Consumers Set Higher Standards for Personal Care Products

Is the personal hygiene category on a trajectory similar to that of organic food and beverage? Industry pros believe it’s on the same high-growth path.

“Not only are American consumers taking a greater interest in the ingredients being used in their food and beverages, but they’re also beginning to care more about what’s being used in their personal care products,” says Patrick Moorhead, CMO for Chicago-based Label Insight, which provides insights on food label data. “Studies show that shoppers are looking for products with recognizable ingredients, and they’re willing to pay more for items using better-for-you ingredients.”

Jaime Schmidt, co-founder and chief product officer for Schmidt’s Naturals, agrees. The Portland, Ore.-based brand offers natural, chemical-free deodorants and soaps with scents derived from plants and minerals. “Now, natural and better-for-you ingredients are expected from personal care brands—it’s the new industry standard,” says Schmidt.

An Update on Data 

Statistics from Nielsen’s The Future of Beauty report underscore the important role purely natural ingredients are playing in category growth. “In 2017, products featuring natural claims represented 3.1% of the U.S. personal care market, generating $1.3 billion in annual sales last year. That’s up from 2.1% of the market in 2013 (representing sales of $230 million),” Nielsen reports.

In addition, a recent Harris Poll found that 73% of millennial women seek cleaner, all-natural products, while 59% of women over age 35 say buying clean beauty products is important to them, says Nova Covington, founder and CEO of Goddess Garden Organics, a Boulder, Colorado-based manufacturer of sunscreens, sun repair facial care products and essential oils made with organic, plant-based ingredients. “We are also seeing this growing trend,” says Covington, who says her daughter’s allergies inspired her to start her company.

Tackling Transparency 

How important is labeling in consumers’ overall perception of a personal hygiene product? Very, according to the Label Insight Ingredient Confusion Study released in June 2017, which revealed that 94% of surveyed Americans who buy personal care products believe it is at least somewhat important to consider the ingredients when deciding which products to buy.

Perhaps more important for manufacturers, as well as retailers who stock these products: Consumers are hesitant to purchase personal care items when they’re confused about the ingredients. According to the study, 31% do not buy a personal care product when they find ingredients on the label that are confusing; 51% would be willing to switch to another personal care product if they better understood the ingredients in that product; and 48% are willing to pay more for a personal care product that contains ingredients they understand or recognize.

“It’s clear that the personal care space is taking a major turn. Consumers are shopping smarter than ever, educating themselves on the ingredients in the products they use,” says Schmidt. The company “has always been a huge proponent and advocate of the education aspect around natural,” and educates customers via social media channels and its editorial platform called The Natural, she says. “We know that a meaningful brand experience extends far beyond the label.”

Like Schmidt’s, many personal care product companies are answering consumers’ call for transparency.

Castile bar soap

Dr. Bronner’s, a Vista, California-based manufacturer of organic body and hair products such as Pure-Castile soap, is one example. “Independent third-party certification is one of the best safeguards consumers have to ensure products are credible, true to claims, and not green-washed,” says Christina Volgyesi, the company’s director of marketing. “We recently launched NSF-certified toothpaste with organic ingredients, we have a USDA-certified line, and we have our flagship liquid and bar soaps that are certified ‘made with organic oils.’” 

In addition, all certification logos that Dr. Bronner’s products carry appear on the back of each package, and the USDA logo is on the front when it applies, Volgyesi says.

Goddess Garden is another company dedicated to transparency. “To show how dedicated we are to this, we became a Certified B Corp, which is a third-party certifying body that rates companies on their positive impact regarding people and the planet,” Covington says. “There is a rigorous and thorough certification process that examines every area of the business. Certified B Corps are even legally required to consider how their decisions effect their employees, community, consumers and the environment.”

The Message for Food Retailers

While grocery stores historically have not been destination stops for shoppers seeking face and body soaps, toothpaste, sunscreen and other personal care products, the category offers potential for grocery retailers willing to commit to the space, according to industry pros.

“Grocery is increasingly a personal care channel, and the extent to which grocers are leaning in on health and wellness overall aligns with increased focus on that for these type products,” Moorhead says. “As indicated in our Shopper Trends study, consumers are seeking natural, organic and superfood across the store. Retailers who enable consumers to understand that these options exist in personal care and help them navigate toward those products through custom merchandising approaches aligned to health and wellness initiatives will capitalize on the growth.”

Michael Cammarata, Schmidt’s co-founder and CEO, says there is no question that grocers and big-box retailers are incorporating natural personal care items into their product mix, and that consumers are making “the switch to natural.” Consequently, retailers “must listen to their shoppers and their demand and make the necessary changes in offering natural products and products that value transparency,” says Cammarata. “If retailers have yet to dedicate any energy to implementing natural personal care products, I would say, ‘game over.’”

Adding Appeal in the Personal Products Aisle

Convinced that upping your inventory of personal care products is the right step to take? If so, making sure shoppers know you’re committed to the category is key to success. Demonstrations, in-store signage and cross-merchandising displays are just a few of the approaches industry experts recommend.

“Many grocery retailers have permanent demo stations that provide delicious samples for shoppers, but rarely if ever do stores provide similar demos of body care products,” Volgyesi says. “The more in-store education around ingredients with trial and sampling, the better educated consumers will become.”

Covington of Goddess Garden suggests placing signs or displays that highlight the ingredients consumers want. “Retailers can also attract like-minded consumers in other areas of the store by doing cross-store promotions that highlight the natural and organic products they carry,” she says. “If people are shopping for organic produce, these same shoppers might want to know about natural and organic personal care products. For example, the retailer might highlight organic strawberries that are perfect for a picnic, then post a sign reminding them to pack their mineral sunscreen and display the brands they carry.”

Not only does consumers’ embrace of natural and organic personal care products present what Label Insight calls “an opportunity for brands to be more proactive with their transparency efforts,” but it also offers retailers a chance to capture market share in an important category.

As Goddess Garden’s Covington says, “Consumers already want these products. It’s all about bringing awareness to the fact that these options are more readily available.”

Regen Organic

Regenerative Organic Certified Seal Debuts

The Regenerative Organic Alliance, a coalition of organizations and businesses led by Rodale Institute and spearheaded by Dr. Bronner's and Patagonia, recently announced the unveiling of the Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC). 

“Within the next three years or so and beyond, consumers will start seeing this new seal appearing alongside USDA labeling that ensures a commitment to an ecological and ethical system for agricultural production that addresses the problems of factory farming, climate change and economic injustice, locally and globally,” says Christina Volgyesi, Dr. Bronner’s director of marketing.


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