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Industry Insight: Will Naturals Take the Back Seat to Safety?

Contact Author Rachel Grabenhofer, Cosmetics & Toiletries and Naira Aslanian, Kline’s Consumer Products Practice
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Read this and other articles similar to this in the July/August 2020 digital edition. . .

Nature has masterminded some of the most incredulous solutions to life. It’s no wonder why ancient healers and modern engineers, scientists and innovators have looked to the natural world for answers. Naturals also provide a connection to origin, and feel familiar and safe, which cosmetic consumers gravitated toward decades ago.

This swung the market pendulum to an extreme such that anything synthetic was considered harsh, potent or “bad,” and anything natural was believed to be gentle, biologically compatible and “good.” And while modern consumers now know that not all naturals are safe and that synthetic ingredients can be safe—and help the performance of products—the demand for naturals has stayed the course through green, wellness, sustainable, organic, “clean,” etc., iterations.

Enter: The COVID-19 pandemic. Human health is at risk. While many natural plant extracts have reported antimicrobial effects, there’s something about a potent, synthetic, “chemical” microbe killer that communicates health safety. Knowing how COVID-19 has turned industry (and life) on its head, Cosmetics & Toiletries wondered if consumers’ attitudes toward naturals may also have changed. Following are recent observations on the naturals market shared by Naira Aslanian (NA), project manager for Kline’s Consumer Products Practice.

C&T: Has the demand for naturals increased, decreased or remained the same since COVID-19?

NA: While we don’t have specific figures just yet, we believe some categories continued to perform well, while others suffered. When safety became a priority, “clean” or natural personal cleansing products were switched for products that are considered “safer” and “more effective” in the minds of consumers. However, with more people spending time at home, “cleaner” and more natural products have been a focus in the wellness category; particularly with women taking “me” time to use naturally derived facial masks and possibly therapeutic bath soaks.

C&T: Is there increased interest in natural extracts with antimicrobial benefits?

NA: There certainly is. At the beginning, I think consumers were slightly confused and maybe panicked. However, with life getting back to normal, consumers will be looking for natural products with antimicrobial properties. [Again], I believe [at the moment] that naturals have been affected negatively.

C&T: Is there any indication that consumers are more open to safe synthetics now because they have greater cleansing/hygiene power?

NA: Absolutely. Just from my observation, naturals are the only detergents left on store shelves.

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