Committed consumerism

avtu_14What was originally a niche category has taken over the beauty aisles in almost every developed market, and industry insiders predict that natural and organic cosmetics will hold up well in 2009 even if they do not enjoy the dramatic sales growth of previous years. Consumers are beginning to make long-term, realistic changes to their lifestyle. They feel a huge responsibility not only to the planet but to themselves … They now include their own personal health as a microcosm and reflection of the health of the planet, stated the Natural Marketing Institute’s annual report. The mass consumption society as we knew it is over.

But this can be good news for the natural market. Increasingly, consumers’ values are resonating with companies that are able to fuse both a personal and planetary perspective into their brand. Aveda has found that 68% of consumers will remain loyal to a company that has a social and environmental commitment. This is a growing trend in which consumers are “voting with their dollars,” and supporting brands whose values resonate with their own.

With that, consumers are learning to read product labels to avoid greenwashing words like “natural” and “planet friendly” that aren’t backed up by standards or third-organizations. As like-minded groups come together, there is an attempt to cut through the confusion, and the focus of the media on greenwashing has forced the brands to become more open in their claims. But as a variety of organizations vie for the right to be the “official seal” of natural beauty, things could get worse instead of better. The recent suit by Dr. Bronner and the Organic Consumers Association is just one attempt to ensure those organizations such as Ecocert aren’t loose with their certifications. The point is to make it easier for the consumers and give products credibility.

The market is driven by a perfect storm of consumers, non-profits, industry, media and government, all of whom demand more truly natural and environmentally sustainable products. And while the industry can’t anticipate a continuation of the dramatic growth rates of recent years, opportunities still remain.

Retailers who educate consumers and provide strong assortment will come out on top. But strong assortment does not mean aisles and aisles of product but choice among the best-performing, authentic brands. Read more in the March 2009 issue of Global Cosmetic Industry magazine: Breaking Barriers: Retail’s Natural (R)evolution


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