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A Trend Toward Natural

By: Imogen Matthews
Posted: October 10, 2008

The organic food movement is well established, with major retailers devoting whole sections in-store to organically sourced produce in response to consumer demand. Yet within the cosmetics and toiletries industry, organic and natural still means niche, with mainly unknown brands sold in alternative outlets such as health food stores. If the growth of organic food is anything to go by, then mainstream beauty brands could be in for a shock as consumers demand natural and organic alternatives to the brands they usually use.

Regulatory Minefield

The area is a minefield, with no current legislation to stop companies from using words such as organic or natural on their products. Fortunately, there are a number of organizations working toward a common goal of providing industry-wide acceptance of certified schemes for the inclusion of organic ingredients in cosmetics. In Europe, these include the organizations Ecocert, based in France; BDIH* {Bundesverband deutscher Industrie- und Handelsunternehmen} in Germany; AIAB* {Associazione Italiana per l¹Agricoltura Biologica} in Italy; and The Soil Association* in the United Kindgom. According to The Soil Association, the number of toiletry companies looking for accreditation to its scheme is on the increase. So far, only a few companies have passed The Soil Association’s stringent criteria, and Spiezia Organics is the only UK brand of skin and body care products to be certified 100% organic. The products are handmade—using herbs, flowers and oils—and formulated without the use of water. Many brands fail The Soil Assocation’s testing criteria because their water-based products contain parabens. Finding alternatives to parabens that meet safety levels and shelf life expectations is proving a major challenge.

According to Jonathan Ford, creative director of UK consultancy Pearlfisher*, people are becoming more discerning about what constitutes a natural product, and are rejecting products that do not have the right credentials. He maintains that consumers are seeking genuinely pure natural products—such as those from Dr. Hauschka, Ren and Aveda—that behave in the right way from start to finish. The niche brands that claim holistic purity connect with the individual on a personal level and use honest communication to show real integrity and meaning, he maintains.

Launches Up

The number of launches based on natural/organic ingredients is increasing, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database*. In the United States, this includes launches such as Tom’s of Maine aluminium-free Natural Long-Lasting Deo Stick and Lavera Body Spa soap and body products that are grown organically and include natural ingredients with vegan essences and fruit extracts. Another recent U.S. launch is Morningstar Minerals Derma Boost Rejuvenating Spray Mist. It is a natural, organic spray-on conditioner and restorer for skin and hair. Formulated with fulvic acid, the product is said to supply the skin with essential nutrients and reduce the effects of aging and weather.

Other organic niche skin care brands that are catching the eye of beauty journalists include Iceland’s first range of natural facial skin care products containing herbs grown on a remote organic farm in northwest Iceland. The farm officially has been certified as organic by the Reykjavik Ecological Institute, earning the herbs in the Taer range the Organic Product of Iceland mark. Just 70 tons of herbs are produced each year to ensure their quality and potency. Taer Icelandic products recently have gone on sale in Fred Segal stores.