Formulating and selling products with natural
ingredients is easier today than ever before, or is it?
EPENDING ON HOW YOU LOOK AT IT, it has never
been easier—or more complicated—to formulate
and sell products with natural ingredients.
Thanks to greater availability and consistency of functional botanicals and efficacious
extracts—and growing consumer appetites
for all things “green”—creating products with
a natural slant has become, well, second
nature for some companies. As a result, sales
of green products are booming.
According to industry estimates, sales of natural personal
care products topped $7 billion in 2007, making it the shining star of the beauty industry. Naturals are also heating up
in the household product sector. Mainstream marketers are
adding new “green” cleaning products and buying up niche
firms to establish themselves in what could be the next boon
for natural ingredients (see Household Cleaning’s Going
Green, Too, p. 70).
But here’s the catch. With products proliferating, there’s
greater pressure being placed on the marketplace to come
clean. Hardcore natural product firms and related organizations are protecting their turf from (and in some cases,
pointing fingers at) companies they believe are hurting the
natural movement. And to further complicate matters, key
retailers have developed their own standards about “
natural” products, and customers are demanding greater transparency and accountability regarding issues such as sustainability and fair trade.
With natural products and sales skyrocketing, some of the
companies that founded the natural personal care movement
appear to be getting lost in the shuffle. Once happy to quietly grow their eco-businesses by word of mouth, a few firms—
backed by interested organizations—have become more vocal
about the new kids on the block.
According to hardcore natural product companies, there is
hardly anything “natural” about many of the new natural
products on the market, and in fact, their makers are doing
the natural products market—and consumers—a disservice.
By using natural as a marketing tool rather than a corporate
ph ilosophy and formulation methodology, companies are
watering down the meaning of what is truly natural and
causing confusion for consumers.
The Natural Products Association (NPA), the U.S.’s largest
and oldest non-profit organization dedicated to the natural
products industry, is out to set the record straight. In May,
the group unveiled a new voluntary standard and certification program that defines natural and includes a special seal.
At the May press conference, Mike Indursky, chief marketing and strategic officer of Burt’s Bees and chair of NPA’s
Natural Personal Standard and Certification Program, said
companies—even those well intentioned—are misleading
consumers by selling “products that aren’t natural, but are
positioned that way.”
Experts on the panel suggested as little as 20% of the
products in the $7 billion natural personal care products
marketplace are truly natural.
NPA’s new criteria states that the product must be made
up of at least 95% truly natural ingredients or ingredients
that are derived from natural sources and it can’t contain
ingredients with any suspected human health risks or use
processes that significantly or adversely alter the puri-ty/effect of the natural ingredients. In addition, ingredients
must come from a purposeful, renewable/plentiful source
found in nature (flora, fauna, mineral). Non-natural ingredients can be used only when viable natural alternative
ingredients are unavailable and only when there are
absolutely no suspected potential human health risks,
according to NPA. (For a closer look at the standard, see
NPA members on the advisory board are billing the standard as a way to bring clarity and transparency and clear
the “clutter” in the marketplace—not to point fingers or
“slam” synthetic ingredients. But others are taking a more
Family-owned Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, for example,
has filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court against
numerous personal care brands to force them to stop making misleading organic labeling claims. Companies named
in the lawsuit include Jason, Avalon Organics, Kiss My
Face, Juice Organics, Nature’s Gate, Estée Lauder, Stella