International Cosmetic News , March 1, 2009
by Imogen Matthews
Gone are the days when natural products were limited to your local health food store. Such is the growth of the sector that today’s mainstream beauty retailers can no longer afford to ignore its potential, particularly in an increasingly environment-conscious world.
??So who is driving the naturals spree? According to the analysis group Organic Monitor, most natural beauty consumers live in North America, which has garnered 65% of total global sales. The group’s The Age of Natural Pink Report states that 49% of women surveyed say they currently buy natural or organic products. Skincare and makeup are popular natural choices among almost 50% of the women surveyed.
??The natural trend has been gathering pace as consumers increasingly see natural and organic products as a core element of their overall lifestyle. Many turn to natural beauty for health or ecological reasons, having become dedicated purchasers of organic food and natural household products. “These consumers believe buying and using natural products is right for their body, right for the environment and right as a way to live,” says US marketing consultancy Fletcher Knight partner Carol Davies. Even if it mans making some trade-offs in efficiency or sensory benefits, these consumers remain extremely committed to natural and organic.
Media has played no small role in convincing consumers. Constant coverage of the dangers of chemicals in cosmetics are prompting consumers to scrutinize even their most treasured tried-and-tested. Headlines have focused on lead in lipstick, the dangers or parabens, Chinese product recalls and global warming. “From every angle beauty included, it’s been one jolt to our collective perception of safety and wholesomeness after another,” says Alisa Beyer, founder and creative director of The Benchmarking Company.
??Increasing awareness of the presence of chemicals in cosmetics drives many consumers to look for natural and organic alternatives. “Many consumers associate the traditional chemicals with a wide range of health concerns, so why not eliminate them?” reflects Beyer, whose research shows that 45% of all woman say fear of chemicals is the main reason for buying into naturals.
??A further 64% said they did not want chemicals on their skin. Natural and organic beauty products are seen as purer, gentler and more people-friendly. Stella McCartney’s Care range, for example, has petrochemical- and silicone-free formulas that claim to give skin “everything it needs and nothing it doesn’t”. Organic Monitor’s survey of UK consumers threw up similar findings, with 89% of respondents stating it was either important or very important to avoid synthetic chemicals in beauty products.
??Another key group is women who are attracted to the ingredients and fragrances used in natural products. “Those consumers buying for sensory enjoyment are captured by the richness and romance of the product story, the indulgence of the fragrances and the sensory satisfaction,” says Davies.
??Traditionally, natural beauty consumers shop in the natural and health-food channel, which is now led by US chain Whole Foods, according to US research company Packaged Facts. “We are seeing a crossover into drugstores and mass merchandisers, although it is gradual,” affirms Packaged Facts senior analyst Timothy Dowd. Johnson & Johnson-owned natural brand Aveeno, for example, has built a successful business in the mass channel and is in the process of expanding its natural offering from skincare to haircare. In deed, according to The Benchmarking Company, 34% of women buy their natural and organic beauty products from superstores such as US-based Target and from specialty beauty shops like Sephora. As consumers become more savvy about what is and isn’t natural, they are looking out for standards that help them make wise product choices. Not an easy task, considering the growing number of standards jostling for the consumer’s attention. Fletcher Knight’s Davies says: “I do think it will be necessary for brands to convince consumers that there’s more than just a pinch of natural ingredients in the product. It’s not just fairy dust.”
??Plant Organic, a London, UK-based organic grocery retailer, has strict criteria on the types of natural beauty brands it sells, making sure that no product contains ingredients such as parabens, petrochemicals and so forth. Its core customers are women in their 30s, reasonably affluent, representing a cross section of the community, and many are looking for a natural alternative to products they are already using. “Our typical consumer shops at Boots. It’s easy to get them into naturals through shower gels, as they are not complex items. Once they are convinced, they may try shampoo, then conditioner, [moving on to] bodycare and facial skincare,” affirms Planet Organic health and bodycare buyer All Overton.
??However, efficiency is key and the buying team tries out every product it sells. “The days when customers compromised over product quality are over. [The products we sell] need to compete on the high street. For example, a shampoo needs to work as well but with no harsh preservatives,” adds Overton.
??Organic Monitor’s research shows that almost all consumers are “hybrid natural consumers”, buying some natural and organic products as well as conventional beauty items. Davies explains: “Fundamentally, when it comes to beauty, women are not willing to make trade-offs in either efficacy or aesthetics. Women seek out the technology, whether that’s chemically based or naturally based, that will deliver results.” She believes that women are constantly looking for the best and if that happens to be a scientific molecule, that is what they will buy.
??The majority of women nowadays will mix and match between natural, organic and traditionally made cosmetics. And with the vast number of natural brands coming onto the market, there are still enormous opportunities to recruit new customers. “%0% of non-natural beauty buyers just haven’t given it a thought yet and 49% just don’t know enough about them,” says Beyer, adding that another third are happy to stick with their current brands because they work just fine for them.
??So if natural brads are to appeal to a much wider audience, they must aim to deliver products that do not require sacrifice or trade-offs. “Women want it all when it comes to beauty – natural ingredients, noticeable results and sensory enjoyment,” asserts Davies.
??The potential for natural beauty brands is huge. “Some 75% of women are ready […] to jump on the natural train,” says Beyer, who believes the best way to capture their attention is by having a clear, simple and focused message. The logic is simple: if consumers believe natural offers a better alternative to what they are currently using, they will make the switch.