Profiling the Natural/Organic Personal Care User

By Maryellen Molyneaux, Natural Marketing Institute | September 15, 2008

Take a closer look at who’s buying all those natural and personal care products...and the reasons behind the purchases.

Natural and organic personal care is one of the fastest-growing segments of the health and wellness marketplace. According to Mintel, 842 new products were introduced in 2007, and research from Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) shows sales of natural and organic personal care products totaled $7.8 billion last year, representing double-digit growth from 2006. NMI expects the natural and organic personal care market to continue at this pace for the next several years.

NMI defines a Natural/Organic Personal Care User as one who indicates that he or she has purchased at least one natural or organic personal care product (including hair care, body care, oral products as well as natural cosmetics) in the past six months.  Thirty-eight percent of general population adults in the U.S. identify themselves this way. NMI further breaks down these consumers into those classified as LOHAS consumers. LOHAS—an acronym for Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability —refers to an integrated consumer group, which has a meaningful sense of environmental and social responsibility and incorporates those values into purchasing decisions. Thirty percent of Natural/Organic Personal Care Users are also LOHAS consumers. Within NMI’s LOHAS consumer segmentation, other opportunistic groups emerge.

LOHAS Consumer Segmentation Model

As shown in Figure 1, based on the LOHAS Consumer Trends Database,  NMI segments consumers into one of five classifications.
LOHAS consumers represent 19% of U.S. adults. As environmental stewards, they are socially responsible, driven to protect the environment and are avid users of green products. They take action to ensure personal and planetary health and influence others to do the same. Therefore, LOHAS is a critical target for companies marketing healthy, green or socially-responsible products, particularly natural and organic personal care products. As early adopters, LOHAS consumers’ opinions are very influential and help to push healthy, environmentally-friendly products into the mainstream market. Buy-in from this segment is fundamental to extending brand reach into the mainstream and establishing meaningful brand loyalty among most consumer segments.
NATURALITES (19%) make most purchase decisions based on benefits to their personal health. While they are interested in protecting the environment—an interest mostly driven by personal health reasons—they are not as involved in planetary health. To support their healthy lifestyle, they are avid users of natural and organic consumer packaged goods including personal care.
DRIFTERS (25%) represent the largest segment. Motivated by the latest trends, these consumers’ commitment to any issue, including sustainability, is constantly shifting. As the youngest segment, and the one with larger families, DRIFTERS are more likely to view price as a barrier to green living. However, this group is currently opportunistic for two reasons.  First, the green marketplace is a hot trend; and two, their usage of natural/organic personal care products is second to that of LOHAS consumers.
CONVENTIONALS make up 19% of the population. Driven by practicality and frugality rather than pure environmental or health benefits, these consumers are not particularly environmentally conscious. However, CONVENTIONALS do engage in some LOHAS-related behaviors such as recycling and energy conservation.
The portion of the population that exhibits no sense of environmental responsibility is considered to be the UNCONCERNEDS (17%). As the market continues to mainstream and natural and organic products become more available in conventional retail outlets, it will become critical for those targeting these consumers to understand the various drivers affecting purchase behavior.

Efficacy Is an Important Attribute

NMI’s LOHAS Consumer Trends Database measures the importance of nearly 30 personal care product attributes and benefits. The most important attribute affecting purchase decisions—particularly to Natural/Organic Personal Care Users—is efficacy. The number of personal care products featuring result-oriented claims has increased dramatically in recent years, and efficacy is more important than
Men's grooming is a growing category and may provide opportunities for natural personal care companies.
ever. It is an expected attribute for traditional personal care items, and some consumers have found that natural and/or organic versions are effective alternatives. Relatively, certain natural/organic products such as deodorants and sun care items are still in their infancy and will benefit from further development before they become as widely adopted as their traditional counterparts. The widespread interest in efficacy underscores the importance of product development.
Another important factor that correlates to efficacy is clinical proof. Slightly more than half of Natural/Organic Personal Care Users (and almost half of the general population) rate clinical proof as a very important attribute. Such clinical evidence may provide brands with a point of differentiation in a crowded marketplace.

Trends in Product Benefits

NMI’s 2007 research found that a variety of health and natural-related product benefits affect consumers’ purchase decisions of personal care items—and that their importance is growing over previous years. The top five product benefits include: not tested on animals; earth friendly; biodegradable; recyclable packaging and vitamin-enriched. While increases in importance are found among LOHAS and NATURALITES (as would be expected), the substantial growth in importance is being driven by DRIFTERS. Since this is a trend-sensitive group, trends related to sustainability—which are hot topics in the media right now—resonate with them.  Successfully engaging DRIFTERS will be crucial to natural and organic brands and opportunistic for expanding the market.
One of the fastest-growing product attributes is vitamin-enriched, as consumers are beginning to recognize the benefits of these added ingredients. Brands such as Derma E and Bare Escentuals have capitalized on this consumer desire and market their products accordingly.
Certification seals have also shown a rapid increase in importance. This is an encouraging sign for natural certification standards that several manufacturers (e.g., Burt’s Bees, Whole Foods Market and Estée Lauder Companies) have recently launched. Also notable is that Fair Trade Certified ingredients and the USDA Certified Organic seal have both significantly increased in importance since 2006 for this category. This underscores the importance that consumers are placing on proof and not just claims.

Personal Care Purchases

Given their definition, it is not surprising that Natural/Organic Personal Care Users are nearly three times as likely to purchase natural and organic personal care products as general population consumers. More important, they are highly integrated consumers who are likely to use multiple natural/organic personal care products.
Natural feminine hygiene products top the list of purchases followed closely by natural or organic body care and natural hair care. Once thought to be less effective than their conventional counterparts, natural and organic personal care products are overcoming these barriers, and in categories once dominated by conventional versions (such as facial care and cosmetics) natural versions are assuming a growing market share.
Natural/Organic Personal Care Users also appear to be more sensory and appearance oriented than the general population. As such, they are nearly twice as likely to use aromatherapy, spa treatments and facials.

Men’s Personal Care

One of NMI’s top trends for 2007 was the popularity of men’s personal care products and industry sales numbers show that the sales of male-specific prestige skin care products (such as moisturizers, treatment shaves, facial cleansers and facial exfoliants) are growing faster than those for women. With mainstream companies such as L’Oréal developing moisturizers and other skin products designed specifically for men, this trend should continue. Merging the trend of prestige with natural could also prove to be a winning combination for manufacturers.
In conclusion, the research that NMI has collected for the past several years indicates the future marketplace for natural and organic personal care products is ripe with opportunity, provided that efficacy and true reasons to believe are met.  Effective consumer targeting to those most attitudinally pre-disposed to the products—LOHAS, NATURALITES, and DRIFTERS—will create a more efficient marketing plan and lead to greater success in a crowded marketplace.

About the author:
Maryellen Molyneaux is president of Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), an international strategic consulting, market research, and business development company specializing in health, wellness and sustainability (www.NMIsolutions.com). More information on this subject is available in NMI’s Understanding the LOHAS Market series of reports or by contacting NMI at info@NMIsolutions.com.