A Shift Toward Safety
According to Mintel, the closure of non-essential stores and reduced footfall in health and beauty retailers during the lockdown period (March until June/July for most European countries) has dented sales of natural and organic products, though many smaller online brands have benefited from retail closures.
“A heightened demand for antibacterial claims in the initial aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak saw consumers move away from natural and organic products to give themselves the best possible protection against the virus,” explains Samantha Dove, BPC analyst, Mintel.
Marguerite LeRolland, research manager, Euromonitor International, says that COVID-19 has exacerbated the demand for “safe” beauty, whereby safety, provenance and transparency of ingredients will be even more sought after.
“Consumers may also look for simplicity and minimalism, with signature ingredients associated with immunity, protection and natural healing coming to the fore. Opportunity is rife for brands with a strong alignment to health, therapeutics and an association with overall wellness,” she explains.
Already, a number of natural/organic brand are responding with hand sanitizer launches, such as Dr. Bronner’s Organic Hand Hygiene Spray, whose strapline reads: “sanitize with a clean conscience.” Meanwhile, UK eco pioneer The Beauty Kitchen went further by introducing refillable organic vegan hand sanitizers and supplying the Scottish government with sanitizers for the NHS and other frontline services.
GlobalData is tracking the category via its COVID-19 Survey Tracker. For Recovery Week 1, published June 17, 72% of European consumers say that products that are natural/free from synthetic ingredients are more important to them or are top priority following the pandemic.
Lia Neophytou, analyst, GlobalData, argues that consumers anxious about product safety and their personal health see greater value in using products with natural/organic formulations.
“The pandemic has inspired consumers to view their health in a more holistic way, acknowledging the impact of both diet and the ingredients used on the skin and for overall wellbeing,” she states. “The perceived trustworthiness or risk-free nature of a product is also hugely influential on product choice.”
GlobalData’s survey revealed that 75% of European consumers who are extremely concerned about the virus are more likely to turn to natural/free from synthetic formulations, than the 56% of consumers who are not concerned.
“It is in the interest of beauty brands to position products in alignment with natural and organic trends to reassure anxious consumers about product safety,” advises Neophytou.
CBD is well-positioned to take advantage of this trend and is gaining credibility among European consumers. GlobalData reports in its 2019 Q3 Global Consumer Survey that one in five Europeans believe CBD will have a positive impact on their health. According to sources, Germany, UK and Spain are the biggest markets for CBD beauty products in Europe, but that a lack of knowledge about the ingredient has hampered growth prospects. According to GlobalData data, 48% of consumers believe that cannabis has a negative impact on the body. According to Neophytou, consumer opinions on CBD are still being formed; by leveraging scientific studies and third party certifications, brands can win over consumer trust.
Retailers also have a part to play in reassuring consumers about the safety and efficacy of CBD in natural beauty formulations. Leading UK health and beauty retailer, Boots, is getting behind a number of UK CBD infused skin care brands, including Revolution, Green Stem, Ambience and Kloris.
According to LeRolland, during the crisis the beauty industry has had time to re-examine its approach to sustainability.
“COVID-19 has exacerbated consumer shifts in mindset and priorities and consumers are continuing to raise their eco and ethical conscience,” she says.
One striking change has been the decrease in carbon emissions as people avoided travel, leading to a significant drop in levels of pollution. But as cars and trucks take to the roads again, this trend is rapidly reversing.
During lockdown, GlobalData noted that environmentally-friendly products and services have become more important to many consumers, with 68% of Europeans believing that a reduced environmental footprint as well as ethical/sustainable production methods are now more important to them. This is good news for local brands that show a reduced carbon footprint as well as ethical/sustainable supply chains.
Examples include German organic skin care range, Schwarzwald, based on traditional recipes from the Black Forest region, and Glasgow-based Beauty Kitchen, which has pioneered a reuse scheme for its packaging, which can be returned for cleaning and be reused.
“Post-crisis, brands will be challenged to ‘step up’ under the new realms of sustainability,” argues Le Rolland, “and expected to display action in every arena, from eco-initiatives to support for social welfare and global issues and a general care for the wellbeing of customers and employees throughout the entire value chain.”
Despite a rocky first six months of 2020, the outlook for the European natural and organic beauty category is looking more optimistic. Brands are adapting to the new landscape with the emergence of new concepts such as “safe beauty.”
“Ingredients within beauty products will face even more scrutiny as health and safety has come to the forefront during the pandemic,” predicts Mintel’s Dove, adding this will boost demand for natural and organic beauty products.
Without doubt, unpredictable times lie ahead for the industry, as well as opportunities for those prepared to plan for a positive future.
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Imogen Matthews is a respected consultant, journalist and researcher who commentates on trends in the beauty industry. She regularly contributes to many of the world’s foremost beauty trade titles, has served on the Board of Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW UK) and won the prestigious Cosmetic Executive (UK) Achiever Award. Founded by Imogen in 1993, The Premium Market Report remains the only in-depth report to examine trends in the premium cosmetics, skincare and fragrance industry.