The Natural Beauty Revolution

22 Jun 2012|Added Value

Natural and organic cosmetics are booming. According to Kline Group*, these segments are growing at twice the rate of classic cosmetics (+10% per annum vs +4% total H&B) in the US and Europe, faster still in Asia and will continue to do so through 2016.  But who are these natural consumers and how can brands effectively market to them?  Leslie Pascaud and Camilla Guimard from AV France investigate.

In 1962 Rachel Carson published The Silent Spring, a seminal book lamenting the uncontrolled use of pesticides. By suggesting a spring with no bird song, Ms. Carson inadvertently launched the environmental movement in the US. The 40 years that followed did little to amplify concern, and it was not until the millennium, that a new generation of Moms started to put healthy eating under the microscope. They began reading labels, buying more natural and organic options and considering the interrelationship between what we eat and the state of our planet. Brands like M&S in the UK, Whole Foods in the US and Co-op in Switzerland responded in kind with offers of fairly traded, sustainably fished, animal friendly, non-GMO, and environmentally responsible products.

From food to beauty
In 2007, at our Branding for Good conference, we predicted that the natural and ethical food movement was soon to move to other categories, particularly that of hygiene and beauty. That same year, REACh legislation was put in place in Europe. A far-reaching piece of legislation that required the registration of over 30,000 chemicals and put the burden of proof for safety on suppliers. In parallel, Greenpeace and other NGO’s took up the cause, putting pressure on companies to act. The Cosmetox guide, the Suzuki Foundation warnings about the ‘Dirty Dozen’, and a host of books and articles have brought the dangers of “toxic beauty” to consumers’ attention.

A surprisingly silent revolution
The cosmetics industry today is in the process of a silent transformation. Many of the products on shelf have been reformulated and many others are soon to change. So why is there so little noise about an issue that has such a profound effect? We think there’s at least two good reasons: (1) Fear of Greenwashing: it’s hard to make natural claims about products that aren’t entirely natural .
(2) Negative messaging: talking about all the nasty molecules that have been taken out of products isn’t particularly glamorous or motivating for consumers.

Thus many brands are tip-toeing around the issues. Nevertheless, they are making progress and are being compelled to action by consumer demand.

A growth Market
Natural and organic cosmetics are booming. According to Kline Group*, these segments are growing at twice the rate of classic cosmetics (+10% per annum vs +4% total H&B) in the US and Europe, faster still in Asia and will continue to do so through 2016. The natural cosmetics segment in particular has exploded, over 80% in the past 3 years in France alone.

But who are these natural cosmetic consumers?
We asked our sister company, Kantar World Panel, to take a look & compare what people say vs buy. Their Greenprint study** identified 6 types of consumer.


Two of these, the Pioneers and the Adopters, together represent 38% of the French population and buy 55% of the organic products sold in hygiene and beauty. It comes as no surprise that Pioneers, the more militant of the two targets, are buying organic. But the fact there is a strong showing of Adopters in the organic segment is quite interesting as their motivations are based less on conviction and more on the desire to project a certain green image. The data shows that Adopters are more influenced by media pressure and are particularly attracted to environmental packaging – a very visual projection of eco-friendliness. Importantly, they also have a high level of confidence in brands ; they spend more than average on H&B and are also more willing to pay more for organic. These consumers are obviously a very attractive target for brands who want to extend their offers into more natural territory.

Next question: what natural territory should cosmetic brands try to occupy?
Our cultural insight specialists mapped the natural cosmetics market into 4 quadrants depending on the level of human intervention and the level of real or perceived product intensity. If we take the French market as an example, the majority of natural cosmetic products congregate in the bottom left hand quadrant: they are considered to be authentic, simple, pure and as close as possible to “as nature intended”. But they are also, as a result, struggling to differentiate.

What are the challenges tomorrow’s natural cosmetic brands face?
As competition intensifies and the offer in natural cosmetics grows, brands will need to be more creative with their products, their brand positionings and their communications. They will increasingly seek to break category norms, to express unique natural personalities and project their vision of nature in a way that is aspirational.

A historically successful organic brand, Weleda is now finding itself challenged by newcomers. 56% of value comes from Pioneers & Adopters (their historical target) and they over-index against 50+ buyers, however they’ve seen little or no growth in the last 2 years. Reinforcement of the brand’s heritage is necessary but not sufficient; we think they need to make their brand more culturally relevant with a wider audience.

A late comer in the natural category, Nivea has had immediate success with Pure & Natural. In 18 months, Nivea Pure & Natural has become one of the top 3 brands in the Natural Health & Beauty segment. Whilst the launch has helped Nivea to reinforce its positioning in the simple & pure territory, it does raise questions about naturalness for the core range. We think Nivea’s challenge now is to manage their portfolio efficiently while finding a new strategy to recruit more consumers.

Nuxe has over the years built a success story based on its unique take on natural beauty: emphasizing hedonism and femininity. Rather than anchoring their brand in classic green codes, Nuxe has used naturalness as a stepping stone to the ultimate goal of sensual beauty, an approach that is highly appealing to women.

Could Ushuaia Bio have struck upon a new take on organic? A great success story, Ushuaia Bio is the number one organic brand in H&B in France. We think the Ushuaia is successfully injecting sensory benefits into an organic offer that, up until now, has been rather timid with regard to fragrance and sensations.

There are many ways to imagine cosmetics brands extending their natural footprint in the years to come. The food industry provides some interesting inspiration on how to celebrate the pleasures of nature. One interesting route is to celebrate all positive benefits of hero natural ingredients. Burt’s Bees GUD  and Yes to cosmetics have done a nice job in this area. Another opportunity lies in leveraging naturalness to boost perceived product efficacy. Some of the new launches from Garnier and Yves Rocher are moving in this direction. But we suggest looking further East at brands like Herborist to see how the power of ancient traditional remedies can be boosted by today’s technology.

Finding the right territory for a given brand isn’t easy. But there is no doubt that the size of the natural cosmetic prize makes the work worth the effort.


If you’d like to find out more about anything you’ve read, please contact the authors.

Written by Leslie Pascaud, Director Added Value France or Camilla Guimard, Cultural Insight Specialist Added Value France.

* Kline’s Global Natural Care Market Report
** Kantar Worldpanel Greenprint Study 2011, segmented 20,000 French panelists according to declared environmental attitudes and behaviours.

Image source: Thinkstock /  Item number:177347789 / Photographer: khorzhevska

prev next