched Cali Vine Decadently Rich Face Cream, an anti-aging cream formulated with California-grown avocado, grape seed, carrot and more, finding inspiration—and ingredients—basically in the company’s own backyard.

The company sources grape seed from wineries in California and Oregon, and some of the beauty brand’s suppliers are also customers that sell the The Grapeseed Company’s products at their shops. “One of our favorite suppliers and customers is The Allison Inn & Spa in Oregon, recently named the number one hotel spa in the continental United States by Travel + Leisure magazine,” says Kristin Fraser Cotte, The Grapeseed Company’s CEO and formulator. The hotel sends pinot seeds from its on-site vineyards, and The Grapeseed Company creates a signature spa treatment from the seeds grown on the hotel’s own property with them.

The benefits of this type of beauty product ingredient sourcing go beyond logistics, as well. Sustainability and preservation of biodiversity is part of the mission at The Grapeseed Company. “We started this business to up-cycle the local wine waste and turn it into amazingly effective natural skin care,” explains Cotte. “As they say: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Many wineries pay to have the pommace—or the seeds and skins left over after a vintner crushes grapes—hauled out after harvest each season, and beauty brands can benefit from this type of knowledge. “Any time you are sourcing local ingredients, you are building ties in your community by supporting the local economy and agriculture, and—in our case—solving someone’s trash issues,” Cotte notes. “This is a wine-loving community, so the connection of using the winemakers’ waste as the base of the line and giving the grape seeds a second life by recycling them into skin care products strengthened and widened our customer base.” Consequently, the popularity of the brand has been such that, one year and nine months after opening its flagship store in 2010, The Grapeseed Company was able to open its second brick-and-mortar location in southern California.

Founding a company on such a cause is evidence to consumers that the brand is an ecologically responsible company. “Each skin care box tells our story of turning wine waste into vinotherapy skin care,” explains Cotte. With rising gas costs, people also are becoming more aware of the impact of sourcing ingredients and supplies from elsewhere and transporting them to a manufacturing destination, which impacts both the both the environment and the end product. “Aside from the buying local movement, I think people identify with local ingredients immediately because they’re already familiar with the benefits,” says Cotte.

East Coast

Versante, a beauty brand that offers boutique-style bath and body care products featuring ingredients in handcrafted recipes, captures the essence of its home state of Vermont, a region known for its commitment to natural living, a beautiful landscape and thriving agriculture. The all-natural body care line lives in its simplicity, featuring plant-driven compositions without harsh chemicals or preservatives. Hand-batched formulations are processed in a 2,000-square-foot production facility in the small town of Charlotte, Vermont, along Lake Champlain. “The small batches means our product is always fresh,” explains Richard Eyre, co-founder of Versante.

Versante works with regional suppliers to keep money in state and to support local farmers. The area’s thriving agriculture has led to the manufacture and sale of artisan and fancy foods and novelty items trading on the Vermont “brand”—such as Cabot Cheese, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream—as well as the trend toward local farming and the farm-to-table movement. “People want locally sourced products, and tourists appreciate it,” says Eyre. So, for example, “We buy from local farmers for our goats milk around the [Vermont communities] Hartland and Brigdewater areas.”

Sourcing locally also typically means no preservatives and fresher ingredients with limited chemical/pesticides. To Eyre and Versante, it’s also beneficial to not be wasting energy and shipping products from other areas. The Versante brand story focuses on its origins, with locally sourced ingredients subtly substantiating the brand image of quality and purity of Vermont life. “We only used plant-derived [ingredients], essential oils, no synthetic fragrances, which limits us, but we keep it pure,” Eyre explains.

And while not everything is sourced from the region, Versante tries to do so as much as possible. “We use as many locally sourced ingredients as we can,” Eyre says, and from essential oils and salts to olive oil and goat milk, locally sourced ingredients are used in a variety of the brand’s products, such as the lavender and goat milk found in Lavender & Litsea Goat Milk Soap. The goat’s milk adds extra moisturizing texture to the product, and for a brand touting its sensory experience, that’s important.

The authenticity of Versante’s mission shows in the success of the brand’s products. At only one year old, reorder rates for retail outlets that have tried the collection are at 80%. “Stick to what is true to your brand and the discerning buyers will find you,” encourages Eyre.

Responsible Sourcing

Available in high-end gift boutiques, spas and natural foods stores in 13 U.S. states, Versante—which also creates custom formulations and private label products—continues to experience growth in demand. Most of the growth is incremental; however, the brand is being considered by major spas to distribute its products globally in 2013.

The only risk in quick growth is finding enough supply and suppliers to provide the fresh local ingredients that exemplify the brand’s products. It’s a tricky balance: marking the brand and growing its popularity, without outgrowing what makes the brand unique. “We want to maintain integrity [and] internal control,” says Eyre. “We are passionate about our products because we know it’s good. We want to keep it that way.”

Cotte also admits that growing The Grapeseed Company’s can be a challenge, because the base of all its products is a local ingredient only available at certain times of the year. “We went through a huge growth spurt recently, and almost couldn’t keep up,” she explains. “It would not be good if we ran out of grape seeds.”

But as the demand for natural and locally sourced beauty products grows at rapid pace, sustainability will become an increasingly important issue. “While at one point the focus was simply on sustaining supply to meet demand, that focus has evolved to be more expansive and include environmental issues, as it needed to,” explains Shaheen Majeed, marketing director, Sabinsa.

Care should be taken not to exploit the natural resources to a level where the sustainability of the natural resource is threatened. Natural resources are limited, and with increasing consumer demand, the pressure increases on supply. Utilizing responsible suppliers and working together to employ strategies to improve the current sourcing situation will contribute to the success of not only individual businesses but the industry as a whole. “The entire industry must be proactive in sustaining natural resources in order to be both profitable and sustainable for years to come,” concludes Majeed.

Sara Mason is a freelance writer based in the Chicagoland area. She was previously managing editor of GCI magazine.

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Preservative Alternatives

People used natural preservatives for centuries before the invention of synthetic alternatives. But now, after years of parabens, phalthates and sulfates, many consumers are turning back to these natural options. Driven by a growing consumer demand for a lessening of the chemical load on the body, natural beauty brands are continually on the hunt for alternatives to synthetic preservatives.

“You don’t need all the stuff that’s in there,” says Richard Eyre, co-founder of the Versante beauty product line. Versante uses grapefruit seed extract as a natural antimicrobial to destroy bacteria, which helps preserve a product by keeping it free of unwanted microorganisms. Other popular natural options include antioxidants as found in ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and tocopherol (vitamin E) to reduce oxidation—a major factor in decomposition. Citric acid, salt, sugar, rosemary extract and neem oil are a few more options, although there are many more.

In fact, many naturally occurring substances have antimicrobial properties. “These materials tend to be more organism-specific and have color and odor issues that are not found in synthetically produced preservatives,” says Schülke Inc.’s Linda Sedlewicz. Also, because they are natural, growing cycles and other environmental variations can have a significant effect on natural preservatives’ activity level. So not all ingredients are possible or practical in natural form.

An alternative that is finding increasing acceptance, however, is the use of nature-identical substances. “These synthetic materials are chemically identical to materials found in nature,” explains Sedlewicz. But the activity level, color and odor can often be more easily standardized. For example, Schülke’s Sensiva PA 20 contains nature-identical phenethyl alcohol, a fragrance component found in many essential oils. The antimicrobial activity of this material is boosted by the addition of ethylhexylglycerin, similar to a class of substances found naturally in the liver of certain sea creatures. Being biodegradable and sustainably manufactured, Sensiva PA 20 provides effective preservation to products without harming any living creature.

However, diehards may contend that natural means the ingredient is found in nature and not subjected to synthetic processing. Currently, the natural preservatives that work well are citrus-based, and not much progress has been made in this arena during the past decade. Natural substances that show antimicrobial activity often are not adequate, or they have undesirable qualities for beauty products. Others, such as essential oils, require very high concentrations to be effective, and many can become inactivated by manufacturing procedures and other factors. “The bottom line is they don’t work as well as synthetic preservatives, but you really can’t have a natural product and still have synthetic preservatives,” says Darrin Duber-Smith, president of Green Marketing, Inc. “At least not with a straight face.”

Another issue is that materials must be listed on the European Cosmetic Directive Annex VI in order to be considered a preservative, according to Lonza’s Juliana Rumbaugh. Lonza is an international ingredient supplier that offers next-generation preservatives, such as its nature-based Geogard product line, and ones that meet the criteria for many organizations such as EcoCert, Cosmos, NaTrue and the Soil Association. Lonza also offers natural protection systems. Biovert and Black Willow Extract, for example, provide a function in beauty products as well as offer a subsidiary antimicrobial effect. These natural options are not listed on the Annex VI, however, and therefore are not considered to be preservatives.

“The answer to preservation lies not in the ingredients but in the packaging,” says Duber-Smith. An example of this is Taiki Group’s EcoG+, an antimicrobial resin that was recently used to develop packaging for an antimicrobial mascara product. The use of this packaging material helped eliminate preservatives from the mascara’s formula.

Ultimately, the enemies of organic material are oxygen and light, and while most packaging systems address the light issue, many are now looking at a more vacuum-type design that can help to negate the destabilizing effects of oxygen. “Thus, no need for fancy preservatives,” Duber-Smith explains.

Raw material suppliers continue to focus R&D effort on innovations, however. SabiLize New is Sabinsa’s proprietary blend of natural ingredients, comprising essential oil fractions and extracts with potential antimicrobial and antioxidant activities with proven preservative efficacy for stabilizing cosmetic product formulations. “SabiLize New has a proven preservative efficacy and is comparable to parabens at concentrations of 0.5% in cream formulations,” says Sabinsa’s Shaheen Majeed.

Larger R&D budgets naturally will result in more innovation on both the ingredient and the packaging fronts. “Preservation will remain a key issue in natural personal care for years to come,” concludes Duber-Smith.

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