LONDON, United Kingdom — Amid the major disruption caused around the globe by the outbreak of COVID-19, one sector hoping to ride out the uncertainty of the next few months is that of organic beauty and wellbeing.
While fitness businesses around the world were being forced to shutter their studios or switch their classes online, supermarkets were creaking under the pressures of panic buying and wellness festivals had to put their annual celebrations of the industry on hold, the Soil Association released its annual Organic Market Report for beauty and wellbeing in the UK.
The report highlighted a 23% growth in sales in 2019, the ninth consecutive double-digit growth and third-biggest percentage growth since 2010. Kantar has also measured “organic beauty sales” for the first time, reporting a huge sales increase from £343k to £2.5m in 2019.
While the Market Report data was collected in late 2019 before the coronavirus struck and was therefore yet to fully understand the ramifications for consumer habits, Georgia Barnes, Head of Business Development at the Soil Association, believes the sector is well-positioned to overcome these “unprecedented challenges”.
Speaking to Welltodo, Barnes said that, despite “a huge amount of uncertainty with fast-paced changes happening daily”, companies specialising in cleaning products and personal care have the potential to meet increased demand as people look to stock their cupboards with brands they can trust.
“Internet and online stores have a great opportunity to reach out to people who are more home-based than usual,” she added. “Of course there are unprecedented challenges, especially facing small businesses in the sector, but as consumers take the time to reflect on the status quo, and their health and wellbeing, there is the potential for priorities to shift.
“Our brands are perfectly poised to offer wellbeing solutions that are much more conscious of people’s health, and the health of the planet,” she noted.
Trends driving organic growth
Barnes pointed to four key trends, as highlighted in the Soil Association Certification 2020 Organic Market Report, which she believes will continue to drive the sector forward in the coming months and years.
“Trends we have found people searching for include transparency, mindful ingredients, efficacy and ethical and sustainable practices – all of which the certified organic market in the UK is answering and which will continue to drive growth [of the sector].”
Transparency and consumer trust in a brand’s purpose and processes were identified as one of the driving trends of 2019. The report found 65% of consumers want to buy from purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but in reality, only 26% currently do.
Unlike organic food and drink businesses, beauty brands are not legally obligated to be certified. Any brand can claim to be organic and may contain just 1% of organic ingredients –– the Soil Association report found that 50% of people didn’t realise the beauty industry isn’t regulated in the same way that it is in the food industry.
Barnes, however, points out that 2019 marked progression within brand support and recognition when for the first time ever the Soil Association COSMOS logo appeared within a mass media TV advertising campaign for L’Oréal’s Garnier Organic Skincare launch. COSMOS is the globally harmonised standards for organic and natural cosmetics, which the Soil Association helped become established.
At the Soil Association Certification’s 2020 Trends Summit, Tim Field, head of sustainability for Daylesford, underlined the increasing demand for transparency and independent verification while misinformation and greenwashing threaten to undermine the sector.
“For us, it’s always about challenging our supply chain to make sure we are making the best products,” Field said. “Transparency is a big thing. The consumer needs to understand what they’re buying. The key in the market-place is someone to verify. There’s a huge amount of greenwashing and misinformation. It’s about making sure your claims are verified. With ingredients, and with sustainability.”
The Organic Market report found innovative brands are using naturally occurring active ingredients to drive their product ranges, from mushrooms in supplements, to ground coffee in skin scrubs and seaweed in antioxidant skincare solutions.
Organic cleaning products also continue to be more sought after as consumers look to reduce their toxic load. Even candles are joining the certified organic market. The report found 45% of people have used an eco-friendly household product in the last six months and 33% have increased their purchases of eco-friendly household care products. However, 43% confess to being unsure of what brands mean by eco-friendly.
One brand demonstrating this commitment to only sourcing mindful ingredients is Ancient and Brave. Its range of beauty blends, including its latest plant-based collagen range, have been certified as organic by the Soil Association and are packaged in recyclable material such as card and glass whenever possible.
UpCircle Beauty is another brand re-evaluating its use of ingredients. It is leaning on circular economy principles to create effective, environmentally conscious products. “We’ve rescued 100 tonnes of coffee from cafés and coffee shops across London, transforming them into our coffee-based skincare range,” Anna Brightman of UpCircle Beauty was quoted as saying in the report.
As consumers are becoming increasingly more discerning and the organic beauty industry continues to grow, brands are recognising the need to substantiate their claims and prove their products are as effective as their non-organic counterparts.
The report found that 83% of brands asked, said efficacy was a key driver for customer loyalty and, as such, consumers are increasingly looking for logos such as COSMOS to give them peace of mind that a product has passed independent rigorous testing.
Lisa Franklin – an award-winning skincare expert who runs a private clinic in London and works with a “leading European provider of genetic testing” to create bespoke skincare treatments – believes beauty will need to become more personalised and scientific to demonstrate its efficacy.
“Clients will expect more from the products they buy, in addressing key markers from their DNA, plus the services they buy will need to be tailor-made for their specific DNA profile,” Franklin said.
“This is only set to evolve in the future as more people become engaged in their own DNA.”
Ethical and sustainable practices
The final major trend highlighted in the Soil Association Market Report, recognised the wide-ranging initiatives brands across the organic beauty sector have taken to protect the environment — in part, due to sustainability becoming a firm priority for the modern consumer.
Indeed the report found 87% of brands’ customers feel passionate about supporting environmental initiatives. Use of plastic in packaging remains under the spotlight, with the report highlighting that over 80 billion plastic bottles are disposed of a year from just shampoo and conditioner alone. Some brands are forgoing packaging altogether, such as Haoma, whose soap bars are shipped without consumer packaging at all. Planet Organic, meanwhile, was the first to offer organic hair care in refill format, with Tabitha James Kraan, closely followed by La-Eva in Anthropologie and Petersham Nurseries and Fushi in As Nature Intended.
Brands are also looking to mitigate the potential downsides of including water in products, from removing the need for preservatives altogether, the carbon impact of shipping water and for improving efficacy. Certified organic brands such as Inlight Beauty, which is 100% certified organic, and True Skincare, which has a full range of products that are waterless in formulation, are pioneering the waterless beauty trend.
And Barnes believes these green initiatives are no longer simply nice-to-haves to set brands apart. “Conscious consumerism is now being viewed as an urgency and sustainability is a key focus for consumers, businesses, brands and politicians alike,” she told Welltodo.
“Concerned about our impact on the planet and future generations, certified organic standards are leading the way to building deeper levels of trust with educated consumers who want brands to reflect honest sustainability,” she added.
The future for the organic beauty and wellbeing market
Barnes argues the trends that emerged in 2019 have positioned sustainably conscious brands firmly in the mainstream. However, in a cluttered beauty and wellbeing market, the bar has been raised for transparency, differentiation and honesty.
“Mainstream brands will need to seriously and honestly review their impact on the world around them,” she said. “There will need to be true collaboration across the industry on issues such as plastic, to instigate effective changes as quickly as needed,” she revealed.
The alarming developments in China, Italy and around the world over the past few weeks will only strengthen the belief in consumers’ collective mindset that industries need to work together for the benefit of the planet — and indeed the human race.