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What is important to consumers when buying natural cosmetics

by Katrin Muhl (comments: 0)

Natural cosmetics shelf
While the shelves fill up with new products, consumers find it difficult to distinguish genuine natural cosmetics from near-natural cosmetics, according to a study. © Iakov_Filimonov / Shutterstock

Certifier Natrue has conducted a consumer study on the purchase of natural cosmetics. At the top of the wish list is naturalness - however, consumers sometimes attribute this characteristic more to conventional products than to certified natural cosmetics.

Natural cosmetics are increasingly in demand. This is borne out not least by the continuously rising sales figures. In the past fiscal year, the sector recorded a plus of 5.7 percent in Germany, as Mirja Eckert announced at the presentation of the Natural Cosmetics Industry Monitor 2020. According to figures from IRI, GfK and Naturkosmetik Konzepte, the market volume in 2019 was also nine percent higher than in the previous year at 1.38 billion euros.

The fact that customers increasingly turned to natural cosmetics in 2020 is also confirmed by Anna Scheepers, Marketing Consult at the consumer research company GfK: "In the consumer panel, we see strong growth of eight percent despite Corona." But choosing products is not always easy for consumers.

The shelf lacks an overview

Conventional manufacturers have also long since discovered the natural cosmetics trend and are increasingly launching sub-brands whose products are labeled as nature-inspired or natural. In 2020, near-natural cosmetics, with growth of 0.4 percent, performed worse than natural cosmetics (5.7 percent). Nevertheless, consumers apparently often lack an overview of which products are genuine natural cosmetics and where they are greenwashing. This is the conclusion of a representative study commissioned by Natrue, the international association for natural and organic cosmetics, for the German and French markets. According to the study, more than half of the respondents in Germany (61 percent) said that labels did not sufficiently clarify whether a product was natural or organic cosmetics. In France, this figure was 71 percent.

Unlike food, there is no legal regulation for cosmetics as to what may be called organic or natural cosmetics. Orientation is provided by natural cosmetics seals, which oblige manufacturers to adhere to standards that go beyond the legal requirements for cosmetics. According to the association, more than 7,000 products from more than 330 brands in Europe bear the Natrue seal.

"Naturalness" important for the purchase decision

In the online survey conducted for Natrue by the market research institute Mindline, consumers were also asked about the criteria they use to select products, according to the press release. According to the results, "naturalness" has the greatest influence on the purchase decision - even though the term is not protected by law.

Ranking: Criteria for product selection

1. Naturalness

  • 20 percent in Germany
  • 24 percent in France

2. Skin compatibility

  • 19 percent in Germany
  • 19 percent in France

3. Effect of the product

  • 17 percent in Germany
  • 16 percent in France

According to Natrue, sub-brands of large cosmetics companies are often perceived as more "natural" than certified natural or organic cosmetic products due to "packaging, marketing measures and numerous seals". In some cases, greenwashing of individual sub-brands can lead consumers to classify the conventional brand's entire range as natural.

Different expectations of "naturalness"

When asked how the participants define "naturalness," the answers from Germany and France diverged. According to the study results, German respondents associate the term "naturalness" with the characteristics:

  1. Animal welfare (8.4 out of 10 points),
  2. Absence of microplastics (7.9 out of 10 points),
  3. Naturalness of ingredients (6.4 out of 10 points).

Respondents from France, on the other hand, had stated that "naturalness" meant for them:

  1. Naturalness of ingredients (9.6 out of 10 points),
  2. Animal welfare (8.4 out of 10 points),
  3. Absence of ingredients of animal origin (7.1 out of 10 points).

German consumers would assess nature-inspired products more negatively than French consumers and would be able to distinguish them more clearly from genuine natural cosmetics. Natrue therefore assumes that German consumers are more aware of the danger of greenwashing.

When buying cosmetics, consumers from both countries apparently look for products that guarantee animal welfare. This is despite the fact that the European Union has had a law banning animal testing for cosmetic products since 2004. Since 2009, this ban has also applied to ingredients. Here, too, there is still a need for clarification.



About the study

The quantitative online survey was conducted by the market research institute Mindline on behalf of the seal provider Natrue between January and February 2021 in Germany and France.

  • 1,014 people were surveyed in Germany, 1,022 in France. 70 percent of the respondents were female, 30 percent male. The participants were aged between 18 and 65.
  • About 30 cosmetic brands were evaluated (conventional, nature-inspired and natural or organic).
  • 4 out of 10 German respondents have used natural or organic cosmetics in the past six months. In France, the figure is 3 out of 10.



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