Exclusive interview

‘Natural’ beauty part 1: Is labelling all what it seems?

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

‘Natural’ beauty part 1: Is labelling all what it seems?
Ahead of next week’s in-cosmetics Asia three-day showcase, we caught up with Nicole Fall, Founder of Asian Consumer Intelligence, to examine how the natural trend is being shaped by demands for simple natural items and clear labelling requirements.

Sensitive skin

Consumer-purchasing trends play a fundamental role in the adoption of natural products throughout Asia. Asian shoppers, across the region, are embracing beauty and personal care along with food and beverages that are perceived to be natural.

“Generally, many female consumers in markets such as Korea, Japan and China claim their skin is sensitive,”​ highlighted Nicole Fall, Founder, Asian Consumer Intelligence.

“Consequently, these consumers believe only natural ingredients, or ‘simply made’ personal care products– which can also fall under the umbrella of ’natural’ – can help solve their skin problems,”​ added Fall.

Regulations and safety requirements, or specifically, the lack of these, is still greatly affecting the natural segment too, Fall outlined.

The natural perception

Nicole mainly focuses on the perception of what natural is, through conducting regional consumer and expert research interviews. As a result of these, Nicole can determine how the unique perception of natural – even when it’s not – can be better understood in the context of Asia.

With this said, she does emphasise: “There is still little legislation around a ‘100% natural’ label in many APAC markets, so there is a huge degree of confusion among consumers, regarding what this term means.”

Following this ‘lack’ of legal stipulations, we asked Fall how this is set to evolve and whether consumers are expecting more or less from labelling.

On the whole, “echoing global trends, consumers seek products that look and feel less artificial”,​ Fall observed.

As awareness grows around climate change and is manifested in adverse weather patterns that people feel and see, Fall stated that there’s “a rising demand for personal care that works to either combat these issues, help with skin sensitivity or being perceived as part of the solution and not the problem”.

Food leverages cosmetics

An interesting angle within this sphere is that “food and beauty cannot be separated in Asia”.

As this trend “is set to continue in my opinion”, this follows as “demand for healthier ingredients grows in the food people consume [and therefore] it’s understandable that people now link this growing knowledge to the products they put on their skin”.

This connection between cosmetics, personal care and food can be communicated to consumers through labelling and claims. However, "a lot of natural products can be quite literal”.

‘Labelling’ claims

Fall explained the variety of techniques that brands use when featuring labelling claims on packaging, and warns that these may not indicate that the product is truly natural:

  • On-pack semiotics featuring plants, green font, and other communication cues suggesting that a product could be natural even if it is not.
  • Some focus on an ingredient story; such as ginseng or a flower or a plant of some kind and build an entire brand around one ingredient.
  • Other brands keep it straightforward by communicating that a product contains 100% plant oils, for example, or a laundry list of plant ingredients to impress consumers.

The second part of our interview with Nicole Fall, which will delve into natural labelling and expectations for future developments, will be published on Tuesday 24th October 2017.

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