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Naturals in the Age of Sustainability

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured, Editor
Posted: March 17, 2009, from the March 2009 issue of P&F magazine.
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In tandem with this development, “free from” products are on the rise, particularly as the perception of synthetic materials in the United States and Europe suffers. In addition, GMO-free and fragrance-free claims are on the rise. The latter is of particular interest in Asia, as the “sensitive skin” movement has focused on potential irritants. The result: increasing fragrance-free launches. According to Mintel numbers cited by Lewis, Europe witnessed nearly 900 fragrance-free product launches between January 2007 and June 2008. In the same period, the US and Asian markets each saw the launch of ~700. Meanwhile, eco-friendly (claiming) product launches during the period totaled just above 900. While many of these eco claims were related to the absence of CFCs, manufacturing processes also played a part. “We’re seeing more biodegradable formulas,” Lewis added. Finally, companies are boosting their green/ethical perception by promoting wildlife and marine conservation in areas in which materials are sourced.

Provenance of Ingredients

Locavores—those that consume products produced locally—are a small but growing factor, Lewis noted. Though the focus is largely on locally grown produce, the concept is slowly spreading to beauty. “The idea is that if you consume things locally … you’re cutting down on carbon emissions and supporting the local economy,” she said. “It’s linked to the green movement, the need for authenticity and [connection] with the earth, and at the same time the need for traceability and trust.” This final point perhaps resonates most strongly for the flavor and fragrance industries. As Lewis pointed out, many UK supermarkets feature images of the farmers that grow featured produce. In this way, she said, “We build trust. We know the source.

“The more that brands provide links to and proof of the provenance of their ingredients, the stronger their competitive positioning will be,” Lewis continued. “We’ve already seen a lot of this over the last several years in the beauty business. While this used to be a way of connecting [consumers] to an exotic place, because of locavores it’s also about connecting to somewhere they are familiar with. In general, consumers are warming to these brands whose ingredients reflect the cultural, social and economic identity of their local region.

“Brands that demonstrate integrity and transparency in their concept, ingredients, production and packaging are the ones that are going to thrive.”