The Natural Ingredients Market

November 14, 2005

While mainstream personal care sales lag, natural-based products continue to make leaps forward.

In recent years, natural products have grown from a niche segment to one of the fastest-growing categories in personal care, according to marketing research companies.

In fact, although health and beauty care sales in grocery and drug stores (excluding Wal-Mart) declined 1.2% in 2002 according to Information Resources Inc., Chicago, natural personal care (NPC) grew 10% to $4.1 billion in 2002, according to executives for the Nutrition Business Journal.

NPC outperformed other natural product segments, such as functional foods, which grew 7-8%, and supplements, which increased 3-4%, according to preliminary NBJ estimates for 2002.

From Farm to Pharmacy, and Beyond
According to these numbers, natural personal care is now outpacing many other natural product categories in comparative growth—ironic, considering that these categories were personal care’s forerunners.

“The growth in the natural personal care market is reflective of continued growth in the wider natural foods market,” said Ed Matson of Carrubba Inc., Milford, CT.

Natural ingredients were first investigated for their possible pharmaceutical uses; following scientific validation of various natural ingredients, the focus then moved to personal care, according to industry suppliers.

“The growth of the natural personal care market will continue based on the continued growth we see in the nutraceutical market,” said Anthony Ansaldi, marketing director, Presperse Inc., Somerset, NJ. “If we review the trends in both markets, we see that many times, new naturals coming into the personal care market originated in the nutraceutical market.”

Mr. Ansaldi added that “growth in nutraceutical and alternative therapies has greatly increased consumer awareness about the benefits of naturals, and this can only help increase usage in cosmetics.”

Patricia Singh, senior director of sales, cosmetic division, Bio-Botanica, Hauppauge, NY, agreed, “Recent scientific studies have validated the beneficial effects of botanicals for more than just pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products. As a result, we have witnessed greater interest and increased growth of botanicals for a variety of applications in the personal care and cosmetic categories, ranging from hair and nail care products to skin lighteners, cosmetics and bath and body formulations.”

This scientific support boosts consumers’ confidence in natural finished products, a trend that has been building strength for years. “An overwhelming, positive trend toward healthier lifestyles is sweeping today’s consumer marketplace,” said Leanne Fawcett, sales executive, Natunola Health, Winchester, Ontario. “More and more, cosmetic and personal care consumers demand all-natural ingredients to complement their concerns for personal health and wellness.”

To that end, the company provides vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, castor and rice bran in various preparations. Though the oils themselves have been used for quite some time, Natunola, like other natural ingredient manufacturers, is seeking new uses for them. For instance, “We offer a unique natural alternative to (petroleum-derived) ingredients,” Ms. Fawcett said.

Such specific uses for fractions of long-used extracts and oils would seem to be the wave of the future in the natural personal care market, where consumers are demanding more from products while maintaining that they want as natural a product as possible.

Smarter Shoppers
At one time, including a few herbs on the label was enough to convince consumers to make the purchase. However, shoppers have become ever more savvy and now demand more than a passing mention of botanical extracts or vegetable oils.

According to industry experts contacted by Happi, “dusting”—adding just enough of an ingredient to list it on the label, but not enough to have a perceivable benefit—was a longstanding problem in the natural products industry. Today, reputable marketers are working to offset that negative association in a variety of ways.

Bio-Botanica “is unique in the industry because botanicals have been our only business and focus,” said Dorie Greenblatt, director of marketing. “We are technical experts in working with them for over three decades. Our manufacturing facilities are FDA-registered and pharmaceutically licensed, following strict cGMP and SOP standards. This means that we comply with the most stringent manufacturing standards found in both the natural and pharmaceutical industries.”

Executives at Croda, Parsippany, NJ, are strict with their botanical ingredients too. “Organic certification is becoming an important issue in the natural products market,” pointed out Barbara Woldin of the company. As a result, many of the company’s natural ingredients are certified by Ecocert, an inspection and certification body that can verify the conformity of organic products against the organic regulations of Europe, Japan or the U.S.

Mike Hooper, research and development director, Body Blue Inc., Mississauga, Ontario, said that organic certification could become a key driver for natural personal care product growth in the near future.

But in the meantime, “while awaiting the implementation of regulations for the use of ‘certified organic’ materials in personal products, market leaders are currently using the food regulations as guidelines,” Mr. Hooper said. “Therefore, for products containing greater than 70% ‘certified organic’ materials, companies are able to claim the actual percentage content.”

Some natural products, such as aloe vera and lavender, have been studied for years and provide effects that are generally accepted by both the public and the scientific community as beneficial. Others are currently being studied for potential benefits. Still others with traditional-use backgrounds are studied scientifically to determine which effects are verifiable and can be applied to today’s finished products in order to better support claims.

Far and Wide
On the opposite side of traditionally-used extracts (such as aloe vera, chamomile and lavender) are new botanicals with new uses.

How far are natural ingredient manufacturers willing to go to find a unique new ingredient?

To the ends of the earth, it would seem. Presperse represents a number of companies that offer natural ingredients; one, Bioland Ltd., is currently farming the riches of the sea for novel new offerings. So is Secma Biotechnologies Marines.

Presperse also offers extracts from the arctic, which until now has remained a relatively untapped area for personal care product resources.

Centerchem, Norwalk, CT, is also looking to the sea for inspiration. The Pronaleen Sports Skin Re-energizer from Provital SA is a naturally-derived, standardized natural fraction of marine algae “whose function is to restore by topical application the electrolytes that are lost through perspiration from exercise,” said Michael Boyar, executive vice president, Centerchem.

And Croda delved the Amazon rainforest for its Crodamazon line, which includes Cupuaçú, a tropical butter similar to shea butter; Buriti, a lipid emollient extracted from Mauritia flexuosa, a palm-like Brazillian tree and Maracujá, an emollient oil harvested from passionflower seeds.

Sabinsa’s Cosmoperine is derived from the plant Piper nigrum (pepper).

“The Crodamazon line represents Croda’s commitment to develop plant-derived products with a policy toward preserving the rainforest’s natural resources, while promoting the economic development of the regions involved in the venture,” said Ms. Woldin. This double benefit should please consumers who are both health-conscious and ecologically aware.

Beraca Ingredients, São Paulo, Brazil, is another company that offers novel natural ingredients obtained from the Amazon region. The company’s offerings include Brazil nut oil (rich in oleic acids and vitamins), Copaiba oil (for lotions, ant-inflammatory creams and blemish treatments), Buriti oil (for after-sun products and soaps), Passion Fruit oil (for creams, lotions and other skin care products) and many other naturally-derived products.

To obtain these botanicals from the Amazon, Beraca Ingredients has purchase commitments with more than 2,500 families throughout the region, company executives said.

According to Beraca, these commitments ensure that the development of the Amazon region does not come at the expense of the people in the region.

Some Natural Questions
When it comes to natural ingredients, the pluses are obvious—botanicals are generally viewed (though often erroneously) as more gentle than their synthetic counterparts, they’re often based on long-standing tradition and their images of health, growth and bounty are comforting to today’s consumer.

Unfortunately, natural products have their share of drawbacks as well. One difficulty lies in the potential lack of conformity; it’s difficult to gauge that a given batch of extract will contain exact percentages of active material.

“Natural ingredients are usually variable in quality and consistency,” pointed out Mr. Hooper of Body Blue. “Natural materials often contain undesirable components that would likely be excluded from a synthetic equivalent. In addition, natural materials are more susceptible to oxidation and contamination by bacteria.”

Therein lies the dilemma of today’s natural ingredients manufacturer or marketer. “True naturals contain no additives, so technically, a true natural is supplied without antioxidants or preservatives,” explained Ms. Woldin of Croda. “This is okay in the raw material as long as normal GMPs are observed. However, care in formulating must be exercised to protect the final user during consumption.”

The obvious answer would be a natural preservative—something that is elusive in the current market, at least as far as claims with actual anti bacterial or microbial percentages are concerned. However, natural preservatives are warranting deeper investigation these days, and though claims may still be in the future, anecdotal evidence and isolated research is available.

The Arctic offers more than meets the eye, according to Presperse executives. The company offers botanicals from the region.

Shaheen Majeed, executive assistant to the chief executive officer, Sabinsa Corp., Piscataway, NJ, said, “The main concerns (in creating natural ingredients) are ingredient quality, shelf life and safety. An all-natural product should be formulated with effective natural preservatives and antimicrobial agents.”

According to Mr. Majeed, “We do have a number of natural herbal extracts that are reported to be effective natural preservatives. These function as antioxidants and antimicrobial agents and include tetrahydrocurcuminoids, rosemary extract, rosmarinic acid, olive leaf extract, ursolic acid and turmeric oil, to name a few.”

Safety First
Sabinsa isn’t the only company that is investigating the use of natural antioxidants and antimicrobials. Certain extracts have been used for years on the basis that they may help protect products, and consequently, the consumers themselves.

“There is a lot of demand for natural materials that can be used in place of synthetic materials or materials from a non-renewable source,” said Mr. Hooper of Body Blue. “The use of natural vitamin E as a preservative is a good example.”

Another is Hidrox, from Creagri Inc., an olive extract that contains a very high level of hydroxytyrosol. Hydroxy-tyrosol is a potent natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, according to Body Blue executives.

Executives at Arista added that rosemary oil and cranberry oil can deliver preservative effects.

Mr. Hooper of Body Blue commented that though certain ingredients seem to offer preservative benefits, marketers are still a step or two away from achieving that elusive dream: an all-natural preservative.

“As of today, there is no single natural material that can claim to be the ideal natural preservative,” Mr. Hooper cautioned. “Some materials, such as grapefruit seed extract, are good for particular applications. However, the high usage levels that are required to achieve good performance may have a negative effect on the overall formula.”

Hidrox is an olive extract with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Bio-Botanica executives say they may have the closest answer yet. BioPein, an all-natural preservative, is a proprietary blend of botanical extracts that has been shown to possess anti-microbial properties.

The ingredient was tested against an array of microorganisms with different susceptibilities. These organisms included gram-positive Staphylococcus aureus, gram-negative Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Pseudomonas aeruginonse, acid fast bacterium Mycobacterium smegmatis and the yeast Candida albicans.

For comparison, a variety of well-known synthetic preservatives were used, including phenoxyethanol, phenylethyl alcohol and a combination of methyl- and propylparabens in a ratio of 5:4.

“The minimum inhibitory concentration, the lowest concentration capable of inhibiting the growth of the above-mentioned organisms, was determined for each agent,” explained Ms. Singh of the company. “BioPein, at a level of 0.15-0.3%, had the lowest MIC, demonstrating its activity as a potent inhibitor of various microorganisms.”

The study was conducted at Bio-Botanica’s FDA registered, pharmaceutically-licensed facility.

Lonza recently entered the natural preservatives market with the launch of Natrulon, a patent-pending, naturally-derived preservative platform. It combines highly-effective, naturally-derived ingredients in easy-to-use liquid products.

As natural ingredients are backed by more and more such studies, consumer confidence in natural finished products could grow yet further, and manufacturers may close the gap between “natural” and “preservative,” industry experts insist.

Standing Out
Besides controlled studies and technical data sheets—neither of which the average consumer usually has access to—how can natural ingredient manufacturers provide reassurance that their products stand out from the crowd of natural ingredients currently being marketed?

For one thing, the ingredient must have a perceivable effect. Larry Smith, vice president of International Sourcing Inc. (ISI), Franklin Lakes, NJ, said his company’s extracts have constituents that can produce the effects consumers want.

For example, “Cariciline, a natural gel of ficus carica (fig) fruit, contains a large content of polysaccharides to create moisturizing and refreshing effects,” Mr. Smith said. “And our ARP100 can reduce hair growth.”

Rather than simply adding an extract in a formula for the name, marketers should choose natural ingredient manufacturers who have done their homework. “Formulators should look into the active parts of plant, sea and mineral products,” said Mr. Smith.

Since there are many variables within each plant species depending upon the extraction method and other factors, “manufacturers must be able to scientifically validate raw materials to insure that the quality, purity, potency, consistency and efficacy are in line with customer specifications,” said Ms. Greenblatt of Bio-Botanica. The company’s in-house laboratories and state-of-the-art facilities allow Bio-Botanica to validate ingredient species, detect ingredient adulteration and confirm purity, potency and microbial activity, Ms. Greenblatt said.

“The key to selecting ingredients is making sure that one is in partnership with a credible manufacturer who not only understands botanicals, but how these ingredients can best be used and in what form, depending on product application,” Ms. Greenblatt advised.

In formulating with a natural ingredient, “simply switching from synthetic to natural equivalents is not possible without studying the effect on the finished product stability,” pointed out Mr. Hooper of Body Blue.

However, certain natural ingredients can effectively replace the activity of a synthetic counterpart.

For example, the removal of propylene glycol in deodorant sticks and the reformulation of shampoos to remove sodium lauryl sulphate/sodium laureth sulphates are currently possible, Mr. Hooper said.

Standardization and consistency are also important. According to Mr. Boyar of Centerchem, “Chemical purity and standardization are important considerations when formulating with naturally-derived ingredients. This will help ensure batch-to batch consistency in production.”

The natural color of the extracted material must also be taken into consideration. “Natural ingredients can often vary in color from lot to lot; certainly, much more so than synthetic ingredients,” said Mr. Matson of Carrubba. “This must be considered when formulating.”

In the final analysis, claims and studies notwithstanding, there must be an end benefit that the consumer can feel, see or smell, industry suppliers said. “To be ‘natural’ is not the whole story,” said Mr. Boyar. “There must be a functional reason for the natural ingredient to be formulated into personal care products.” When this is achieved, natural personal care can continue to grow.

Looking for a natural ingredient for your product? A list of new ingredients begins on p. 70 in the print version of Happi.