Retailers to organic brands: We don’t trust you

Posted on July 12th, 2010 by Gina

Whole FoodsWhole Foods announced last month that all personal care products sold in their stores will have to be certified by the United States Department of Agriculture National Organic Program (USDA NOP) if they claim to be organic, or held to the third party NSF International standards if they claim to “contain organic ingredients”.  All current inventory labels that don’t come with an official seal have until June of 2011 or they are off the Whole Body shelves.  The move is being hailed by organic consumer organizations as bold, but the company is really just being consistent.  We trust Whole Foods for what we put into our bodies, now we will be able to trust them with what we put on our bodies as well.

The good news is that the confusion will soon be over.  Because of Whole Food’s leadership, other health retail organizations will follow suit, so when a consumer buys a natural skin care product, they will know exactly what they are getting.  No more worry about deceptive advertising.

The bad news?  Right now, not many products will make the cut.  Consumers will be surprised at the products that have been fooling them all along on the “natural” shelves.  Unless they change their formulation, some of the most popular natural brands will be gone.  Zia Naturals?  Last of the alphabet becomes first out the door.  Nature’s Gate just got shut. Kiehl’s gets keihl-ed.  Derma E?  Derma gone.  100% USDA certification is hard to get, expensive, and here’s the real kicker – the skin and hair care products that have it, don’t sell well.

In 2009, there was no growth in the sale of organic beauty products.  None. Zip. Zilch. Research company Tabs Report pointed to three major issues: price, efficacy and “low overall importance of organics”  in that industry.  In other words, people have found that truly organic grooming and beauty brands cost too much, they don’t work, and consumers are losing interest in their social value. On top of that, they don’t smell good, either, since they can’t add perfume or blockers.  So what we will get from Whole Foods are brands you have probably never heard of and will find very different from the products currently residing in your medicine cabinet.  Look for Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Terressentials, Trillium Organics and Vermont Soap, as some of the top brands.

The good news is that a trusted retailer has stepped up to demand truth in labeling in personal care products, the first of hopefully, many.  The bad news is that if you want pure products, your choices are about to get a lot smaller.

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