For the last year, the health and beauty care (HBC) market may not have been sitting so pretty. Tight budgets left consumers struggling to justify spending on HBC when food and supplements were their main priorities. Because of this, it is more important than ever to offer high-quality, natural HBC products that give customers results so they come back for more.
Autumn Blum, group vice president and formulator at Organix-South, Bowling Green, FL, says, “Consumers are more wary about their spending habits—they are looking for products that not only smell pretty and are clean, but work. They are looking to get the most out of a product.”
Confirming this is Mintel, a leading market research company, in its global beauty trend predictions for 2010. The firm forecasts an emergence of the “Nu Natural,” or products focused on results, efficiency and safety (1).
Blum adds, “A conscious consumer may be more inclined to purchase a lotion that not only feels and smells good, but also contains ingredients that are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and full of essential fatty acids and antioxidants as opposed to the moisturizer that simply smells pretty.”
What’s On the Label: Not So Stable
In addition to the economy, the personal care market faces challenges from a regulatory standpoint. In November 2009, the National Organic Program (NOP) voted to enforce the implementation of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic food regulations to personal care products. This has received varied responses from within the industry.
Kim Wells, personal care and outbound sales manager for NOW Health Group, Bloomingdale, IL, says, “Natural and organic are both words that have been thrown around loosely in both the natural channel and in mass market. The new standards will help draw a clear line and make it easier for retailers and consumers to indentify truly organic personal care products.”
Others staunchly support the vote because they feel it will serve to eliminate any “organic cheaters” in the market. One such organization is the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), which is on a mission to remove “organic fraud” from the marketplace.
In a September 21, 2009 press release, the OCA announced that organic poseurs—brands marketed but not certified as organic—had until October 26 to contractually commit to certification of their organic claims and gave offenders until November 1, 2010 to drop misleading claims altogether or comply with either USDA’s NOP or NSF International’s standards to avoid being blacklisted (2). Whether this will have the intended effect is unknown, but there is concern, however, that such actions may cause unnecessary finger pointing within our own industry.
There are other sides to the story, too. Kim Grustas, founder and owner of New Hartford, CT-based Good For You Girls, says, “Many natural companies simply choose not to go the [certified] organic route because of the many restrictions and costs associated with it. Does it really help brands? Are consumers really willing to spend more for the seal? I’m not convinced just yet.” Instead, she advocates full transparency and educational marketing.
But with the new requirements, transparency won’t be enough. Products with names that include the word “organic” may need to go through the process of certification or change the name of their products, through the USDA isn’t 100% sure how it will handle this issue. Retailers, too, could have to deal with the ramifications of these changes and be sure their store signage/advertisements reflect any changes.
Blum notes some of the other challenges that might come along with this: “The USDA NOP is a food standard, not a cosmetic standard, although cosmetics are able to become certified under the NOP. Many manufacturers were pushing for a separate personal care standard, along the lines of the European standards such as BDIH and Eco-Cert, which allows safe and naturally derived ingredients often used in cosmetics to be included. The challenge will be to formulate cosmetics to the level of efficacy that our sophisticated consumer base expects, while only using food standard ingredients.”
An example, says Blum, would be decyl glucoside, a foaming and cleansing alternative to some harsh surfactants that is very clean, gentle, safe and naturally derived, but would not be allowed under the NOP food standard.
Despite the challenges USDA organic certification presents, the changes could weed out any misrepresenting companies and actually be a boost to the credibility of the industry. Ultimately, says Scott Cecil, president of Save Your World, Clearwater, FL, “USDA certification of organic [HBC] products can only be a good thing because, unfortunately, some companies have mislead consumers by using deceptive packaging claims to market their products as organic, when, in fact, they contain synthetic, petroleum-based ingredients.”
However, says Wells, “’Natural’ products will still be difficult to identify because they can contain synthetic ingredients.” This is interesting, considering the following 2008 data from NPD group (3):
Natural beauty care was the most developed of categories with about two-thirds (64%) of women saying they used natural beauty products. Only 32% reported they used organic items and 26% used green/eco-friendly products.
Regarding “natural” claims, for now the responsibility remains with retailers and consumers to ask questions about ingredients and manufacturing processes, read labels and even approach manufacturers, if necessary, until mandatory guidelines for what qualifies a product to be able to use the term “natural” are confirmed.
Other labeling and certifications. In the meantime, some companies have become certified through other avenues such as the Natural Products Association seal. This seal, says Jeff Chandler, senior manager of corporate communications at XanGo, LLC, Lehi, UT, means that a formulation contains 95% or greater natural ingredients without synthetic chemicals.
Products with labels like “chemical-free” or “cruelty-free” may attract the initial attention of consumers, but retailers should also verify products’ label claims through various third-party organizations. For example, the Coalition for Consumer Information of Cosmetics’ Leaping Bunny Program assures that no animal testing is done in any phase of a product’s development. The Philadelphia, PA-based organization also provides a “Compassionate Shopping Guide” for a list of many companies that do not test finished products, ingredients or formulations on animals. On its Web site, www.leapingbunny.org, the organization has portals for consumers and companies looking for information on cruelty-free practices and products.
Other programs include The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ Compact for Safe Cosmetics pledge (www.safecosmetics.org/index.php) and the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database (www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/index.php).
“While certifications are important, the best thing a consumer can do is become educated on ingredients,” says Cecil. In addition, he says, “Studies have shown that consumers are willing to pay more for a product that supports a cause about which they are passionate since this helps them express their values and beliefs.” For example, Save Your World pledges that one product equals one acre of rainforest saved for one year, an initiative that is clearly displayed on product labels.
Linda Miles, L.Ac., D.O.M., vice president of derma e Natural Bodycare, Simi Valley, CA, agrees: “Consumers are happy to support companies that reduce potential harm to humans, animals and the environment.”
Some people are sensitive. A controversial certification topic has been gluten-free certification. Some say that because the gluten molecule is large, topical products other than oral care or lip products do not need to be gluten free. But, many with gluten sensitivity still report strong reactions to topical products that include the protein, says Cecil.
“Research suggests that gluten coming in contact with the mouth could be a problem for some people that are very sensitive to gluten. Anything from lip care, oral care to facial care could cause a problem. For those that are very sensitive, buying gluten-free products is definitely a preference, not only for food, but also for the products they use on their skin,” notes Wells.
Because as much as 60% of topical products can be absorbed through the skin (4), anyone with a gluten, wheat or other sensitivities should have caution when using topical products.
Also, irritants aren’t always very obvious on labels because of technical terminology or different wording, which can sometimes be difficult for consumers to decode. For example, Blum says, “Gluten free means more than simply not using hydrolyzed wheat protein in your shampoo. Many ingredients don’t sound like they contain gluten, when they do. For example, vitamin E may be derived from wheat germ. As a manufacturer, it is essential to review each and every ingredient in the formula to ensure that your gluten-free claim is, in fact, valid.”
Even with fully disclosed ingredient lists, some consumers may be worried about trying a new product. Retailers can offer testers or small samples to customers who have concerns about allergies or sensitive skin.
Cecil believes, “Investing in gluten-free certification could be a huge service to this market as it would not only provide peace of mind, but it would save consumers time from reading labels or having to call manufacturers directly.
In addition, says Wells, “People should also take into consideration other potential allergens aside from gluten that could cause reactions; many people have sensitivities to fragrances and preservatives and are unaware of it unless they have been tested.”
Select HBC Products
derma e Natural Bodycare: New from derma e is the Tropical Solutions line, which incorporates the healing properties of tamanu oil, green tea, pomegranate, avocado, aloe, papaya and other nourishing ingredients. Also available is the Fruit Smoothees line, among over 100 other natural skincare products including facial cleansers, toners, eye creams, serums and moisturizers, which utilize effective anti-aging ingredients such as pycnogenol, DMAE, hyaluronic acid and many others.
Desert Essence Organics: This gluten/wheat-free brand offers Coconut Body Lotion, Body Wash, Shampoo, Conditioner and Hand Wash; Italian Red Grape Shampoo, Conditioner with Resveratrol; and Vanilla Chai Body Lotion, Body Wash and Hand Soap with Clove and Chai.
Good For You Girls: This line of 100% natural and organic skin care is formulated for the beauty beginner and includes gel cleanser, blemish wash, purifying toner, moisturizer and a complete skin care starter kit.
NOW Foods: NOW offers a full line of personal care products including: CoQ10 Antioxidant Serum, CoQ10 Antioxidant Cream, Green Tea and Pomegranate Day Cream, Green Tea Pomegranate Moisturizing Night Cream, Green Tea & Pomegranate Cream Cleanser, Green Tea Pomegranate Purifying Toner and Hyaluronic Acid Firming Serum.
Organix-South: The TheraNeem line includes neem hand soaps, oils, lotions, creams and shampoos using 90% certified organic oils. Also available are neem toothpaste, mouthwash and pet products.
Save Your World: All products are made with yerba mate and aloe vera. Products include: Save Your Skin Body Lotion, Save Your Skin Bar Soap, Save Your Skin Shower Gel, Save Your Body Organic Oils Body Wash, Save Your Hair Shampoo and Conditioner, Save Your Hair Color-Safe Shampoo and Conditioner and Save Your Lips Lip Balm.
Xango, LLC: Juni Family Care is new from Xango and offers a gentle line of hair and body care. Glimpse Topical Skin Nutrition utilizes the power of the mangosteen fruit and is available in two product systems: one for normal to dry skin and another for normal to combination skin. Also under the Glimpse brand is Glimpse Mineral Treatment, which provides skin nutrition and coverage in light, medium, deep or sheer shades.
Xlear, Inc.: The line includes Xlear Nasal Spray, Kids Xlear Nasal Spray, NetiXlear Nasal Wash and Xlear Nasal Spray with a pump mist. Also available are Spry Chewing Gum and Mints in a variety of flavors, Spry Toothpaste, Spry Oral Rinse, Spry Rain Oral Mist, Spry Children’s Pacifier and Spry Children’s Tooth Gel.
You’ve Got a Bit of Food On Your Face…
It has become common knowledge that nutrition from the inside can help create a more radiant, healthy glow on the outside. What we eat can make a big difference in the health of our skin, hair and nails. But, some foods can also be extremely effective when used topically.
“From the beginning of time, women and men have tried to make themselves look more beautiful and vibrant using what was found in nature. Honey was used to soothe irritated skin, egg yolk was used to treat acne, corn meal was used to exfoliate, etc.,” says Wells. Today, there are natural health and beauty products that offer the best parts of foods—after all, we’d rather eat a soufflé than put our face in it, right?
The following are several common food ingredients that have moved from our plates into our products:
Avocado is high in essential fatty acids, among other nutrients. Miles says, “Essential fatty acids provide essential nutrients and are especially important for maintaining normal skin structure and hydration.” Many skin and hair products utilize avocado and avocado oil for their protective, moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties.
According to Blum, although not edible, neem is also a good source of topical omegas (3, 6 and 7), in addition to its antioxidants.
Herbs and spices be can be utilized in a variety of products. Rosemary extract, says Cecil, is a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient, while also working as a preservative in products. Wendy Lucas, vice president of marketing for Desert Essence, Valencia, CA, notes that while consumers are livening up their foods with clove, chai and turmeric, these ingredients are also growing in popularity for HBC products because of their scent and health benefits.
Coconut is being used in various forms including fragrance, milk and oil. “Coconut oil coats the skin or hair shaft to prevent moisture loss, however it does this without leaving any greasy residue,” says Lucas.
Superfruits have been strong frontrunners in HBC product development for the past few years. Miles says, “Superfruits have become extremely popular because of the vast amounts of research being conducted and disseminated on their anti-aging antioxidant benefits when applied topically. Additionally, superfruits appeal to consumers because they are easily recognized.”
Chandler notes, “One such example is that of the mangosteen, a prized botanical known as the ‘queen of the fruits’ in southeast Asia because of its tremendous taste but also for its strong health value. In earlier times, southeast Asian healers would grind the fruit, including its rind, into a poultice, boil it into a tea and then apply it as an astringent lotion. We’ve been able to harness this tradition and combine it with modern Japanese fermentation technology to create a unique, clean and results-oriented formula.”
Lucas adds that high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) value ingredients are another trend. “The higher the value, the better an antioxidant it is. Resveratrol is a fantastic antioxidant and protects hair and skin from free radical damage,” she says. However, high antioxidant counts are not reserved for superfruits alone. Lucas also mentions pumpkin as a popular free-radical fighter that has been included in many facial masks, peels and cleansers as of late.
Beverages, too, are transitioning from cup to cream, from leaf to lotion. Yerba mate, an herbal drink typical to South America, is one. The herbal tea leaf extract contains over 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids and many in antioxidants to fight free radical damage, says Cecil. Green tea is healthy for the skin for these reasons as well. Topical caffeine has long been thought to promote lymphatic drainage to reduce puffiness from fluid retention in the skin.
“There are so many natural ingredients that provide benefits for the body internally, it only seems natural to use those same ingredients to treat the body externally,” says Wells. “Many consumers are becoming more savvy about differentiating between great products that are used in combination formulas to deliver a healthier alternative for skin versus synthetic, chemically derived ingredients that are sold by marketing campaigns that know how to introduce and hype up a product without a lot of substance behind the products. This is where the natural products channel has a clear advantage.”
Ageless Merchandising Tips
Anti-aging is a gigantic category, but because of some customers’ sensitivity to the subject, retailers must approach customers and answer questions tactfully regarding products in this category. Blum says, “Personally, I’m not a fan of the term ‘anti-aging.’ We are all going to age, whether we want to or not, as it’s a fact of life. I think the new motto for 2010 should be ‘age gracefully.’” She recommends starting young—offer mother–daughter makeovers or educational seminars—before negative mainstream marketing or plastic surgery get in the way.
Adding to this, Miles says, “Age prevention is becoming extremely popular. Younger consumers are paying more attention to their skin and becoming more educated on the effects of sun, pollution and free radical damage. Retailers should display adequate signage in order to help lead the appropriate demographic to the right products.”
In general, “Retailers can put energy into making sure their personal care section is inviting to the customers. They should emulate cosmetics counters in department stores by having mirrors, clean tissues and cotton swabs for testing, making sure the product testers are clean and attractive, and having a staff that is knowledgeable,” says Wells.
Knowing your customers’ specific needs is important, too. “Retailers need to keep in touch with their customers constantly,” says Grustas. Retailers will gain store and brand loyalty, as well as letting the public know that you are knowledgeable, which could attract new customers as well. For example, teen- and tween-aged patrons are at a crucial point in their lives and need to be careful about the chemicals in products that may affect their development, says Grustas. Also, early education about healthy personal care habits can set a foundation for aging prevention.
The main causes of aging to our skin are ultraviolet light from the sun, and other free radical damage from the environment and stress, resulting in wrinkles, age spots and thinning skin. Cecil says, “The best way to merchandise anti-aging products is to also provide educational materials on other ways to prevent aging—such as avoiding the sun, quitting smoking, exercising and eating a healthy diet. Using anti-aging personal care products in combination with these other methods will render them much more effective.”
Even with all of the science-supported benefits of natural anti-aging products, retailers may still be worried about whether their HBC products will sell in this economy. On the other hand, consumers of all ages may be willing to indulge in smaller luxury items such as cosmetics or skin care, rather than a vacation or expensive electronics.
Nasal irrigation, also called nasal cleansing, with a neti pot has been around for a long time, but is starting to pick up in popularity again. Using a mild saline solution to bathe the nasal cavity and gently wash tissues can clear away built up mucus, bacteria, allergens and other airborne contaminants that can irritate the nasal passages and sinuses. Adding xylitol to the solution can enhance the effectiveness of using a neti pot because of its moisturizing and hydrating benefits.
Says Brian Craig, vice president of international sales for Xlear, Inc., Orem, UT, “Last year, Xlear introduced NetiXlear, which is made with xylitol, high-quality Celtic Sea Salt from one of the most pristine coastal regions of France and sodium bicarbonate, which buffers the salt solution and improves the overall effect of the irrigation solution.” The company also offers a nasal spray with xylitol, which can help improve the natural moisture flow in the nasal passages and reduce the dependence on over-the-counter or prescription medications for allergies and other sinus troubles, says Craig. According to www.xlear.com, xylitol helps to hydrate the mucous membranes and retain their integrity so that they are more able to block pollen, dust and dander from getting a “foothold” into our respiratory systems. Stay tuned for next month’s Consumer Bulletin for more information on neti pots.
“Consumers in general will buy products with a higher price based on the main functional ingredient in the product. Having ingredients that are supported by tests or studies to show their efficacy can help products sell themselves,“ says Wells. She also advises that retailers selling high-end, expensive products should have other options available at lower price points.
To reassure customers that they are receiving reasonably priced products, provide them with educational materials about the ingredients and certifications found in the natural products they are considering. Shelf talkers, sample packets, educational tri-folds and consumer brochures are some suggestions.
It also depends on the type of product. More likely to sell are “products with a purpose,” as Blum says. Citing the econony as a reason, she adds, “If someone has a rash or inflammation on their scalp, they are less likely to go to their doctor or use a conventional steroid-based cream. They are looking for natural alternatives that work, without the dangers of pharmaceuticals or the expense of a doctor.”
Cecil confirms, “Health and well-being are increasingly important to consumers, especially with frequent news reports about the possible dangerous effects of chemicals and additives in many personal care products. Even in the midst of difficult economic times, people are not willing to skimp at the expense of their health, or the health of the planet.” WF
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, March 2010