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Naturals in Europe

By: Marie Alice Dibon
Posted: April 19, 2010, from the April 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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For Gutsatz, the naturals market in Europe is really segmented in three categories. At one end of the spectrum are the large groups’ pseudo-naturals, which include “natural” ingredients, but aren’t pushing the exercise too far. On the other end of the spectrum are labelized, sophisticated, beautiful brands that are very stringent on the organics rules. And in the middle are brands with a natural-dominant bent that don’t have the organic certification. These brands use ingredients, such as synthetic fragrances or sometimes parabens, and make no excuse for it. They have positioned themselves as natural brands from the beginning, set their own rules and have built their base on it, gaining consumer confidence. They are usually luxurious brands, and the products are cosmetically very pleasing, with nice textures and offered in beautiful packaging.

For this last category, it now seems that a new point of differenciation has emerged: Technology is now part of the marketing mix. Companies and brands are now claiming patents, front and center, placing ads on bus stops in Paris and trumpting these claims on their Web sites’ front pages.

Where we’re at

Naturals in Europe are no longer just eco-friendly products. They are also sophisticated and part of the luxury category. These brands are found in pharmacies and selective distribution channels, staged like the Chanels and the Diors of the world. Consumers seem to like the combination of luxury and natural feel, and they also seem to be more flexible on getting politically correct products.

Regardless of these considerations, however, the industry as a whole is instituting higher standards. Natural-ingredient suppliers almost systematically have preservative-free versions of their extracts, and green chemistry is now also more widely practiced.

From an extraction technology standpoint, new approaches are on the rise, as pointed out by Bernard Mompon, the general manager at Archimex, during the SFC meeting. Archimex has come up with an interesting method, based on the association of microwave technology and a sequential vacuum. This allows for the extraction of the water inherent to the plant, or what Archimex calls “constitutive water.” The result is a pure and native floral water, created without the use of solvants, maceration or the addition of any water.