Healthy glow

Natural personal care products are performing well in the supermarket channel as suppliers expand price points and offer spa-type products.

By Carol Radice

When it comes to clear skin and healthy hair, more supermarket shoppers are aiming to achieve that natural look by using natural personal care products. Experts say the movement toward personal care products without harsh chemicals or a laundry list of unpronounceable ingredients is mirroring the rise of natural food products seen over the past several years.

Manufacturers are responding with expanded offerings at a variety of price points, along with sustainable packaging and production processes.

“Consumers are looking for the same type of benefits that they experience with mainstream products, but are increasingly attracted to the additional healthful qualities natural ingredients offer,” says Jeff Carducci, national sales director for derma e Natural Bodycare, based in Simi Valley, Calif. He adds that that early indicators show the grocery channel is already benefiting from this interest at the expense of other channels. “Natural skin care in the food channel is significantly outperforming the more traditional natural channel,” he says.

Carducci notes that growth is primarily coming from the facial care segment and says items such as cleansers, anti-aging crèmes and acne products are driving much of the interest in the category. “Increasingly, consumers are looking for products that go beyond basic skin care needs toward those that emphasize solutions for problem skin,” says Carducci.

Pete McMullin, vice president, sales and marketing for Salt Lake City, Utah-based Sibu Beauty, says despite the economy, consumer interest in natural personal care is on the rise. “Mainstream consumers are increasingly aware of natural products and what they can do, especially when it comes to products applied to the body,” says McMullin.

During the past few decades, Alida Stevens, founder of Smith & Vandiver, based in Watsonville, Calif., has witnessed an interesting evolution in the type and quality of natural products as well as who they appeal to. “Natural personal care products have gone from being almost cult-like to mainstream in a relatively short period of time,” says Stevens.

According to Stevens, Smith & Vandiver’s products are free of paraben and sulfate and use only essential oils—no synthetic fragrances and no harsh or harmful chemical ingredients. The company also committed to a sustainable lifestyle both with their company headquarters operation and their packaging materials that have a high post-consumer recycled content. When possible they also use suppliers that follow sustainable practices.

Stevens believes the case can be made for grocers to carry more natural personal care products such as skin and body care and notes that the efforts made by the Natural Product Association (NPA) to standardize the term natural should help cut down on confusion at the shelf. “It’s all about offering information and choice. Consumers who don’t find what they want will go elsewhere to shop,” she says.

Consumers are also looking for variety in both product assortment and price, says Doug Hosking, CEO of Los Angeles-based Freeman Beauty. Providing a range of choices, says Hosking, from value-based products, such as those his company offers, to upscale options is critical to attract mainstream consumers to the natural personal care category. “Regard­less of price, with so many suppliers vying for a piece of the business it is important that retailers collaborate with companies that have a long history in the industry.”

Pricing strategies

But just because a product’s price is low doesn’t mean retailers or consumer should expect less, says Hosking. “Interest in our at-home spa-type products has soared in recent years because women may not be able to afford expensive treatments at a spa, but they are willing to spend money on small luxuries,” he says.

While there has been a focus on affordability, higher-priced products can succeed in the grocery channel, according to Kristine Carey, vice president of marketing for Lewisville, Colo.-based MyChelle Dermaceuticals. However, she says it requires a tailored assortment and an educated staff. “Retailers like Wegmans, King Soopers and Giant Eagle have proven to be ideal partners because they have stores that are staffed with aestheticians,” says Carey.

“Consumers are willing to spend the extra money for quality products that perform, but at the same time they want to get the most information possible about the ingredients, the company and, of course, how the products are going to positively impact their lives,” says McMullin of Sibu Beauty.

While natural facial care products are key category drivers, Hosking says women are also indulging in natural foot care products. “The definition of pampering extends from spa treatments to foot care,” he says.

Another trend Hosking sees is products that incorporate innovative ingredients such as superfruits to improve skin health. With that in mind, this year the company introduced its Superfruits collection of face cleansers, scrubs, masks and moisturizers. “The products feature antioxidant-rich natural ingredients to help combat the damaging effects of stress, free radicals and other harmful environmental factors,” he says.

“Today’s shoppers are taking much more time to make informed and educated decisions on what they are using in and on their bodies and how the products they use can affect the environment,” says McMullin.

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