Increasing consumer understanding is Unilever’s natural hair care goal


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Increasing consumer understanding is Unilever’s natural hair care goal
More needs to be done to increase consumer understanding of natural hair care products and better communication is the way to do this according to consumer goods giant Unilever.

Speaking to Cosmetics Design at the HairCare Ingredients 2012 virtual event, R&D director Hair Europe for Unilever, Inge Terpstra explained that the consumer needs to be convinced of the benefits of a natural product in order to increase demand.

Natural and organic is one of the key trends driving the hair sector at present and Terpstra warned that manufacturers must ensure they communicate these benefits correctly.

Claim confusion

“We’ve taken natural very seriously with some of our brands, implementing natural formulations and taking into account cost and availability,”​ she explained.

“Only to find that consumers did not always recognise that the product was more natural than another product that makes ‘naturally inspired’ claims.”

Terpstra reiterated the difficulty in communicating that a product is natural and that most people can get confused over ‘naturally inspired’ claims.

This is communicated through perceived nature in advertising, so the consumer therefore concludes the product is therefore natural, regardless of the product formulation and the actual natural content included.

“If a product contains 0.01 per cent natural extract – there is nothing wrong with it, as we do this with some of our brands – but consumers do not always recognise the difference. It is not easy to get across that a product is more natural,”​ continued Terpstra.

Question of added value

Ultimately, the challenge facing manufacturers is that the consumer may question the added value of a more natural product.

“In the end, the consumer may say ‘Ok this product is more natural, so what? Is it more sustainable? Is it environmentally friendly?’ and ultimately ‘do I want to pay more for that?’”​ added the Unilever expert.

Cost then becomes a big factor, as natural formulations are significantly more expensive, having a knock-on effect on the RRP, causing the consumer to ask these questions.

Terpstra explains that in order to be able to move the market into a green position manufacturers need to make sure the consumer angle is found and communicated: it is important to explain the benefits to the consumer.

“Natural oils seem to have done this and are the hot trend in hair care right now, as they are easily attainable and relatively cost effective, thus the benefits can be communicated without confusion or a high price to the consumer – hitting both angles,”​ concluded Terpstra.

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