12 things you need to know about the natural and organic industry
The natural and organic sector has continued to grow year on year since, as editor of the Natural Beauty Yearbook describes it, ‘eco warriors made moisturisers in tubs in their kitchens.’ Now formulas are more advanced than ever, and there are natural alternatives to almost every regular product out there – even toothpastes and nail varnish removers now have natural equivalents. So it is more important than ever that you are clued up about what this industry is really about, what it involves, and what makes it tick. With that in mind, here are our top 12 need-to-know facts about natural and organics in 2012.
1. A natural product means at least a percentage of its ingredients are naturally-sourced
Natural products employ ingredients that occur naturally in the world, contain ingredients that have been produced by a living organism and contain no synthetic chemicals, says Rebecca Goodyear, natural beauty expert and marketing director of Jason. Some natural beauty manufacturers will also utilise environmentally friendly production processes, to help minimise the negative impact of production on the environment. The word ‘natural,’ however, doesn’t mean that the formula doesn’t also contain other synthetic ingredients. Jo Fisher, a skincare brand manager, adds: “Frustratingly the word ‘natural’ on skincare packaging does not mean the product contains only natural and/or organic ingredients. Understanding it is not easy especially because skincare legislation does not provide a definition for natural/organic products.” Sian Jones, director of Balance Me, explains how her brand has made the difference clearer for the consumer: “In simple terms natural skincare and body care products work to ensure that all the ingredients in their formulations are naturally derived and are not synthetic. Balance Me makes this really clear for our customers by using our natural standard stamp that clearly states what % of our products are naturally derived.”
2. Organic products are grown under strict conditions that restrict the use of man-made, synthetic chemicals
Organic products are similar to natural products in that they contain naturally-sourced ingredients, but they must also adhere to strict rules that prevent them from using irradiation, pesticides, genetically modified organisms or synthetic chemicals at any stage in the growing or manufacturing process. This includes during farming, harvesting, formulating, packaging and transporting. As with natural products, confusion arises in that a product can call itself organic whether it uses 1% or 100% organic ingredients. The most effective way of checking whether a product is truly organic is to check for a mark of certification, or to read through the ingredients list (see below).
3. Certification bodies will assess whether a product is truly natural or organic
There is no official regulation of natural and organic products, so in theory a product could claim it is organic, even if it contains only 1% organic ingredients. A number of certification bodies have come up with their own rules and regulations, despite not having the backing of the law. The best way to check if a product is truly natural or organic is to look for the logo of a certification body such as COSMOS, EcoCert or the Soil Association. Valérie Roubaud, co-founder of terre d’Oc, says: “Organic Certification means the product has been independently approved, and you are guaranteed that certified organic ingredients are used wherever possible and all ingredients are environmentally friendly, free from man-made chemicals and genetically modified ingredients (GMO).” Jo Fisher explains what certification involves: “Pukka Ayurvedic Skincare is certified by the Soil Association which sets down strict criteria to make sure ingredients used are not damaging to health or the environment. Suppliers and manufacture points are audited annually to ensure criteria met and guidelines followed, and all processes are monitored with regard to ecological standards and animal welfare. It’s a long process but is worth the effort to allow consumers to make an informed buying decision; the certification logo is visible on all packaging for immediate recognition.”
4. Customers wary of certain ingredients should read the label to check for their inclusion
Encourage your customer to read through the ingredients list of a natural or organic product if they want to be sure they are investing in something that is truly natural or organic. Rebecca Goodyear says: “The best way to tell if a product is natural is to do some research and look into trusted natural brands, read up about synthetic chemicals, recognise the potentially harmful ingredients and always read the label. Because just as not all things in nature are good for you, not all synthetic ingredients are bad for you.” Jo Fisher adds: “All ingredients used in skincare packaging must be listed on the packaging by weight; from the largest to the smallest. Additionally symbols such as (*) will be used alongside to denote organic ingredients. Furthermore, choosing a product that is certified means the ingredients have met strict criteria as set down by the certifying body.” Some of the most common ingredients fans of natural and organic beauty might steer clear of are parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate, PEGs, lanolin, silicones and mineral oils.
5. Organic products can be better for the environment
Organic products, in order to be certified, have to be grown in certain conditions, and are often manufactured by brands and companies with a genuine interest in the environment, so they will ensure everything from the packaging to the formulas are as environmentally sustainable and friendly as possible. For example, Jo Fisher says: “Soil Association certified Pukka Ayurveda Skincare uses PCR (post-consumer recycled material) and FSC certified packaging printed with vegetable inks which are fully recyclable to minimise negative impact on the environment.” Organic farming is also considered to be widely beneficial to the environment, it generally uses less energy, helps to decrease the levels of carbon dioxide in the air and helps the soil. Rebecca Goodyear adds: “Buying organic means our environment is not polluted by chemicals used in non-organic farming, such as pesticides. Using natural and organic products also means that potentially harmful ingredients do not get into our water system.” Anne Weber, assistant brand manager for Nelsons Pure & Clear, adds: “At Nelsons, 75% of our materials used are recyclable. We conduct a bi-yearly review on materials, ingredients and packaging in order to improve overall quality and minimise waste. In addition, Nelsons constantly apply new environmental efficiency processes in production and actively seek to source from suppliers who are committed in sustainability, e.g. organic suppliers and those who support fair trade. Nelsons continue to implement new energy saving initiatives that include a 5% reduction in energy usage and a green overhaul scheme planned for the production site in the next 6 months.”
6. Natural and organic products can be just as effective as their synthetic counterparts
Just because a product is branded natural or organic, it doesn’t mean there isn’t as much science and innovation involved in its development in order to guarantee the best results. Many formulations are proven to be just as, or more effective, than their synthetic alternatives. Jo Fisher says: “It’s a common misconception that natural and organic products are not as effective as synthetic brands. However, natural products often contain more active ingredients than conventional brands, which can be based on synthetic inert ingredients like mineral oil, silicones, propylene glycol or alcohol from petroleum manufacture. These synthetic ingredients are often not well tolerated by the body and may be rejected in the form of negative skin reactions like rashes and eczema.”
7. Natural products feed your skin
“Natural products are full of active ingredients that we must incorporate into our diet to feed the skin,” says Rebecca Goodyear. “Applying these vitamins and natural chemicals directly to the skin in these products can offer topical nutrition and deliver them more efficiently.” Valérie Roubaud, co-founder at terre d’Oc, adds: “Many women don’t realise that over 100,000 tonnes of man-made chemicals are added to conventional cosmetics every year. It is possible to absorb up to 60% of substances that are applied to our skin into our body, so choosing a certified organic beauty product allows you to avoid coming into contact with man-made preservatives and synthetics which may dry out skin, block the pores and cause skin irritations or allergies.”
8. New Mums and sensitive skin sufferers are some of the most likely customers to want to go natural
Sian Jones says many of Balance Me’s customers discovered the brand when they were pregnant, as they were looking for products that they knew posed no risk to them or their baby. She says: “It is at this point our customers become much more aware of what they are putting on their skin or their family. Busy mums and active kids love no fuss, gentle but active formulations that are safe to use on babies and kids, such as our rose otto body wash.” Consumers suffering from irritated skin conditions are also likely to want to experiment with natural and organic product alternatives. Valérie Roubaud says: “Consumers may have already directly experienced an allergic reaction, this may be from watering eyes from a mascara to dry skin patches from their face lotion or foundation. Women desire healthy-looking, flawless skin, so instead of masking their looks, women are stripping back the harsh artificial colours and are seeking a more natural look that cares for skin and enhances their individual beauty.”
9. There are more advanced formulations available than ever
“When natural beauty first started out it was eco warriors making organic moisturisers in tubs in their kitchens,” says the editor of the Natural Beauty Yearbook, Matt Chittock. “Now we’re talking about more sophisticated extraction methods and testing products on DNA. A few years ago we wouldn’t have been using scientific language, but the bar has been raised.” The developments in the natural and organic sector have occurred only recently, says Valérie Roubaud: “In the fairly recent past, the range of ingredients available to manufacturers of organic beauty products was very limited, meaning that products were rather basic and were only moderately effective. Due to the increase in demand from consumers, raw material suppliers have begun to produce a wider range of functional ingredients suitable for use in organic cosmetics. This means that organic products have come a long way over the last few years and can now be as effective, if not even offer superior performance against conventional high street brands.” One of the key developments has been in the anti-ageing category. Jo Fisher considers the innovations in extraction methods to be responsible: “I have always been amazed by the properties of plant extracts in skincare,” she says, “and am hugely excited about supercritical extracts used in Pukka Ayurveda Skincare. They are clean, organic, super-concentrated extracts produced by using carbon dioxide under pressure to separate the precious fat-soluble active constituents from the organic plant material. Concentrations of 120:1 can be achieved by this method without the need for chemical solvents.” Anne Weber says one of the greatest innovations has been the use of plant stem cells. “Plant stem cells can help to promote and protect youthful looking skin by supporting the skin’s ability to regenerate,” she says.
10. Consumers want luxury from natural and organic products
Just as demand for more effective formulations has encouraged the development of extraction methods and more efficient and capable ingredients, so it has demanded a touch of ‘luxury’ not seen in the natural and organic category until recently. Now brands such as Emma Hardie are using natural ingredients in their luxury products, sold in high end department stores such as Space NK. Matt Chittock says: “Customers are nervous about changing to natural products because they seem relatively cheap. But that’s changing as prices creep up to the £80 mark. If it costs £80 they’ll think there must be something in it that’s working.” He also highlights just how important it has become for natural and organic brands to market and package their products appropriately, something which they are doing more and more. He says: “Customers don’t just want a product that works, they want it to tick all the natural and organic boxes and have a luxurious feel to it.” He adds that this is especially true of the natural and organic make up category: “Make up is another big thing on the horizon, but it’s not 100% right yet. Make up is such a luxury, when you’re putting it on you’re thinking of yourself. Green People and Lavera are both doing well, they have a comprehensive range of products.” He anticipates the make up and luxury fragrance categories are set to grow and develop the most over the next few years, but says there are improvements to make before they do. “Customers want a fragrance with staying power,” he says.
11. Natural and organic is going mainstream
But it’s not just the luxury natural and organic sector that’s developing, products targeted at the mass market are also growing in popularity, which is probably down to more efficient, better packaged and appealingly fragranced products. One of the biggest success stories has to be Bulldog, which has successfully infiltrated the stubborn male grooming market. As the category has gained in popularity, so more consumers have wanted to join the trend. Matt Chittock says: “The more mainstream it gets, the more consumers want to buy into it.” Consumers are also becoming more and more aware of the benefits of using natural and organic products, says Anne Weber: “Many consumers are now switching to natural products as they are becoming more aware of the potential allergic reactions that some ingredients can cause. Hence, with public interest continuing to increase for natural products, it is inevitable that the beauty industry will develop new products in this area to meet demand.” Rebecca Goodyear highlights the inclusion of natural and organic products in mainstream stores such as Topshop as a good sign. She says: “I expect to see more natural beauty brands moving into more mainstream stores. Dr Bronner from our portfolio for instance is now available in Topshop and another of our brands JASON is receiving excellent PR coverage in more mainstream titles while continuing to be held in high regard in the natural health titles.”
12. There are more natural and organic alternatives available than ever
Self tanning, sun protection, make up, even nail polish remover now has a natural alternative, with the launch of Eden Natural Nail Polish Remover from Fresh Therapies. One of the fastest growing categories over the last year has been hair colouring. Kerry Capewell from Naturtint chemically-light home hair colourant says: “Recent developments in less chemical colourants see them able to compete with mainstream brands and offer a greater selection of products, in terms of permanent and non-permanent colours, after-care products and an increased variety of shades. As such products reach a wider audience, demand for even greater performance will see further product development, plus a more discerning and understanding consumer base will further drive forward the research and development into natural alternatives.”
Natural Contains ingredients derived from nature
Organic Contains ingredients from nature and without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and GM
Sustainable Produced with minimal negative impact on the environment
Mineral (make up) Cosmetics containing crushed minerals from the earth