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Macro Trend Report: the Changing Face of Sustainability in Personal Care

by Kristen Walker, Mintel

As consumer concern regarding the care and preservation of the environment gains momentum, more manufacturers are feeling the pressure to “go green” and introduce sustainable products, practices and services. From breakfast cereal to cleaning products, no sector of the consumer products industry is immune from the pressure to innovate with eco-friendly formulations. One segment that has seen much activity in sustainable formulations is personal care. With a long history of animal testing, synthetic ingredient usage and wasteful plastic packaging, many manufacturers in this sector have worked overtime to create products that are healthier for the planet, animals and consumers. In fact, global personal care products making ethical and environmental claims have been introduced at an exponential rate in recent years, increasing more than 1000% since 2005, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database.

Authenticity is Key
Natural and organic ingredients are key factors in creating sustainable products. As demand for these ingredients grows, marketers have introduced a bevy of new products that promise consumers a more natural approach to personal care. However, there exists a distinct difference between products that are made of truly natural ingredients and those that simply add natural components to synthetic formulations. Currently there are no standard regulations for labeling products as “natural” in the US, and the term is therefore broadly used and frequently abused.* More consumers are becoming aware that all products claiming to be natural are not created equally, leading some manufacturers to go above and beyond labeling to gain consumer trust.

The Keihl’s brand has long been a leader in natural product introductions, and recently the brand has teamed with celebrity environmentalist Brad Pitt to extend the authenticity of its products and practices. In France, Kiehl's, in partnership with Brad Pitt for JPF Eco Systems, has launched a biodegradable Aloe Vera Body Cleanser. All of the profits from the product benefit JPF Eco Systems, a charity that supports global environmental initiatives. The gel also extends the environmental theme to the packaging, which has been created for the lowest possible impact on the environment.

Beyond environmental positioning, a growing number of companies are independently seeking out sustainable certifications to better substantiate their natural clout and green credentials. In the United States, for example, Ikove Organic Açaí Chocolate Facial Exfoliate is an all natural fair trade-certified product. This antioxidant-rich facial exfoliant eliminates impurities and dead skin cells to reveal new skin and illuminate the complexion. This vegan premium product has been tested and passed by the US Department of Agriculture and has not been tested on animals.

Packaging Matters
Sustainability in personal care goes beyond formulation and positioning, and packaging has been a primary focus in the green movement. Heavy product packaging requires more fuel to transport and takes up considerable space in landfills when discarded. Some of the most noteworthy packaging innovations have included products that repurpose packaging after use, packaging made from post-consumer recycled materials and products that use lighter and more pliable containers.

Consider Pure & Natural’s US introduction of its Cleansing Rosemary and Mint Soap. This product is not only formulated with eco-friendly substances, but its packaging is embedded with flower seeds that can be planted once the soap has been removed. This container is also made of 100% post-consumer recycled packaging materials. Also in the United States, Cargo PlantLove Botanical Lipstick boasts a biodegradable tube, and the packaging is also embedded with seeds that are ready to be planted in the ground after the lipstick is removed.

Another area of personal care packaging that has seen much activity recently is the use of lightweight plastic pouches. These products promote eco-friendly efforts by drastically reducing packaging waste and weight. In Italy, for example, Coop Revitalizing Shower Gel Refill is made with purifying marine salts and refreshing mint. The dermatologically tested shower gel is available in a 1000 mL refill pouch that reduces plastic use by 70%.

With the vast proliferation of personal care products making claims relating to ethical and ecologically friendly practices, consumers are likely to become ever more skeptical about what truly constitutes a “green” product. In a world gone green, authenticity is becoming increasingly important, and as the green movement progresses, manufacturers are likely to put more emphasis on the traceability and transparency of product origin, processing and packaging.

Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) tracks new product launches, trends and innovations internationally. For more information, click here or call 1-312-932-0600.

*Read more on this issue from the FMA's fall seminar on green fragrances.

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