Jessica Rubino is a Deputy Editor at New Hope Natural Media, which monitors the healthy/natural lifestyle industry. For my recent profile of North Cost Organics founder Nathan Morin, I asked her to explain the big gains the natural personal care industry has seen in recent years.
There wasn’t space in the article for all her insights, but if you’re watching this industry, it’s interesting stuff. Here’s an edited version of our email conversation:
Keith Griffith: Your stats show the domestic market for natural personal care products growing 6% in 2011 and 10% in 2012, to a total of $9.5 billion. What’s driving that growth?
Jessica Rubino: There are several key factors that are driving growth of this industry. Heightened consumer awareness [is a big factor.]
Not only are consumers becoming more aware of the what’s in the products they put on their bodies, but large corporations such as Johnson & Johnson have agreed to reformulate their products. The Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, which allows consumers to search any product or ingredient and see its safety ranking, is a tool that many more consumers and even retailers are using to make more informed decisions. Overall, it’s this increased level of transparency, often provided by digital tools such as these, that is helping to inform consumers. Parents of young children have been particularly influential in getting and spreading information in this way.
KG: I’ve heard a lot of skepticism about how well some of these natural products really work—especially deodorant. What kind of hurdle is that for the industry, and how are companies responding to it?
JR: Of course, consumers won’t buy a product—regardless of how natural it is—if it doesn’t work. Manufacturers in or entering the space are investing much more in education and in research, whether of ingredients or finished products, to ensure that they earn a loyal customer and conquer any skepticism about natural beauty products (early options did not work as well). We will continue to see large and small brands investing in green chemistry to continue to improve natural products and bring about more breakthroughs in terms of ingredients and processes. While there are some good natural options out there, I think natural deodorant manufacturers still have opportunities to prove they can work as well as their conventional counterparts. Consumers are very skeptical and need to be assured when it comes to this product type especially.
KG: In March, new legislation was introduced in the US House that would dramatically overhaul FDA regulations of ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products (Chicago’s Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky is a co-sponsor). What does that mean for the industry?
Even if updated cosmetics safety legislation does not pass, companies are starting to think more about their safety and sustainability practices and adjusting their businesses accordingly. As a result, brands are looking to get in on the nontoxic personal care space to stay ahead of legislation.
KG: After fairly flat growth, the US market for natural deodorant went up 8% last year. Is that a fluke or an emerging trend?
JR: I think that we will continue to see growth here—and there’s a lot of opportunity. It seems that many consumers who have transitioned to natural for other personal care products are now starting to focus on deodorant. I often talk with consumers who are looking for a natural deodorant “that actually works.” I think this demand, combined with more product innovation and introductions, bodes well for this category. This is another area where finished product clinicals and strong education efforts—both from the manufacturer and the retailer—will be tremendously beneficial. Consumers need proof—and if brands can bring that, expect strong growth.
KG: What kind of growth?
JR: Because of the above factors, we can expect continued strong growth (high single, low double digits and maybe higher, depending on legislation developments and media exposés) for the natural personal care space. While upcoming numbers may not match deodorant’s 2012 success, this is definitely a category to pay attention to.