NONFOODS: Cosmetics: A better foundation

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NONFOODS: Cosmetics: A better foundation

Of the four natural personal care product categories -- skin care, hair care, oral care, and color cosmetics -- the last has had the toughest time making its way onto grocers' shelves. Indeed, even many natural food retailers don't regularly stock natural/organic color cosmetics.

Still, as a relatively new category, natural and organic makeup is seeing strong growth. According to Packaged Facts' Natural and Organic Personal Care research study published in August 2007, the category will keep posting double-digit advances at retail during 2007 to 2012, reaching $658 million at the period's finish -- nearly doubling in size.

Natural food/HBC stores accounted for 80 percent of natural makeup retail sales, while direct sales (through the Internet, TV infomercials, and catalogs) made up 15 percent. Mass retailers (under which Packaged Facts lumps traditional supermarkets) accounted for only 1 percent to 2 percent of natural makeup retail dollar sales.

Reputation, selection roadblocks

One of the chief challenges in growing the natural makeup category is product efficacy -- many consumers just don't think these products work as well as their non-natural counterparts. Foundations with unstable color, mascara that dries too fast, and shades that aren't quite appropriate are some common problems cited by the study. And while there have been improvements in this area, neither marketers nor retailers have done much to communicate this progress to consumers, according to Packaged Facts.

Another challenge is selection. Makeup brands tend to require the presentation of broad selections to accommodate a range of customer skin tones and preferences, but natural color cosmetics still lack breadth of assortment.

Some natural cosmetics suppliers have rushed to address this shortcoming. Bellevue, Wash.-based Gabriel Cosmetics, for example, offers 24 shades of its Zuzu Luxe lipstick, 16 shades of eye shadow, and nine shades of powder foundation, but it still has a long way to go before rivaling the hundreds of selections offered by a Revlon or Estee Lauder.

The rest of the industry is pitching in here as well. Packaged Facts reported more than 500 new natural makeup SKUs in 2006, a jump of 41 percent over the 373 counted the prior year.

A third challenge is inherent in the nature of natural products marketing: too much focus on wellness, and not enough on vanity. While wellness is a key positioning for any natural HBC marketer to adopt, this approach must co-exist with positioning that aims to flatter a consumer's self-image.

However, the "cosmeceutical" positioning of natural makeup -- particularly those benefits derived from exotic ingredients -- has met with some success, according to the study. For example, African shea butter, which moisturizes the skin, is used in numerous new natural lip color products, and green tea, pomegranate, and goji berries -- known for their anti-aging antioxidant power -- are appearing in new natural makeup lines as well.

If vendors and retailers address the challenges of communicating efficacy, enhancing selection, and marketing to consumer vanity, the natural color cosmetics category has the potential to make its way onto the shelves of mainstream grocers, much as ethnic HBC has, Packaged Facts concludes.

"America has become increasingly aware of ingredients' cosmeceutical value," says Cathy Minkler, associate editor of Packaged Facts. "The natural HBC market stands to profit from its danger-free stance, provided that product efficacy is improved, consumers are educated as to the benefits of natural/organic preparations, and the products' unique selling propositions are maintained, even as mainstream distribution expands."