If you read the trade press you would rapidly draw the conclusion that natural personal care and cosmetic products are carrying all before them. And if you are a bit of a Twitter addict like me, you may very well get the impression that mainstream brands have actually ceased to exist. You would certainly be quite sure that the natural product sector is growing and that that is where the action is.
So how big a proportion of personal care is natural? It might surprise some people – it surprised me – to discover that it is only 4% of the market. In fact that was the highest estimate I could find. Given how many big companies are now producing their own ranges of natural products and putting big money behind marketing them, I would have expected a bigger share than that.
If you are an enthusiast for natural products and are wondering whether you should start your own company to sell them you might think that this is good news because it shows there is a lot of potential for growth. If you are in the marketing department of a big corporation and are an enthusiast for high profit margins you might like the sound of those figures too.
But I am not so sure. For a start, I have noticed for some time that when a raw material comes out with a really natural story that genuinely stands up to scrutiny it is rarely a hit. The other thing that has struck me is the direct feedback to companies from actual consumers. Many members of the public are generous enough to spend their time writing in with helpful advice. Twenty years ago I saw quite a few letters from people explaining why animal testing wasn’t a good idea. More recently there have been a reasonable number explaining that the products we are selling are dangerous and referring us to websites that prove it. Thanks for those, they were very helpful.
In the last couple of months I have seen some letters sent to a company that makes a strong play of how natural its products are asking for a justification for the implied criticisms of regular products.
I wonder if the tide is beginning to turn on this?