Adjusting to the Natural Impact

  • The increased demand for natural/green products has provided some companies access to a wider market.
  • Overall perception of natural ingredients and products has changed.
  • Natural ingredients and the increased interest in them allows both suppliers and brand owners an opportunity to differentiate their products in the marketplace and expand business.

During the last decade, the interest level in natural/organic products shifted from limited to mainstream. With green/natural as the new “norm,” suppliers are faced with the challenge of adapting to a new consumer focus—adjusting to the “natural” impact.

When discussing the natural impact, Mark Vieceli—director or sales, marketing and business development for Capsugel, a manufacturer of dosage forms—notes that, from the company’s experience, the recent interest in natural resulted in increased business. “We closely research what drives consumer purchases and create capsule dosage products to meet those needs.” He points to a study by the Nielson Company that states, “Natural is one of the top 10 health and wellness claims, growing by more than 10% in 2008 to $22.3 billion, and continued to expand even as the economy stumbled.”

Vieceli adds, “Consumers are now particularly interested in clean label products. They are looking for natural colors, natural preservatives.” His statement is substantiated by the recent increased level of worldwide interest in Capsugel’s clean-label vegetarian capsules. In addition, the company introduced a new palette of natural colorants for gelatin and HPMC capsules.

Though in the business of providing naturally derived raw materials for 32 years, Desert Whale Jojoba Company also experienced an increased demand for its products as a direct result of the green movement. Soraya Rohde, owner/founder of the company described the attention as “very positive for the company, as it has only highlighted our value to the industry.”

Ellen Delisle, technical sales manager for Bio-Botanica Inc., echoes this notion. She notes that the popularity of the natural ingredients and products offered by the company, a developer and manufacturer of botanical extracts, has increased significantly during the past few years, particularly reflected by the sales performance of its nutraceutical and cosmeceutical products.

While Capsugel, Desert Whale Jojoba and Bio-Botanica focused on maintaining established standards, Colonial Chemical took a different approach to embracing the natural product phenomenon by completely changing the face of the company. David Anderson, president of Colonial Chemical, notes that the company began to transition toward becoming more environmentally friendly in 2003, before the big wave of companies greening. In the next few years since the decision was made, Colonial Chemical adopted the “Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry,” which began utilizing the Green Star rating on all products; and shifted to focusing on materials that are no less than 50% naturally derived. Anderson notes that in 2003, the change was slow as there was only a “mild interest in developing naturally based natural care products,” while in 2009 the company’s business increased significantly with a broader base of customers now interested in these materials. He adds, “Green is the new way to go. We are now able to prove that natural products function like [previously available, non-natural ingredients], except now they are safer for humans and the environment.”

The increased market demand for natural/green products has provided all four companies access to a wider market. While this may be cause for some to make radical changes to how they do business, all four company representatives were firm in maintaining their original (or in Colonial Chemical’s case, revamped) message when marketing the products.

Desert Whale’s most recent product launches were approached differently—not because the products have changed but rather because the overall perception surrounding the products has changed. “We are focusing on the benefits [products/ingredients] can provide formulators looking for alternatives that function similar to ingredients no longer deemed acceptable in the industry or by consumers,” said Rohdes. “Formulators and consumers have benefited from using jojoba-derived raw materials for more than 30 years. What may be new to many of them is that we have been producing naturally sustainable, environmentally friendly, low impact materials the entire time.”

Bio-Botanica’s response is similar to Desert Whale’s in the sense that it has not changed what it does, but rather focused on increasing the company’s presence in the worldwide market. Among those efforts, Bio-Botanica broadened its distributor base and added In-cosmetics to its roster of trade shows. Delisle emphasizes that, as a company, Bio-Botanica will continue to focus on manufacturing “holistically balanced” botanical extracts for the industries it serves—abiding by the standard of sourcing botanicals globally that it has maintained since its inception.

Vieceli points to Capsugel’s long-standing “hyper-vigilance” when making product claims, citing the importance of utilizing only appropriate sources that can be traced and documented in the company’s products. He views the increased interest as an opportunity for companies to help differentiate their products in the marketplace and expand business by tapping into the natural consumer base rather than attempting to replicate other companies’ successes.

Alexandra Voigt is a freelance writer for GCI magazine.

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