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A Passion for Natural

By: Karen A. Newman
Posted: August 29, 2008, from the February 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.
Hain Celestial’s Andy Jacobson

Working in the family business was the seed that grew into a career in the natural product industry for Hain Celestial’s Andrew Jacobson.

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Perhaps the single most important concern facing the organic personal care market today is the issue of natural and organic product certification. “Certification and the development of defined standards governing natural and organic personal care are critical to the expansion of the category,” said Jacobson. “Currently, the lack of standards is confusing to consumers and jeopardizes the value the consumer places on the words ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ associated with beauty products.”

Today, organics are regulated by the USDA; personal care falls under the FDA. At this time, the USDA has authorized the use of its Organic Seal on personal care products based on a review of the ingredients, although this has been challenged in court. Whether the USDA will continue to participate in the regulation of the personal care industry is not known. Organic food regulations must be modified for personal care products since there are certain characteristics and manufacturing processes that are unique to the personal care industry. In addition, a new symbol should be developed to indicate the differences in regulations. Further, it has not been determined how consumers will react to an identical seal used on both food and personal products.

Spreading the Message

The acquisition of Para Laboratories, Inc. in early 2006 brought Queen Helene, Batherapy and Footherapy brands to the personal care business. Jacobson sees it as a great acquisition for the company, providing the opportunity to develop natural products that meet the needs of ethnic consumers while also expanding its message to a larger audience. Taking the products and their message to a broader audience is not without its challenges, but, according to Jacobson, the message is consistent whether they are communicating to a long-time natural consumer or a mass-market consumer. That message is: “We create safe, effective natural products.” What differs is the delivery of the message because, as Jacobson explains, mass consumers require additional information about why natural brands don’t use certain ingredients and how natural personal care is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. “As consumers become concerned about what they put in their body, they begin to seek out safe and effective products to put on their body,” he said.

According to Jacobson, there are essentially three challenges to overcome in convincing a mass consumer to try a natural brand: price, effectiveness and safety. Here’s how Jacobson answers those challenges: Price. Natural products are more expensive due to the types of ingredients. The Hain Celestial Group evaluates ingredients based on their source, how they have been harvested, ensuring they are not animal-derived or tested on animals.