One of the most contested issues in the natural & organic cosmetics industry is the role of standards. At in-cosmetics Barcelona, I will be moderating a panel discussion on this topic; the panellists will comprise representatives from the leading certification agencies.
To give some background to the importance of certification, I would like to share my experiences from my recent trip to California…
After hosting our sustainability summit at the end of January, I took a day off to enjoy the sights of Union Square in San Francisco. My casual walk on the shopping streets took an unexpected turn when I saw a beauty retailer with ‘Organic’ on the shop signage. Immediately, I walked to the shop and was invited in by one of the shop staff.
In typical American sales custom, I was told to sit down and try on the luxurious skin products they had to offer. I asked the sales staff about the new ‘organic skincare’ range; what products were they and what made them organic? I did not get a reply, but the person rubbed a scrub on my hand and started exfoliating. My hand was then washed with water and then a cream was gently rubbed onto the skin. I was then asked if my skin felt soft? It felt incredibly smooth, however my questions remained unanswered.
I was then introduced to this luxurious box of skin care products, with the sales person telling me how wonderful the products were. I decided to let the person finish his sales pitch before asking again. I had now been in the shop for almost 20 minutes and my initial curiosity remained: what was organic about the products?
After realising his sales pitch was getting nowhere, the staff member tried answering my question. He took out the product leaflets and started looking for the organic ingredients on the INCI list. The formulation was littered with synthetic chemicals typically not present in natural/organic skin care products. Some of the ingredients were natural, one was even derived from plant cell technology, however none were stated as organic. I then asked why none of the ingredients were organic? The reply was astounding: he pointed to the natural ingredients and said they were organic! I asked why they were not stated as such on the label. He replied, natural was the same as organic since they were both from plant sources. He even gave me a certificate of authenticity for the natural ingredients. By no surprise, the certificate was prepared by the brand!
The term ‘organic’ was used as a marketing ploy by the retailer to promote its high-end skin care products. None of the ingredients were organic, however the retailer was getting away with it since the natural and organic terms are not regulated in the USA. Most consumers would probably not understand the differences between natural and organic ingredients, and many would be oblivious to voluntary logos and symbols.
Standards are important as they differentiate legitimate natural & organic personal care products from those making false marketing claims. With so much confusion about natural / organic, it is argued that standards are needed to clear up this confusion. However, adoption rates remain small and the number of standards is rising. These are some of the issues that will be discussed at the in-cosmetics Panel Discussion on 14 April. We hope to see you there!
Amarjit Sahota, CEO, Organic Monitor, will moderate a roundtable discussion on the developments and challenges in organic and natural cosmetic standards and certifications at in-cosmetics on Tuesday 14 April 2015, 11:15 – 12:00 Marketing Trends Theatre