For years now, there’s been a growing trend among the beauty and personal care market for “natural” products – those that emphasize ingredients free of unnecessary chemicals, as well as utilizing sustainable packaging, for example. Going into 2020, this remained largely true. According to a 2020 Euromonitor International study of more than 21.5 million beauty and personal care products, more than 700,000 featured “natural” as their top claim.
As is the case with any trend, consumers’ interest in natural products has shifted in several key ways that brands in this space must recognize. “Natural” alone doesn’t carry the weight it used to, and in some cases, can be more a liability than a differentiator. Fortunately, there are several strategies brands can employ to deliver products aligned with their customers’ needs, specifically those that prioritize safety, transparency and ethical sourcing.
How Has “Natural” as a Product Differentiator Changed in the Beauty and Personal Care Space?
Crowded, questionable marketplace
In an effort to satisfy consumer interests, brands increasingly developed and promoted “natural” products, which subsequently, has led to an overcrowded marketplace. When seemingly all products are natural, it can both dilute the meaning behind this claim and raise skepticism among buyers that these claims are valid.
More knowledgeable consumers
As the market’s become saturated with natural products, consumers have grown more astute in discerning them. As they’ve found, not all are created equal, and some aren’t actually good for the environment – at least no more so compared to other products. Additionally, their values have shifted as well beyond wanting something “green and natural.”
Are the ingredients ethically sourced? Is any of the product wasted because of ineffective dispensing? How have their claims been certified or validated? These are among the questions consumers are now asking when evaluating natural and eco-friendly products.
Health and safety concerns stemming from COVID-19
Like virtually everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted buyer behavior in this space as well. Specifically, it has reinforced the demand for safety, sustainability and transparency of ingredients – already a foundational aspect of conscious beauty. Therefore, product claims with a strong association to health, therapeutics and overall wellness can also be expected to rise up the ranks.
How Brands Can Stay Ahead of this Shift in the Marketplace
Employ clear certifications for health and sustainability claims
Clear, tangible symbols indicating a product’s natural and health claims go a long way in helping brands differentiate themselves to consumers, who are already trained to look for symbols and icons on packaging, such as the Cruelty Free symbol to show a product has not been tested on animals. This is especially true for Gen Z and Millennial buyers who are much more native online shoppers and more automatically look for these things. Additionally, these certification logos benefit brands as well, namely in demonstrating formula superiority and brand professionalism.
Conversely, a lack of certification can raise concern among consumers. Absent of a formal certification designation, just 50.5% of global consumers considered ‘natural’ a trustworthy label descriptor – down from 55.5% in 2017.
Consider airless packaging options
Beyond adding certification logos to packaging, how beauty and personal care products are designed also is critical in this evolving market, as this can be one of the most persuasive elements in validating a product’s health and natural claims. One such design is airless packaging, which help improve formula integrity and product evacuation.
In addition to offering health and beauty products via airless packaging, it’s important to articulate this design and its benefits to consumers for a number of reasons, including:
- Consumers care about the ingredients more than ever before, as they associate higher quality ingredients with superior product formulas and dispensing technologies.
- Product oxidation (i.e., deterioration of the formula) is a big consumer concern, especially when it comes to natural formulas. They expect it to remain fresh from its development to final use, which airless packaging helps ensure.
- The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has heightened consumers around hygiene and product protection. Similar to product oxidation, airless dispensing helps prevent formula contamination.
- Airless dispensing offers much higher evacuation rates, addressing a chief concern among consumers – wasted product.
It’s no surprise the current pandemic has caused significant shifts in consumer concerns among health and personal care products. Emphasizing and validating how product formulas are safe, natural and ethically sourced is now critical. A simple “natural” claim without any sort of certification or explanation is likely to draw more scepticism than interest. Fortunately, there are ways in which brands can evolve their product development and packaging strategies to remain relevant and top of mind among their core consumers.
Image: Aline Roland, Director of Beauty Marketing