Notes from China
NATURAL OR ORGANIC…
TO BE OR NOT TO BE?
IRECENTLY went shopping with a friend who wanted to buy some high qual- ity personal care products as gifts
for her pregnant sister. At the counter
of one retailer that specialized in handmade soaps, she asked me if all of the
brightly colored, strongly scented soaps
were safe for pregnant women. Before
I could respond, “Of course!” the sales
clerk proudly declared, “our products are
100% natural and free of chemical additives.” But while reading labels, I noticed some synthetic surfactants in the
formulas and couldn’t help wondering
how knowledgeable this salesperson
was about the products she sold.
This is just one example of how natural claims have been exploited and how
poorly informed consumers are about
these products. Despite confusion surrounding natural products, China’s nat-ural/organic personal care market, just
as in other parts of the world, is growing rapidly and outpacing the overall
beauty industry growth rate, thanks
to consumer concern about safety and
environment. What’s more, with a long
Ally Dai is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of
history of traditional Chinese medicine
(TCM), the core of which is harnessing
nature’s power, Chinese consumers are
very receptive to nature-based messages and therefore are drawn to natural
Everyone Wants In
China’s organic/natural product market
also looks diverse and multidimensional, primarily due to the lack of widely
accepted certifications or labels for such
products. Basically, “nature inspired”
personal care products here can be divided into two major groups—a natural
positioned group and an organic certified one.
Compared to organic certified ones,
the brands in the “natural positioned”
group appear to be more diversified and
appealing to ordinary consumers at a
lower price point. Some of them emphasize plant elements such as freshness
and purity, and sometimes present certain ingredients or products as organic,
but their credentials are not strong
enough to be in the organic category.
Other brands, primarily from local play-ers, are focused on the medical properties of the herbs known in China for
their curative effects. By playing on typical TCM concepts such as balance and
harmony, the latter often blends modern
science with TCM traditions.
Green ingredients are in demand in the Chinese personal care marketplace.