Perhaps one of the biggest dilemmas in this category is that consumers will often profess to the very best intentions when it comes to finding products with the highest level of natural or organic formulations and the best sustainability profile, and then make purchases that go against these intentions.
But the blame cannot be squared solely at the consumer. Conflicting claims, marketing messages and certification standards can often leave all but the most experienced industry professionals confused.
Cutting through the fluff
The biggest problem facing consumers is to establish what is real and what is not, and Naira Aslanian, project manager for the Consumer Products division at market research and consultancy Kline Group, believes this is no easy task.
“I think natural beauty consumers are still confused as to which products are truly natural versus naturally inspired. At times, they can look at naturalness claims with skepticism and base their decision on the product’s efficacy rather than the natural ingredients,” Aslanian said.
To add to this dilemma, a number of certification bodies put their seal on cosmetics and personal care products on sale throughout North America, with certifications such as USDA NOP and NSF and Soil Association focusing on formulation, while The Leaping Bunny focuses on cruelty free claims.
Consumers getting more savvy
But increasingly consumers are spending more time doing their homework and thanks to some increasingly sophisticated tool, they are getting much more accustomed to the natural and organic landscape, which in turn is maker it harder for naturally-inspired brands to pass as anything else.
“There is an abundance of information available to the consumer today; with the click of a button, they are able to conduct thorough research on the product by reading customer reviews and research its ingredients,” said Aslanian.
“In addition, they are able to search for the brand at specific natural retailers, such as Credo Beauty, which promises customers clean, natural products.”
So what claims really work?
Considering the overcrowding and resulting confusion in this space, it is only logical that making marketing and brand claims as simple and as succinct as possible is the ultimate way of connecting with the consumer.
Aslanian believes that the most effective labeling and marketing claims include, all natural, 100% natural, and ingredient or formulations that include specific plants, vegetables, and fruit extracts.
Regardless of whether or not manufacturers can genuinely back these claims up, this is what often lead consumers to think that they are buying a truly natural product.
What about the environment?
Environmental awareness is growing, particularly amongst the all-important millennials, who invariably have the highest spend on cosmetic and personal care products overall, so this is playing an increasingly important part in this space.
“Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of our environment and the impact that we, as individuals, have on it,” said Aslanian.
“In fact, they increasingly opt for sustainable, environmentally friendly packaging. However, sustainable packaging does not necessarily mean unattractive. We continue to see attractive, visually appealing packaging for natural brands.”
Likewise, Aslanian point out that cruelty-free and sustainable sourcing are of significant importance to many consumers, and in some instances can even have a bigger influence than the naturalness of the formulation.
How will the category look in the future?
The natural category is increasingly being shaped by significant leaps in formulation technology, which is helping to take many natural products to the next level, especially when it comes to efficacy.
But beyond that, consumers are going to continue to get even more savvy about both the environment and the type of natural products they want to see, while brands are expected to raise the bar in response.
“Consumers will become more and more familiar with the synthetic ingredients that can be considered as 'harmful' and begin differentiating between truly natural versus natural-inspired brands,” said Aslanian.
“Marketers will also make this process easier for consumers. Truly natural marketers will begin to put on their packaging the percentage of ingredients that are natural to help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions.”
For more information on Kline Group's research in the natural and organic category, please reference its Natural Personal Care Global Series report .