One of the most popular trends in any industry right now is ‘natural’. From organic napkins and sheets to natural dog food, the products currently in the ‘natural’ category are almost overwhelming. Some marketing techniques even imply natural when in fact the product is filled with manmade chemical ingredients. As with any good marketing plan, you will need to determine your target market, but for this article it will be assumed that part of your target market are eco-conscious individuals.
Common marketing buzz words include natural, organic, and sustainable. But before we can get into using these marketing phrases, we’ll need to revisit a previous article found in the July/ August 2010 issue of the Saponifier entitled Natural Ingredient Terms, Regulations, and Governing Bodies Explained. This article will only highlight a few key points from the previous issue. Reading the full 2010 issue is highly recommended for anyone selling natural products and can be purchased at www.Saponifier.com .
There is much dispute over what ingredients or final products are considered natural. Let me first state that there is NO official governing body or definitive regulations for using this term. There are guidelines that are black and white and many organizations and government entities seek to define what natural is, but none of these groups has come up with a clear rule.
Let’s first take a look at the guidelines that are clear, but still un-regulated. Natural ingredients must come from the earth. If the ingredient is man-made, it is synthetic and cannot be advertised as natural. For example, essential oils are taken directly from plants. Most undergo steam distillation. No other items are added. Essential oils are considered natural by most. Fragrance oils are man-made synthetics. They may contain a small amount of natural ingredients, but typically are created using chemicals in a lab.
Now let’s discuss the grey area. The problem with the term natural is there are differing opinions on the definition, which affect many ingredients and final products. What one organization considers natural is not the same as another organization. With no governing body to decide which definition to use and how to regulate the use of the term, there is confusion and disputes.
Here are some of the different definitions for the term Natural:
FDA - "ingredients extracted directly from plants or animal products as opposed to being produced synthetically."
USDA (applies only to meat and poultry) - "those products carrying the “natural” claim must not contain any artificial flavoring, color ingredients, chemical preservatives, or artificial or synthetic ingredients, and are only “minimally processed” defined by USDA as a process that does not fundamentally alter the raw product."
Dictionary.com – “having undergone little or no processing and containing no chemical additives”
Concise Oxford Dictionary - “existing in, or caused by nature; produced by nature; not artificial; true to nature; uncultivated; wild existing in natural state; not disguised or altered”.
This list of definitions is endless. All agree that natural must be derived from the earth. However, some definitions suggest that natural can only come from plants and animals. But isn’t a mineral derived from the earth a natural material? Many micas, oxides, and ultramarines are directly extracted from the earth (some are manmade so check with your supplier to find out if your colorants are natural or not.) Some would consider them natural, although they do undergo a chemical process to make them safe for use. However, there are countless ingredients widely considered natural that must undergo chemical changes or be extracted using solvents. Others believe that mineral pigments have some of their natural components removed, but does that render the rest of the pigment unnatural?
You’re beginning to see the dilemma faced by the world. No country can come up with an agreeable definition for the term natural. And since much is tainted by people’s perceptions, it is difficult for organizations within one country to agree. It’s quite a sticky situation.
The Natural Ingredient Resource Center at www.naturalingredient.org has their own version of what constitutes a natural bath and body product. However, keep in mind that their definition of natural is equally controversial and in no way is this organization an official governing body, but their program is a good start for voluntary truth in labeling and worth taking a look at.
So how does that effect promoting your product? Well, first you need to decide which definition you agree with and then you can determine which wording best suits your stance when it comes to a marketing campaign. Sticking to what you feel is ethically right in a description of your product is a good starting point.
For example, if you use natural ingredients to make your soap, BUT you use a synthetic fragrance oil, you cannot say your “All Natural” and definitely not “100% Natural”, but you could figure out your fragrance percentage of the whole soap. Many times this is anywhere from 1-2%. You could promote your soap as “Natural” according to the 5% rule at the Natural Ingredient Resource Center. If you are not comfortable with that “98% Natural” is even better, since it shows customers that you’ve determined exactly how much of the product is natural and empowers the customer to make a choice that’s right for them. Remember, your marketing to people who are interested in natural products, not everyone in the world. So think of what they want from a company.
It’s good to go shopping and look at other company packaging for ideas and trends. Burt’s Bees products list the percentage of natural ingredients in their products. Not every product they make is 100% natural, but they come pretty close. And customers looking for these products appreciate this company’s more accurate terms on packaging.
Bath Alchemy by The Bonnie Bath Co.