Questioning Naturals

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When I discovered spa culture in the 90s, I felt at home as the luminaries in this industry were at the forefront of the natural revolution.  Now that natural is trending and mainstream, the natural products industry can learn a lot from the early adaptors in spa about consumer perception, expectations and exceptions.

Natural is a way of life for me. It started by hiking as a kid and acquired momentum as I chose granola over conventional cereals in college and was a non-negotiable when I had the privilege of doing PR for EcoSport, the first line of organic cotton apparel which was sold to Gaiam over 30 years ago.

When I discovered spa culture in the 90s, I felt at home as the luminaries in this industry were at the forefront of the natural revolution. Now that natural is trending and mainstream, the natural products industry can learn a lot from the early adaptors in spa about consumer perception, expectations and exceptions. 

The natural shopper is naturally inquisitive and their questions continue to evolve. The more they know the more they question and their satisfaction varies with their priorities and their loyalties deepen when their needs are met. 

Is It From the Farm?

Natural means different things in different parts of the world. According to Lynne McNees, president of the International SPA Association (ISPA), which has members in 77 countries, “What is natural in one country, isn’t going to be natural in another.” Using a local ingredient that is indigenous to that area will ensure you are using naturals to the region. Similar to the farm-to-table movement, consumers are desiring ingredients to be sourced within their region. 

Natural products that have intention, are thoughtful and create an experience are favored. If natural ingredients have a back story, even better. Beau Rivage Spa Director Natalee Lynch works with Farmhouse Fresh because the company sources its natural ingredients from various farms around the country. For example, its honey heel glaze is from a bee farm in Texas.  The pumpkin puree in its Splendid Dirt Facial Mask hails from a farm in Oregon. 

Does It Work?

“The demand for pure organic ingredients in the spa industry has faded,” said Ella Stimpson, director of spa experience, Sea Island. The trend now is “hybrids.” People want their food and their skin care to be “as natural as possible” and still be effective. They want results and are less willing to pay extra costs for certified organic products. “Products should be as pure as possible, with only a few ingredients,” said Stimpson. 

Is It Allergy Free?

“Some naturals can still cause allergies,” explained Diane Scott, spa director of Mirbeau in Pine Hills.  People are seeking pure hypo-allergic products. Paraben- and chemical-free products still have almond or coconut oil and these can cause an allergic reaction. During allergy season, people are even more sensitive to plant extracts which don’t stay fresh as long without preservatives. 

What’s My Choice?

Consumers want to see a natural option although they don’t always choose it. “At the spa, people pick and choose when to select natural,” said Stimpson. They may only use natural skin care but not natural hair care. The same happens in the grocery aisle. 

Is It Cleansing?

“There is a heavy trend in detoxing, juicing and cleansing so, naturally, people are going to be aware of what they are putting on their body, said Lynch. 

“It’s helpful when you can share an intentional story behind why you sell a particular brand. At Beau Rivage, we use a vegan nail polish from SpaRitual without DBP, toulene, formaldehyde and formaldehyde resin, which we proudly share with our guests.”

What Are the Ingredients to Watch?

“Plant stem cells and telomeres are the buzz words in our industry,” said Amy Mannix, of Cranwell Spa and Golf Resort. Telomeres are an essential part of human cells that affect how our cells age. “With this technology, we can get our cells to turn over properly and intact like they did when we were young, and in this—we have found a fountain of youth.”

“Growth factors from snails are on the rise,” said Lynch. This fluid is used to heal skin naturally, especially sun damage. 

“There is a lot of talk about charcoal lately,” said McNees. Charcoal is known to naturally trap toxins in the body and flush them out. It’s made from a variety of sources and often used in natural healing treatments. 

The latest trends, consumer concerns and ingredients trickle in from the luxury spa market into the natural health industry.  Keep an eye on the spa market to know what’s coming next in natural food and body care.

 

 

Nancy Trent is a writer and speaker, a lifelong health advocate, a globe-trotting trend watcher and the founder and president of Trent & Company, a New York-based marketing communications firm.  Trent & Company grew out of Nancy’s personal commitment to helping people live longer and healthier lives.  A former journalist for New York magazine, Nancy has written seven books on healthy lifestyles, serves on the editorial boards of several magazines and travels around the world speaking at conferences and trade shows on trends in the marketplace. She is a recognized expert in PR with more than 30 years of experience creating and managing highly successful campaigns. Nancy can be reached at (212) 966-0024 or through e-mail at nancy@trentandcompany.com.  You may also visit www.trentandcompany.com.

 

Posted 9/4/15

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