Quarantine life has had people sudsing up more often than pre-COVID days, but glamming up? Not so much. Usage of HABA products is starting to drop off, as people are working from home and leaving the house less altogether. That doesn’t mean, however, that the HABA section will start collecting dust as priorities shift—with a bit of a repositioning, the department can serve emerging consumer trends. In fact, COVID-19 may actually provide an opportunity to attract new customers in this sector, maintains Paul Schulick, Founder and Formulator at For the Biome: “We really believe consumer values were already heading in the direction of healthier, more ethical, sustainable, transparent, and natural products. Perhaps COVID has expedited that journey.”

Three major trends that are emerging, and presenting opportunities for natural brands and retailers:

1) Pampering Products
COVID has disrupted the need for HABA products—but by the same token, it may create the need for them, which may be another way to get these products into your customers’ shopping carts. For one thing, with everyone in the house all the time, it can be difficult to find a moment of peace. Schulick suggests that skincare can provide that peace: “We think our products, such as the powder cleansers and masks, can influence an intentional moment in our busy lifestyles. We hope this moment allows people to pause and create a ritual that not only awakens skin health, but that of the mind-body connection during these stressful times.” He notes that Barbi Schulick, Co-Founder, offers free, guided meditation weekly, open to all. More information can be found at www.forthebiome.com/pages/free-meditation. This may be a useful way for your customers—and you—to find a moment of peace in the middle of the week.

Selam Kelati, Co-Founder of I+I Botanicals, adds that, for some, taking time for a pampering pause will require convenience: “During this pandemic, we may feel guilty for wanting to escape our families for a little while, but now more than ever, we all need to be mindful of our own health, especially “indulging” in relaxing activities that support our physical and mental wellbeing. One of the best ways we encourage this is by taking a nice, long, healing salt bath. One way we aim to help is by creating products that are simple to use and blend easily into a busy daily routine. In addition, the products are created to provide an uplifting experience with subtle aromas from natural (and organic) essential oils, and a luxurious feel on the skin.” I+I’s Bath Teas combine sea salt, CBD, botanicals, and essential oils to “provide a sense of calm when you need it most,” Kelati says. And the Teas come in an eco-friendly one-time-use bag, so instead of cleaning up a mess in the bathtub afterwards, users can compost or toss the bag.

Indeed, Tina Tews, NOW Personal Care Brand Manager, says that people are already doing this, making it something retailers can market to. “Our extensive line of products offers a variety of options, from skincare to essential oils and more, which many consumers are relying on for self-nurturing amidst all the uncertainty. We provide ways to utilize and create at-home beauty treatments and regimens to help people look and feel their best during this trying time. There’s a focus now on things that make people feel better—not only physical wellness, but also emotional wellness, better quality sleep, stress management, and the like. We’ve seen increased interest in our calming and pampering DIY recipes using our extensive line of essential oils and carrier oils. Our products allow consumers to customize recipes according to their skin type, aromatherapy preference, and overall mood.”

Another motivation along the same lines: generosity, either company-sponsored or otherwise. “We’ve created a quick program that offered a way for caring individuals to reward others who might be on the front lines of this pandemic,” says Bill Levins, President of Reviva Labs. “Our Buy One Give One initiative offers a quick way for one person to buy a bundle of products and send a bundle of products. It could be an offer of compassion, a quick pick-me-up, or a way to share an experience across the country with a loved one.”

The future appears increasingly uncertain, and the present is increasingly stressful. Help your customers keep their largest organ healthy—and find moments of peace throughout the day—and you won’t just be making a sale, you’ll be making their day.
Makeup: A little hit of happy
Makeup may be a harder sell right now—but Leticia Williams, Founder and CEO of Vatarie, suggests an opportunity. “At these trying times and unsure moments, we all need a little pick-me-up. Some are angry, some are frustrated, and some are just downright disappointed—this is where the power of lipstick kicks in. Vatarie is here to uplift and bring out the best in you. Beauty brings laughter and happiness; safe, clean products bring peace of mind.”

If your customers are revamping their skincare routines, they may also want to reconsider what brand makeup they’re using. “All our products are safe, cruelty-free, and vegan, which is very important to my company,” Williams says. “We create our products in a clean, sanitized climate-controlled facility that meets FDA rules and guidelines, assuring the quality of our products.”
2) Clean Cleansers
In these times, keeping our hands clean is a must—and, as always, there are good ways and bad ways of going about that. There’s the wide variety of chemicals that natural brands avoid, which many conventional brands include. Your stock of Dr. Bronner’s may be even more popular than ever. There are plenty of natural brands for you to stock; for instance, Tea Tree Therapy sells an Antiseptic Liquid Soap, which—as the name suggests—is antiseptic and comes in a pump bottle, which may be more attractive than bar soaps right now. Earth Mama Organics makes a castile baby wash soap that can be used on hands or the whole body, and may be ideal for parents who are extra concerned about their children’s health; again, it comes in a pump bottle. That said, for those looking for bar soaps, they can always check out Desert Essence—their gluten-free, vegan, Non-GMO bar soaps are made with sustainable palm oil and essential oils.

When it comes to sanitizer—well, here’s what FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., said: “Practicing good hand hygiene, which includes using alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available, is an important public health tool for all Americans to employ. Consumers must also be vigilant about which hand sanitizers they use.” The context: FDA had just sent more warning letters to companies selling hand sanitizers containing methanol, “a substance often used to create fuel and antifreeze that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin, as well as life-threatening when ingested”; exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, headache, and worse, according to FDA’s press release (1). The agency noted that this methanol is often undeclared, although it is “not an acceptable ingredient in any drug, including hand sanitizer, even if methanol is listed as an ingredient on the product label.” FDA has found methanol contamination in hand sanitizer products ranging from 1% to 80%. A full list of hand sanitizers FDA is asking consumers not to use can be found on FDA’s website (2).

Blume Organics has also made a free guide listing other ingredients that the company says should be avoided in hand sanitizers, including endocrine disruptors like triclosan and benzalkonium chloridephthalates. The guide is available at www.blumesorganics.com.

All of this being said, we can go back to the importance of educating customers on the products you sell—the natural, healthier, cleaner alternatives to the products they’re buying. For instance, Desert Essence makes an ethyl alcohol-based probiotic hand sanitizer, both in pump bottles for in-office or at-home use, and in smaller bottles for on-the-go use. EO Organic makes Lavender Hand Sanitizers in gel form and as hand wipes, and the company offers a hand sanitizer spray in sweet orange, lavender, and peppermint scents.

Customers buying hand sanitizers and soap may present an opportunity to cross-merchandise—with lotion. “Customers are looking for lotions to combat the dryness from constant cleansing,” Tews explains. “NOW Solutions offers a variety of lotions, creams, and carrier oils for moisturizing all skin types.”

Lily of the Desert’s Jack Brown offered up Aloe vera gel as another option: “Aloe gelly can help keep your skin hydrated and smooth. Aloe naturally contains 200 active components, including polysaccharides, known to be the driving force behind aloe’s natural benefits. Lily of the Desert harnesses the power of those polysaccharides with Aloesorb, which is made entirely from our own organically grown aloe plants.”

And this can be a way to hit on still-trending CBD. PlusCBD Oil offers CBD Balm, which contains hemp extract and vitamin E for those whose sanitized hands need a helping hand. The company also sells Hemp Body Cream, which contains plants like argan, safflower, marula, bergamot, and shea butter. Their website says that “it’s not just CBD—it’s a top of the line topical.”
Battling Maskne
One of the problems people must contend with these days: skin irritation caused by masks. A blog from Reviva, titled “Face masks, irritations, acne, and skin care,” notes that this can include mild bruising, acne, and, on some occasions, contact dermatitis. The blog explains that “face mask straps can put stress on the delicate skin behind the ears and as you naturally move your head around, the straps tend to rub, the same is true along the bridge of the nose, as some masks move just enough throughout the day to cause irritation” (3). The chin is particularly sensitive, the blog notes, due to the moisture from breath. The blog, available at www.revivalabs.com, details solutions and preventative practices that may help your customers handle these new day-to-day struggles.
3) Eco-Friendly Finds
We can’t talk about long-term health without discussing the planet—so beyond just being good for people, a good HABA product is good for the planet, too. Kelati notes that I+I Botanicals aims for sustainability in all ways—“Every ingredient is meticulously researched, and that includes how and where it is sourced”—especially packaging: “Whenever possible, we use plant-based, recycled, recyclable, biodegradable, and/or compostable materials. We aim to use as little plastic as possible. And, when plastic is necessary, we use recycled plastic. Additionally, we custom-designed the boxes that house and protect our glass bottles, to use less overall wasteful packaging. They even ship from the manufacturer flat to reduce the number of boxes we ship to lessen the carbon footprint of shipping. We strongly believe that it is our responsibility to preserve Mother Earth for our children and future generations.”

NOW seconds that. “Our newly redesigned premium line now comes in 100% recyclable packaging,” says Tews, “and our NOW Solutions products that aren’t recyclable are part of the TerraCycle program, which diverts trash from landfills into recycled materials.”

It may also be useful to point to the multifunctional aspects of many products; especially now as consumers have so many concerns to deal with, they may appreciate the convenience of multitaskers. “When retailers market the multiple uses that our products have, it will help keep MoR Essentials top of mind,” says Michee Harris, Director of Communications at MoR Essentials. “For instance, our essential oil multipurpose sprays have antimicrobial properties that can be used for cleaning purposes, as a sanitizer base, as an air and fabric freshener, and as body mist, in addition to aromatherapy purposes. Similarly, our powders can be prepared as a tea, blended with a smoothie, added to a favorite recipe—or, mixed with honey, they can be used as anti-inflammatory face masks.” The company’s powdered Herbal Teas can be found at www.moresscentials.com.

Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar—a popular purchase outside of the beauty section—may, if placed on a HABA shelf, draw more attention to the section, while providing multifunctional convenience. According to www.bragg.com/blogs/news, their ACV can be used in homemade hair rinses, skin toners, face masks, nail polish removers, and detox baths.

And as usual, sustainability should go all the way back to the farmer. “We work with specialized growers in India where Moringa and several of our other herbs originate,” says MoR Essentials’ Harris. “They adhere to strict guidelines to maintain USDA Organic, GMP, and Kosher certifications. This allows us to stand behind the quality of our herbs and oils, while maintaining eco-friendly practices.”

Connecting with Consumers 
To start making this shift in focus from surface beauty to that natural, soothing, healthy lifestyle that delivers a gorgeous glow, remind your customers that skin really is crucial to wellbeing. “As a health-focused wellness company, we view the skin as an important organ and the immune system’s first line of defense,” Schulick explains—and that’s not just his point of view: The skin—and mucous membranes, incidentally—help keep pathogens outside of the body. Unhealthy skin provides a way in for those pathogens. To this end, Schulick says, “each of our ingredients are chosen and sourced for their ability to nourish skin health in the face of stress, and ultimately contribute to whole-body wellness. All our products contain 100% active and whole ingredients, without any fillers, preservatives, or chemicals that could disrupt the skin’s natural environment.”

Seconding that, Lafe T. Larson, Founder and CEO of Lafe’s, says, “As more and more consumers look to a healthier lifestyle, they are also looking to put fewer toxins into and on their bodies. They are looking for products with ingredients that are natural and organic.” Larson has a laundry list of things not allowed in his cruelty-free products: aluminum, propylene glycol, baking soda, phthalates, triclosans, SLS, VOCs, mineral oil, gluten, PEG compounds, or DEA/TEA/MEA. He explains, “We believe that what goes on your body, goes in your body.”

One important factor here, Schulick says, is education. “Our Sentient Skincare line relies on deeper education. Education around the microbiome, the value of our fermentation and CO2 technologies, and a shift towards new ways of approaching a skincare routine.” If you can teach your customers the importance of the skin’s microbiome, selling products to support it can shift the focus from “looking good for others” to “maintaining health.”

However, with more customers shopping online or opting for curbside pickup, this can all be more difficult these days. For one thing, these days, in-store demos are on pause. But many of our experts have virtual solutions. Kelati made the following suggestions:
  • Incentivizing shoppers. “Offering first-time buyers a promotional discount makes it attractive to customers to purchase on the spot.”
  • Testimonials and reviews. “As consumers, we rely on referrals for almost every purchase we make. Making sure the reviews are trustworthy, using verified buyers, is key. We find that we garner more reviews by offering discount codes as incentives.”
  • Participate in social media marketing. “Social media helps create stories about our brand that people can share with others. Ultimately our brand naturally becomes a part of the channels viewed by customers on a regular basis.”
Jack Brown, VP, Sales & Marketing, Lily of the Desert, seconds the importance of social media. “Everyone is online right now, so it is essential to have an online presence for customers looking for your expertise. Now, more than ever, people are paying attention to their health and looking for ways to help them stay healthy. Retailers should follow, like, and share their brands’ social posts, and help direct customers to do the same. This can be seen as an opportunity to gain even more customers by offering valuable information on helpful products that cover a variety of health needs.” Brown notes that Lily of the Desert shares aloe facts, usage tips, and recipes on their social media pages.

Tews agrees that digital marketing is useful—and not just for finished products: “Digital marketing, including social media and e-newsletters, is a great way to showcase a variety of DIY recipes through videos and/or graphics. A great way to market is to create a self-care content hub on your website featuring HABA products and recipes.”

A creative example comes from Reviva Labs. “One of the initiatives we’ve undertaken to help retailers is our recently launched Virtual Zoom Demo program,” says Levins. “COVID-19 forced us to discontinue our robust and growing in-store demo program, but we wanted to keep the combination of experiential marketing combined with store-level integration. Our unique Virtual Zoom Demo program coordinates with retailers, providing them with ‘on-site’ coupon codes that eliminate the $5 ticket price for our Demo. Retailers can engage with their shoppers and share this code, offering them an opportunity to have free samples sent to them at their homes, at no cost to the retailer. After the demo, each participant is sent a Manufacturer’s Coupon that can be redeemed at any participating retailer.” Following a sold-out debut, Reviva scheduled a second demo for August 26, with plans to host more.

Reviva isn’t stopping there, Levins adds: “In the coming weeks, we’ll have video demos of our products, hosted by some of the very Brand Ambassadors retailers enjoyed in our stores. We’ll be making these videos available for retailers to use on their own websites or use as looping advertisements if that’s an option.”

When it comes to in-store marketing, not all is lost—though it may require revamping. Tews points to in-store sampling as one example. “Individualized sample sizes will make more sense at this time, as stores have to focus on keeping items clean and as touchless as possible, to lower the risk of spreading anything and to reassure customers that the retailer has their health and wellbeing in mind.” WF
  1. “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Reiterates Warning About Dangerous Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers Containing Methanol, Takes Additional Action to Address Concerning Products.” FDA.gov. Posted 7/27/2020. Accessed 8/1/2020. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-reiterates-warning-about-dangerous-alcohol-based-hand-sanitizers
  2. “FDA urges consumers not to use certain hand sanitizer products.” FDA.gov. Accessed 8/1/2020. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-updates-hand-sanitizers-methanol#products