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The Demands of Natural Product Claims on Fragrance

By: Sara Mason
Posted: August 11, 2009, from the August 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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One of the industry’s hopefuls is NaTrue, a nonprofit international grouping of natural and organic cosmetics manufacturers founded in 2007 in Europe. So far, 120 products have been certified by NaTrue, and several hundred other products are in process. NaTrue also is finalizing partnership agreements with the National Products Association (NPA) and NSF International, two U.S.-based certification organizations for natural and organic products, respectively.

In February 2009, NaTrue signed an equivalency agreement with Quality Assurance International, which is behind the NSF standard. And further harmonization with NPA in July 2009 extended the presence of both organizations’ brands and allowed each to use the other’s seals. The agreement among all three organizations means that products complying with the NaTrue label or the NPA or NSF standard will be mutually recognized, eliminating the need for brand owners to go through a second full certification process when they cross the Atlantic with their products. “This is the first notable step toward a global harmonization of natural and organic standards,” said Barckley.

Currently, 11 brands—including Burt’s Bees, Aubrey Organics and JR Watkins Apothecary—and approximately 200 products are certified by the NPA standards and entitled to bear the seal. With the support of these competitors working together, the NPA is one of the front-runners in the U.S. certification battle. Burt’s Bees has invested $1 million to promote the NPA standard, and the body is set to have a presence in Europe, according to Organic Monitor—but the NaTrue standard is also fast developing a wider international presence.

Defining Natural in Fragrance

As standards, policies and regulations have evolved, so have the definitions of related terms. Successful companies such as Aveda are precise, however, in its definition of what constitutes natural in fragrance. To Aveda, “natural aroma” is a fragrance prepared exclusively with pure plant and flower essences and their derivatives—and this also allows the company to tout benefits imparted by the fragrance.

“In the past eight years, in particular, virtually all Aveda aromas have been created using only certified organic oils, which endow them not only with aesthetically harmonious scents but also increase the aromatherapeutic benefits and diverse bio-activities of natural ingredients,” says Ko-Ichi Shiozawa, chief perfumer, Aveda. While essential oils are extracted in a one-step process using steam—that is, water—absolutes are extracted in a two-step process involving a solvent and alcohol. Therefore, a “natural aroma” technically cannot contain absolutes. As a result, Aveda perfumers only have roughly 100 organic ingredients to work with, in contrast to more than 2,000 synthetic ingredients available for conventional fragrance creation, according to Shiozawa.