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Addressing Evolving Consumer Concerns

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured
Posted: July 6, 2009, from the July 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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In tandem with this development, “free from” products are on the rise, particularly as the perception of synthetic materials in the U.S., and Europe suffers. In addition, genetically modified organism-free and fragrance-free claims are on the rise. The latter is of particular interest in Asia, as the sensitive skin movement has focused on potential irritants. The result: increasing fragrance-free launches. According to Mintel numbers cited by Lewis, Europe witnessed nearly 900 fragrance-free product launches between January 2007 and June 2008. In the same period, the U.S. and Asian markets each saw the launch of approximately 700. Meanwhile, launches for products claiming to be eco-friendly during the period totaled just above 900. While many of these eco claims were related to the absence of chlorofluorocarbons, manufacturing processes also played a part. “We’re seeing more biodegradable formulas,” Lewis added. Finally, companies are boosting their green/ethical perception by promoting wildlife and marine conservation in areas in which materials are sourced.

Provenance of Ingredients

“Locavores”—those who consume products produced locally—are a small but growing factor, Lewis noted. Though the focus is largely on locally grown produce, the concept is slowly spreading to beauty. “The idea is that if you consume things locally, you’re cutting down on carbon emissions and supporting the local economy,” she said. “It’s linked to the green movement, the need for authenticity and [connection] with the earth, and, at the same time, the need for traceability and trust.” This final point perhaps resonates most strongly for the beauty industry. As Lewis pointed out, many U.K. supermarkets feature images of the farmers who grow featured produce. In this way, she said, “We build trust. We know the source.

“The more that brands provide links to and proof of the provenance of their ingredients, the stronger their competitive positioning will be,” Lewis continued. “We’ve already seen a lot of this over the last several years in the beauty business. While this used to be a way of connecting [consumers] to an exotic place, because of locavores, it’s also about connecting to somewhere familiar. In general, consumers are warming to brands whose ingredients reflect the cultural, social and economic identity of their local region.

“Brands that demonstrate integrity and transparency in their concept, ingredients, production and packaging are the ones that are going to thrive.”