Interview: Francesca Morgante, NATRUE

Research recently commissioned by NATRUE reveals today’s natural/organic cosmetics consumers’ needs and hopes. A fab reason for an interview! 

Whether you’re a green entrepreneur or a conscious consumer, you will know it:

The organic beauty sector is booming

As more and more consumers look for natural & organic beauty products, as it’s becoming more and more of a trend, it’s only logical that the demand for reassurance through certifications is on the rise as well. Consumers want authentic green products, reduced synthetics and/or toxins along with powerful, innovative formulations.

It seems that green beauty is expected to be better than conventional.

I was able to talk to Francesca Morgante, NATRUE brand manager, earlier this summer, and to ask about the recent NATRUE study, the sector, and certification benefits for consumers and member brands alike.Beautycalypse-Interview-Francesca-Morgante-Natrue>>> Link to the NATRUE study

Let’s Talk About The Study

Q: Let’s talk about the study “Exploring the territory of natural and organic cosmetics” (conducted by Natrue and GfK research). What are the exciting insights?

A: We’ve run two panels, one being the qualitative research and afterwards the quantitative interviews with 900 women from Europe. We have found that there are three different groups who use NOC [= natural and organic cosmetics, editor’s note].

The first group is risk avoidance – in order to avoid harm for themselves, these women screen all ingredients, are really savvy when it comes to INCI lists.

The second group focuses on risks and negative impacts for others, which means they consider other people, the environment, the animal welfare. They make decisions based on sustainability and ethical criteria.

The third group considers NOC as part of heir lifestyle: they eat organic food, the go to the gym, they have a health-focussed behaviour.

We’ve also found that in different countries the age can differ. The “part of who I am” group is more common among younger women, 25-35 years old. The “outside risk” group are mostly women older than 45. The risk avoidance group spans all ages.

It’s remarkable though that in Northern European countries like Germany and in Scandinavian countries, the general awareness [regarding organics, health impact, environmental and social impact, editor’s note] is higher.

Q: Why the decision to interview women only? 

A: The panel focussed on consumers who declared to buy natural and organic cosmetics. Not on the general interest. And, if you consider this approach, then you’ll know it will be mostly women you will be talking to. Despite that some of the NOC brands launch men lines and work towards a “green” grooming trend, our study partner GFK suggested that in terms of trend evaluation we should work with women.

Also it emerged from our research that many women become truly concerned about their skincare when they are pregnant for the first time.

Q: How well informed is she, the average NOC consumer? 

A: Actually, we have to break another bias that consumers are not informed. NOC consumers are really well informed. The majority can differ between organic and natural. They are aware and clear that “natural” means: no artificial, no GMO, no petrochemicals and so on. It would be of course very interesting to investigate ALL consumers.

But it’s true, if you go to conferences, you see that consumers are not at all confused. Maybe they were ten years ago 🙂Beautycalypse-Interview-Francesca-Morgante-Natrue-2

About Natural & Organic Cosmetics
and NATRUE Work

Q: Many people who are new to NOC believe that they are more expensive than conventional. Thoughts? 

A: I kind of disagree with that notion, especially since you can pitch NATRUE certified products at any costs. Certification may increase the costs, but I know all NATRUE brands and they range from drugstore to spa and luxury. It’s basically just the same range as conventional cosmetics.

Also cosmetics are bought to deliver a result, and if a product is not performing you can always go for another brand, the satisfaction is very personal. NOC offer a range from simple products that don’t cost much to products by companies who invest in R&D, or that source highest-grade ingredients.

With NATRUE, we can offer the guarantee – no matter of the end product’s price – that it’s natural and organic.”

The consumers need to be free, it’s not up to us to force them. But we offer what they need in order to make conscious choices, to understand the differences between convention, greenwashed, natural and organic and finally certified natural and organic.

Q: Let’s talk about the NATRUE association work. What is the NATRUE “job”? 

A: Our job is to promote and protect natural and organic cosmetics to be benefit of consumers worldwide.

In order to achieve that, we interact with the European institutions to guarantee the availability of natural and organic ingredients through appropriate legislation. We also ensure that our label is as strict as possible, offering consumers a guidance despite the lack of regulation when it comes to natural and organic cosmetics.

Another part of our work is scientific research. For example, as essential oils were to be reduced, we conducted a study, substantiating the position of the sector. Essential oils are absolutely vital for efficient great natural products, whereas the conventional cosmetics industry can replace banned ingredients easily with new synthetic ingredients. Of course we all know that natural ingredients can cause allergies. But on the other hand, drinking too much water is dangerous as well. We must rely on scientific facts – and remember that exposure is key.

Q: Is it easy to become a member?

A: Becoming a NATRUE member is an open process that has become even easier in 2013 when we modified the Statutes of the Association in order to involve the entire sector more. As an association, we can only get influence if we represent a relevant amount of members from many countries. During our Membership Assembly this year we are welcoming 15 new members from Germany, Italy, Turkey, Switzerland and the Netherlands for a total of almost 50 members from about 20 countries.

Controversial Ingredients

Q: In the study, consumers were asked about what they think of water as the main ingredient in their products. What is the takeaway for NATRUE given that interviewees seemed concerned about the quality – but in the same time would not care for any type of certification of water?

A: Water is the number one cosmetics ingredient. Water quality is guaranteed by the EU cosmetic regulation, the cosmetics directive defines parameters such as the salt, the pH value and so on.

But it becomes relevant and important when you calculate the natural part in natural cosmetics. If you count in water, which makes usually 60-70 % of a cosmetic formula, you will inflate what you can communicate, and we don’t do that. So even if you have to rehydrate a concentrate, we will consider only the extract. Which is the strictest form of definition.

So the question was actually a little provocative: why would you pay for “certified organic water”? 😉

Q: Let’s talk about palm oil & PO derivates: with RSPO alone being not as reliable as it wants to look, is there any consensus in the “certification community”? Are there thoughts about maybe going to the raw materials suppliers and apply certifications, standards, processes there?

A: The thing is that when you’re in the standard setting sector, you need to provide clear guidance to the certification partners you work with. Our principle is to ensure the naturalness and the organic part. In terms of these criteria palm oil is a natural ingredient. For us it’s difficult to start changing our criteria in this case because we care about the real naturalness of a product formula – NATRUE is not a sustainability standard, although we cover some aspects in our criteria as well. Sustainability means taking into account the environmental, social and economic impact of a certain sector / production.

However, palm oil and PO derivates are a topic raising many, many concerns.”

It’s an issue we need to define with our stakeholders. We understand the urgency but we don’t want to harm the liability of our standard. At the moment, we consider if this topic could be a call of action with our members and if there are other ways to take commitment in this regard.

Q: Can a consumer tell from the NATRUE certification if a product contains sustainable PO or RSPO-based ingredients?

A: As just mentioned, the NATRUE criteria allow palm oil as an ingredient. Therefore, anything done by the company in this regard is additional. Consumers should have a look at specific companies’ initiatives.

Our sector needs to move forward and innovation is key on that regard.”

Q: Mineral cosmetics are an unstoppable trend that brings us great products and bad products alike. How can NATRUE help consumers differ between safer, more natural and “trendy” or not too safe “organic” products?

A: The NATRUE label is available for ingredients and for finished products. And while the mineral pigments [iron oxides, for example, editor’s note] do occur in nature, for safety reasons they are reproduced in a lab, so they are nature identical, not natural and not derived from natural. From our perspective they are thus far from natural, therefore there’s no possibility to certify the ingredients per se.

If we talk about finished products, mineral make-up would be our category #4 or #11 , decorative cosmetics with or without water, certifiable depending on the formulation.

[>>> ADDITIONAL INFO: NATRUE Label Requirements Paper: Criteria]

We revise with our companies on a regular basis if the percentage of natural ingredients in each specific product can be raised. We constantly discuss this to keep our criteria strict but achievable – and on par with the current state of technology.Francesca-Morgante-Natrue-Interview-Making-of

What’s In It For Consumers – What’s In It For Brands

Q: What are the major benefits for a consumer choosing a NATRUE-certified product?

A: We think it’s the strictness and the naturalness we guarantee, it’s our impartiality – we don’t work for profit and we let the certification process be carried out by independent certification bodies.

You see, our categories ensure a product is as natural as possible, so as a consumer, you don’t need to be an expert, don’t need to understand INCI, or ingredients, we want to be the guide in the strictest way possible.

NATRUE works with 15 certifiers – we set the criteria and they perform the certification activities. Companies are not obliged to use the certifiers logo, the logo to be shown on the product packaging is NATRUE’s. This has already helped simplifying the “logo jungle” quite a lot.

Q: What would be the main reasons for a natural and organic brand to join NATRUE?

A: I think it’s about the added value – the label can support their positioning, can give their consumers an assurance that the products are made from natural ingredients, that they are organic.

There are also marketing reasons. Since NATURE was conceived as an international association, NATURE brands don’t need different local private certifications or worse, formulation changes due to different standards for each country they sell in.

Q: Given the amount of many upcoming niche, small-scale manufacturers and beauty brands that start up on Etsy and the likes, when it the best time to consider a certification (let’s think value for money for a growing brand)? 

A: If you plan to become a certified natural and organic brand, consider the criteria in the very beginning – otherwise you might have to change your formulation, your composition or even your suppliers later.

The best practice is to choose the standard certification you aim at and to start from there because it’s an investment of time, of resources and of costs and you’ll want to get it right.”

Within the last years, I have seen many companies approarching certification, global brands as well as family-owned companies. Many retailers, for example in Germany, ask for certifications if you are a new brand claiming to be natural or organic. So a certification supports your steps into the market.

The NATRUE certification costs are entirely handled by the certification body the company works with. NATRUE charges only a seal fee in order to allow the use of the NATRUE label. The NATRUE seal fee is currently 200 Euro for 2 years.Beautycalypse-Interview-NatrueThank you, Francesca!

Our interview took place at the sunny Ellington Hotel terrace in Berlin.
A special thank you for organising the interview goes to Katharina of the Berlin-based pr agency public link. 

Now Adventurer, let’s talk:
Do YOU prefer certified organic beauty products?

And if so, which labels do you trust?

5 responses to “Interview: Francesca Morgante, NATRUE

  1. Pingback: Sustainable Skincare – Best of Summer 2015 | BEAUTYCALYPSE >>> Ethical Excellence for Ethical Heroes·

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  3. This was such a wonderful interview and gave such a lot of insight in to Natrue as well as you raising some great points, for example the palm oil question. I also think the topic of nature identical ingredients needs to be discussed further as sometimes using something nature identical may be preferable if the natural version is unsustainable to cultivate.

    • Thanks for your wonderful comment, Ana! I’ve really enjoyed talking to Francesca and hope that the post will prove helpful for consumers and brands alike. There’s just so much to discuss left, and not just with Natrue – sustainable ingredients, natural ingredients, safe synthetics even and safe nature identical ingredients, just as you said.

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