2019 Natural Cosmetics Conference: Key Insights

Are you a natural cosmetics entrepreneur or writer and didn’t manage to attend this year’s Naturkosmetik Branchenkongress in Berlin? Here is a recap of what you’ve missed.

Naturkosmetik Branchenkongress 2019

With more and more players entering the green beauty market, with more and more tech & digital progress (and the imperative to follow suit), with more challenges regarding raw materials, with more focus on environmental issues and waste management, the organic beauty industry is not an easy place to navigate. Consumer expectations are more complex and more contradictory than ever, too. And, however ethical and sustainable, green beauty brands have to reach healthy business goals for the sake of their customers, their employees, their suppliers and their investors.

Now, one of my favourite concepts in business and life is strategy. One of my less favourite concepts is the comfort bubble. This year’s conference delivered big time in providing truly strategic insights and thinking outside the (green) box.

And here’s your day by day recap.

Before The Conference: The Trend Tour

Creative Retail Concepts

The face of beauty retail is changing rapdily. Participants of the Natural & Organic Cosmetics Conference who joined the expert team for the Trendtour Berlin on the day prior to the conference visited the latest in the city’s green beauty hotspots.
On the map in 2019: the brand new and innovative Khadi henna hair dye boutique (opening detail image on the left), Dr. Bronner’s and Ponyhütchen Berlin flagships, and AER Scent perfume atelier.

Day 1: Status Quo & Future Outlook


Wolf Lüdge, MD of naturkosmetik verlag lüdge GmbH & Co. KG, and Danila Brunner (VIVANESS, NürnbergMesse GmbH) greeted the attendees and spoke with anticipation and great passion about the upcoming topics.
Wolf Lüdge prompted the participants to use the Naturkosmetik Branchenkongress app (screen detail on the right) to keep track of the programme and to send questions to the speakers and the panelists.

Taking stock: Organic cosmetics market DACH

Elfriede Dambacher, (owner naturkosmetik konzepte) opened the conference by presenting key data on what’s driving the beauty market, covering consumer trends, environmental topics, as well as the pure numbers. Natural beauty (and luxury beauty) remain the only growing segments of the overall beauty market. However, the communications part is weak in the green sector — storytelling and digital trends are put in second place, even though brand stories can drive sales enormously.

The DACH region remains the largest beauty market in Europe, and while the interest in natural beauty is strong and suitable for the mass, the definition of what’s natural clashes at the point of who defines what versus who expects what. The boundaries between greenwashed, close to natural, natural and certified organic cosmetics become worryingly fluid; the amount of real and fantasy labels is a (bad) gift that, unfortunately, keeps giving. Retailers needing to satisfy the consumers’ desire for “clean beauty” must come up with their own symbols to offer maximum clarity. A possible and a transparent solution would be a brand-level organic certification as opposed to status quo product based certifications.

International top trends and must-haves

A journey around the world — USA, Australia and New Zealand, Brasil, Japan, Korea, Russia, Italy, France, UK and other European markets except DACH — capturing international beauty trends, top relevant brands, products, innovative and winning retail concepts was then offered by Melanie Schriever (Mixed Greens) and Moritz Aebersold (Contura Consulting). The best strategic solution for brands seems to be a balance of innovation and authenticity, supported by immersive consumer experience, intelligent storytelling solutions, and a savvy use of digital media.

Beauty retail: changing for the future (keynote)

Marta Kwiatkowski Schenk (Senior Researcher & Deputy Head Think Tank Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute) spoke about a new approach to retail and the amount of high tech and social media use in the beauty industry. She presented a new approach to biohacking, clever instagrammable retail spaces, introduced blockchain technology for beauty retail, explained the opportunities of social media based retail, and elaborated on the importance of creating truly immersive brand eco systems.

Lunch break

The lunch break came in time to reflect on all the numbers, facts, trends and creative ideas — and to visit this year’s Table Top exhibitors: GW Cosmetics (private label), lokay (eco friendly printers), ProTec Ingredia (ingredient supplier), Ursatec (innovative primary packaging supplier), naturalcosmetics (private label) and rlc packaging group (secondary packaging supplier).

Upheaval in retail

Jun.-Prof. Dr. Erik Maier (Junior Professor Retail- & Multi-Channel-Management, HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management) showcased how Amazon is a game-changer, whether one likes the new game or not.
As one of the three inofficial search engines (YouTube for entertainment and learning, Pinterest for images, and Amazon for purchases) it holds enormous power. But Amazon does offers many opportunities as well — it’s just wise to know its challenges in advance.
One of the key takeways here was: if brands decide to sell digitally, they have to seize the power of quality content marketing; otherwise their shops will be lost in the search results. Thus, operating without brick and mortar may be more modern, but it’s not less costly: instead of investing in premium locations, brands need to invest in online campaigns, influencer marketing, and said quality content.

Newcomers & best practice

Moderator Janine Steeger sat down with four entrepreneurs: Anna Baltruschat, Managing Director Afrolocke UG, Oliver Gothe, Managing Director Fair Squared GmbH, and Aras Azadian, CEO Avicanna. The founders shared their stories, and how their product redefines the market — each in a very different but equally inspiring way. Anna Baltruschat’s Afrolocke offers Germany’s first organic hair care for naturally curly hair; Fair Saquared’s Oliver Gothe talked about the company’s reusable primary packaging and plastic-free solutions; finally, Aras Azadian presented a scientific, R&D-based approach to CBD skincare.

How is the organic beauty market evolving?

The panel was followed by another lively discussion moderated by Wolf Lütge. Key speaker Marta Kwiatkowski Schenk, Susanne Stoll (editor-in-chief INSIDE beauty), Michael Radau (CEO, SuperBioMarkt AG), Ramon Stroink (Managing Director D-A-CH organic cosmetics segment Weleda), Sebastian Wölke (Managing Director NO PLANET B Limited) and Peter Brommenschenkel (Managing Director Brommenschenkel GmbH) discussed the takeaways presented during the day.

The Get-Together

As always, the Vivaness get-together in the evening was the finale of Day One. The NKBK team, the attendees, the hosts of the Trend Tour, and the speakers had the opportunity to connect and to talk, all while the Ellington restaurant served a delicious grill buffet for vegans and omnivores alike in the hotel’s cosy atrium.

For those unfamiliar, the Vivaness is NKBK partner and the world’s largest natural consmetics trade fair that takes place each February in Nurgemberg.

Key Takeaways Day 1

  • In communications and in the digital world, it’s not enough to be reactive. You need to be strategic, proactive, and innovative; otherwise you’ll be wasting time. A clever storytelling is an all-encompassing strategy spanning everything from packaging to company values. Quality content is still king.
  • There is plenty of room for innovative green beauty products: whether it’s in the use of ingredients, in the development of sustainable packaging, or in pushing the boundaries of what’s available today in the certified organic quality. Natural cosmetics and luxury cosmetics are the two growing segments within the beauty market.
  • Brand or company based organic certification would help end the current confusion and the label overwhelm on the consumer side; it can also help cut out greenwashed products.

Day 2: Ecology & Economy

Coral bleaching in the oceans

Thomas J.F. Goreau, president of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, revealed the devastating truth of how bad climate change truly will be — past the standard time frame of 100 years from now. Global warming, he argued, is a much more dangerous coral reef enemy than any sunscreen; he then proceeded to show his and his team’s successes of coral reef and the consequential beachand even fish ecosystem rebuilding around the world. Electrolysis-based steel structures have proven to offer corals a new home where they previously had died; it also made them more resilient.

Natural raw materials & the booming demand

With the Agenda 2030 in mind, Dr. Ulrike Eberle (owner corsus corporate sustainability) spoke about the challenges in securing sustainable raw materials — challenges including climate change, growing nationalist movements across the world, the increasing world population growth, inequality and global food demand. Businesses need to implement sustainable strategies in the core of their operations in order to thrive and to survive.

The desire for beauty (keynote)

Prof. Jan Teunen spoke about the principle of cosmic order — beauty — as the main driver of human development and prosperity. Being and living true to yourself is vital for individuals and companies alike; for businesses living true to their brand/ identity is the basis for their authenticity and success. As Teunen argued, “a rose that looks like a tulip and smells like lily of the valley is identity gone wrong”.

Implementing Eco-Design

Carolina Schweig, owner C.E. Schweig packaging consultancy explained the main challenges and trends of circular and eco product design against the backdrop of regulations, Agenda 2030 goals, Gen X and Hen Y expectations, and the impact of conventional beauty companies entering the green beauty market. Schweig urged that brands need to focus on efficiency and strategic thinking rather than on following fads and often meaningless (potentially greenwashed) packaging trends. Another takeaway: true branding champions stand out with coherent, strategic communications.

Circular Economy for packaging in global demand – but how?

The final discussion with panelists Carolina Schweig, Dr. Franziska Krüger (Federal Environmental Agency), Patrick Zimmermann (Director Marketing & Sales FKuR Kunststoff GmbH), Dr. Michael Scriba (mtm plastics GmbH), Harald Dittmar (BDIH), Dr. Mark Smith (NaTrue), Marie Delaperrière (Unverpackt Kiel) was dedicated to the the rise of conscious consumerism and packaging trends between “too much” and zero waste.

Key Takeaways Day 2

  • Nature has immense restorative powers and great resiliency. The true, the horrifying question is: will humanity still be around when it rebuilds? The Agenda 2030 goals need to be seen as such — as goals, not as a wish list. Not only nations and people, also businesses and industries have to contribute.
  • The strongest brands are brands that are unapologetically coherent in their actions and communications.
  • Zero waste, reusable packaging, circular economy: the future belongs to intelligent eco friendly products.

P.S. Make sure to connect with BEAUTYCALYPSE on Instagram — it’s the main channel for discussions, Q&As (in stories and in the feed) and much more!