Online Exclusives

Organic, Natural Explained

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | December 30, 2013

Trying to get your product certified as natural or organic? Before wading through the process, Julia Hernandez of The DeWolf Companies (DeWolf Chemical, Glenn Corporation, Tempo Canada) explains how to go about it correctly.

Green is growing. Global organic personal care product sales reached $7.6 billion last year and are expected to grow nearly 10% a year to top $13 billion by 2018, according to sources.
 
Driven by consumers’ concern about their health and safety, as well as their lifestyle, the market has become polarized by specialty naturals, such as Dr. Bronner’s USDA Certified Organic Shikakai Lavender Body Soap, and mainstream naturals, such as Softsoap’s Juice and Pomegranate Mango Infusion, noted Julia Hernandez, VP-marketing, The DeWolf Companies.
 
At the same time, household cleaning product marketers have put greater emphasis on sustainability issues and environmental protection such as packaging reduction and the use of more environmentally-preferable ingredients like aloe vera extract and jojoba oil.
 
No wonder that an Organic Monitor study found that adoption rate of standards is accelerating with about 8% of natural and organic personal care products were certified in 2010, up from 4% in 2007.
 
But what certification program is the right one to choose? Hernandez noted there is a plethora of programs, which leaves consumers confused and marketers and their suppliers scratching their heads.
 
“Adding to the confusion, in consumers’ minds, organic and natural mean the same thing and shoppers don’t really distinguish between what’s out there,” noted Hernandez. “Consumers are confused. What is natural? What is organic?”
 
Even the focus varies by category. For example, while personal care tends to focus on ingredients, there is “a more environmental focus in home care, with an emphasis on sustainability and environmental protection,” said Hernandez.
 
Natural and organic certifications have similar objectives but different definitions of “natural ingredients” and different definitions of chemical and physical processes. Hernandez reviewed the key certification programs, too.
 
A Look at Certification Processes
 
Ecocert: Personal care standards—Requires a minimum of 95% natural origin as a baseline entry; a minimum 5% of certified organic ingredients for the “natural” standard; a minimum of 10% certified organic ingredients for the “natural” standard; a minimum of 10% certified organic ingredients for the “natural and organic” standard. Furthermore, up to 5% of ingredients can be synthetic; limited synthetic preservatives are allowed and water is seen as an ingredient itself.
        
Detergent standards—Ingredient list must show X% of the total ingredients are from natural origin; no minimum organic required for the “natural” standard; a minimum of 10% certified organic ingredients for the “natural made with organic level” standard; minimum 95% of ingredients from natural origin for the “natural made with organic level” standard; up to 5% of ingredients can be synthetic. Forbidden detergent ingredients include fragrances and colorants derived from petrochemicals (even if they are food safe); some cationic surfactants; phosphates and other phosphorous-based ingredients and ethoxylated surfactants (except if they are 100% natural in origin).
 
Cosmos (Cosmetic Organic Standards): Organic and natural. At least 95% of the physically processed agro-ingredients be organically produced for the organic certification; at least 20% of the total product must be organic; by exception, for rinse-off products, non-emulsified aqueous products and by-products with at least 80% minerals or ingredients of minerals origin, with at least 10% of the total product being organic; natural may contain natural/organic ingredients (with no organic minimum) but does not allow active marketing of organic content; limited synthetics are allowed in both organic and natural standards for some product types; excludes minerals in calculation of organic content.
 
NaTrue: Three types—natural, organic and organic with natural portion. 100% certified pure natural and derived natural (natural origin), plus some limited nature identical as a baseline; “organic cosmetics” guarantee at least 95% of the natural ingredients stem from controlled organic production; “natural with organic portion” guarantees at least 70% of the natural ingredients stem from organic production; excludes water and salt in calculation of natural and organic content. Furthermore, only physical processes may be used to obtain natural ingredients; Derived natural refers to ingredients that are found in nature, but chemically modified via a limited number of processes; Nature identical ingredients are 100% identical in composition to their counterparts in nature, but are created in a laboratory to ensure stability, safety and sustainability. Furthermore, nature identical may only be used when natural substances cannot be recovered from natural using reasonable technical efforts.
        
NaTrue limits physical processes including extraction and pH adjustment with listed extraction, purifying agents and pH adjusting agents. Enzymatic and microbiological methods are allowed as long as naturally occurring enzymes and microorganisms are used, and the conditions and processes resemble those occurring in nature; non-chlorine bleaching of natural substances is allowed; chemical reactions include hydrolysis, neutralization, condensation and esterification.
 
Natural Product Association: For personal and household products. The personal care standard requires a minimum of 95% natural ingredients, with the total use of allowed synthetic ingredients may not exceed 5.0% of the total formula; excludes water. For home care, products must be made with at least 95% all natural ingredients (not counting water) with the remainder of ingredients limited to “allowed synthetics” for the natural standard.   
 
According to NPA, natural ingredients are those that come from or are made from a renewable resource found in nature (flora, fauna, mineral), with absolutely no petroleum compounds. A synthetic, non-natural ingredient can be used only when there is not a readily available natural alternative ingredient, and only when there are no suspected health risks. Prohibited ingredients include parabens, SLS, petrolatum/mineral oil/paraffin, chemical sunscreens (avobenzone/oxybenzone), glycols, phthalates, ethoxylated ingredients, ethanolamines (MEA, DEA, TEA), synthetic polymers, formaldehyde donors and synthetic fragrances.
 
US Department of Agriculture: Regulates the term “organic” as it applies to agricultural products through its National Organic Program (NOP). If a cosmetic, body care product or personal care product contains or is made up of agricultural ingredients, and can meet the USDA/NOP organic production, handling, processing and labeling standards, it may be eligible to be certified under the NOP regulations. Once certified, cosmetics and personal care products are eligible for the same organic labeling categories as all other agricultural products.
        
Types include 100% Organic, Organic and Made with Organic. “100% Organic” must contain only organically produced ingredients; “Organic” must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients; “Made with Organic Ingredients” must contain at least 70% organic ingredients.
        
Products with less than 70% organic ingredients cannot use the term “organic” anywhere on the principal display panel. They may identify the specific ingredients that are USDA-certified as being organically produced on the ingredients statement. They cannot display the USDA Organic Seal.
        
A limited amount of synthetics are allowed in the “organic” and “made with organic” standard. Water and salt are excluded in organic content calculations.
 
NSF/ANSI: The only US national standard for personal care products that make organic ingredient claims. It has applications for color cosmetics, and rinse-off and leave-on personal care products.
        
“Contains Organic” requires 70% organic ingredients to comply with the “Contains Organic” standard; limited amounts of synthetics are allowed and excludes water and salt in the calculation of organic content.
        
Hernandez noted that, unlike the NOP, NSF/ANSI 305 allows for some limited chemical processing necessary to create personal care products. Marketers who want to make other organic claims for their personal care products, including “100% Organic,” “Organic” and “Made with Organic,” would still be reviewed under the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) and bear the appropriate organic label.
 
Design for the Environment (DfE): The US Environmental Protection Agency program provides criteria for safer chemical ingredients. The Functional Class Criteria tailors health and environmental endpoints for key distinguishing characteristics to the specific functional class, such as chelating and sequestering agents, fragrances, solvents and surfactants. But if there are no functional class criteria for an ingredient, it is evaluated against the Master Criteria that establishes thresholds for safer ingredients by defining the “low concern” end of the ingredient hazard spectrum, according to Hernandez.
 
Whole Foods: Under the retailer’s Organic Body Care certification, “organic” is required to contain at least 95% organic ingredients and be certified to the USDA National Organic Standards; “Made with Organic” must be certified to the USDA National Organic Standards and include at least 70% organic ingredients and “Contains Organic” must be at least 70% organic and certified to NSF/ANSI 305. No other use of the word “organic” is allowed on the packaging. The retailer added another tier, Premium Body Care, to its program. The moniker includes a list of 400 ingredients that are “unacceptable,” as well as a list of 2,500 ingredients that meet the standards. These ingredients must have higher concentrations of botanically-derived ingredients; ingredients must be as close to nature and as minimally processed as possible; have little environmental impact during manufacturing and when released into the environment; and pose little risk of contaminants, have established safety data and are less likely to cause skin irritation or allergies.
 
Confusing? Absolutely, but Hernandez noted there are a variety of resources available to formulators. For example, Glenn Corporation has printed Green Smart Cards, which provide at a glance, key information on all of the certifications detailed above, plus, provides snapshots of its product portfolio that provides INCIs, trade names, suppliers, source, certifications and other info.
        
“Glenn’s Green Smart Card is here to help,” concluded Hernandez. “It’s filled with baseline criteria and a list of our products that work with each certification.”
 
More info: www.dewolfchem.com
 
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