This market has traditionally been driven by quality, which means that its consumers are willing to pay significantly more for their personal care products. In line with this, the consumers are also more reactive to issues relating to both safety and efficacy.
Growth in the international naturals market has largely been driven by consumers' perceptions that natural-based products present a lower risks of potential toxins and are also more less likely to trigger allergic reactions.
In France in particular the growth of the naturals market was given a significant boost by a television documentary that highlighted the possible dangers of cosmetic ingredients such as parabens.
According to industry information provider Organic Monitor, although many industry bodies distanced themselves from the television programme's claims, it nevertheless has continued to have a significant impact on consumer spend patterns.
Organics Monitor also claims that pressure groups and NGOs are stimulating consumer demand by raising awareness of the possible dangers of chemicals in personal care products, with Greenpeace distributing 50,000 leaflets of its Cosmetox Guide on Mother's Day last year.
Further more French consumer groups have also heavily lobbied against spurious claims made by manufacturers of a number of cosmetic and toiletry products, which recently resulted in the Advertising Regulation Board implementing tighter guidelines last month.
All of this has led to a surge in consumer demand for natural cosmetics, which has helped to to increase sales by 40 per cent in 2005. Organic Monitor believes that this growth is also likely to continue for the duration of 2006.
Currently the French market for natural cosmetic and toiletry products is estimated to represent approximately 1 per cent of a total market valued at €10bn.
"Although the French market has been relatively slow to develop, its growth has been significant in recent months," commented Amarjit Sahota, director of Organic Monitor.
"In Europe the markets for natural cosmetic and toiletry products in Italy and Germany are more developed, representing around 2 per cent of the total market value. But with the rapid growth of the market in France, it should soon reach the same kind of levels," Sahota added.
Likewise Organic Monitor points out that Retailers have increased shelf-space for natural cosmetics to meet surging consumer demand and that some natural food retailers have reported that the share of natural cosmetic sales increased from 5 per cent to 15 per cent in the past year.
This market activity is also helping to attract the attentions of raw material suppliers, with French certification body Ecocert currently receiving record levels of enquiries on natural and organic cosmetic products.
Ecocert says the number of licensees has almost doubled in 2005 and is projected to reach 200 this year, with interest said to be coming from all corners of the globe.
Likewise Organic Monitor says that Cosmebio, the association of French natural and organic cosmetic companies, is reporting similar growth with new members joining every month. The association is launching a new website to educate consumers on natural cosmetics and the Cosmebio logos.
Leading French producer Sanoflore says that it is expecting sales of natural products to double this year, while high growth has also led to Swiss company Weleda to open its first French retail outlet in France a few weeks ago and is planning a global retail role out later in the future.
France has long been considered a European powerhouse for cosmetics and the home of many of the world's leading luxury brands, suggesting that the foundations could now be in place for it to become a leading player in the international naturals market.