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The Naturals Consumer: 12 Truths

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured
Posted: October 3, 2008, from the June 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.

Do you know your buying public? Do you know what it wants? What are its values? How does it interact with the world? Today, products touting natural/organic/wellness aspects have become ubiquitous—reflecting a changing consumer public that is better educated and, thus, more product- and service-conscious.

There are 12 truths of natural/organic/wellness consumers—what drives them, what they think matters, and how all of you can communicate and deliver to them the promise of naturals.

Truth 1: Image Connection

Consumers of naturals and organics are looking for a more sophisticated connection to their purchases. They seek out quality, although they are not above being swayed by the “image” of naturalness.

Truth 2: Global Standard

Although naturals of every variety really have come into their own on the market, organic launches suffer from higher costs. In addition, because world governments have yet to unify behind a naturals standard, consumers are left to wonder what exactly they are getting. How would the natural/organic segment benefit from national or global standards?

Truth 3: Promising Future

The key to naturals is consumers’ growing association of beauty with health and wellness. Notions of longevity and mortality now are commonly linked with personal care and spa offerings. Considering the wide acceptance of organic shopping, as well as the existence of an aging baby boomer population, all things natural have a promising future.

Truth 4: Teen Opportunities

Unfortunately, the corollary between health/wellness and beauty has not yet reached the majority of teens. The sad fact is that many adolescents are willing to do almost anything for the sake of beauty. This presents a huge opportunity for the spa and beauty industries, which are grooming this demographic for growth. If they can help teens make the health-beauty connection, the opportunities will be vast.

Truth 5: Social Responsibility

One of the key factors in naturals is the “trading-up” principle, in which consumers pay a bit more for an indulgence—opting for Starbucks in lieu of the corner coffee shop, for example. We also are beginning to see the rise of guiltless indulgence, such as food-scented candles—sensory pleasure without the health consequences.

Notions of guilt manifest in other ways as well. Naturals is the arena in which social responsibility and personal well-being/health meet. By embracing natural products, consumers are making a choice not just about the items, but about how they want to live their lives. Married to this concept is the idea that naturals will lead back to simplicity and comfort—also known as “back to basics,” a concept seen in the spa industry.

Truth 6: Guiltless Indulgence

I’m sure many of us know someone who buys or doesn’t buy products based on political or personal values. In naturals, this sense of responsibility sends a strong message of fair trading relationships, coupled with the perception of a greater benefit from naturals. Just as a vanilla-scented candle offers sensory pleasure without the caloric guilt, natural/organic products provide sensory benefits without the attendant social guilt. Natural products declare that you can indulge yourself with a clear conscience, because we are what we buy!

Truth 7: Kitchen Naturals

The way to consumers’ hearts is through their bellies. Kitchens are a major gateway into the naturals market, with the increasing presence of natural and ethnic foodstuff creating familiarity and acceptance. The lesson here: If someone is willing to eat it, they will be willing to slather it on their skin. Some examples of this phenomenon include the Alpine Strawberry Smoother from the Golden Door Spa at The Peaks in Telluride, Colorado; the French Toast Facial at Asana Spa by Body Bistro; and the Wine and Honey Wrap at The Spa at The Crescent in Dallas.

Truth 8: Cultural Creatives