Natural Health, Beauty Products Gain Ground

Raley's O-N-E Market HBC

Photograph courtesy of Raley’s O-N-E Market

Health and wellness nonfood products to beautify, moisturize and clean are getting, well, cleaner. Products touting nontoxic ingredients are appearing on mainstream grocery store shelves, in private label lines and customers’ wish lists.

West Sacramento, Calif.-based Raley’s is meeting this trend head-on, largely via its new O-N-E Markets.

The ethos of this new brand, which launched last summer and now has three stores, is to offer a highly curated assortment of products, which, on the nonfoods side, means nontoxic products. To fill the shelves with only items that fit the brand’s standards, around 1,000 new nonfoods products were brought in and placed in its natural beauty store-within-a-store. 

These items are doing well, says Chelsea Minor, corporate director of consumer and public affairs, especially in the categories of hair color, masks and leave-in conditioner. However, cosmetics haven’t fared as well because COVID prevented the use of samplers, although sales are starting to look up.

It’s not just stores like Raley’s O-N-E offering natural health and beauty care (HBC) products. Mass has already fully embraced them, says Andrew Moberly, senior director of strategic advisory for private label development firm Daymon of Stamford, Conn. Grocery stores, he says, “continue to expand assortments.”

Whole Foods Market is also vetting health and wellness products for its customers. The company has banned more than 100 ingredients in beauty and body care products and any organic HBC items must be third-party certified. The company also actively partners with brands making a difference, such as Cocokind, which empowers women, and Alaffia, which raises funds for community projects in West Africa.

PCC Community Markets in Seattle offers “one of the cleanest selections of health and body care products,” selected for their “integrity and outstanding quality,” according to the company’s website. It has banned 500 ingredients from its nonfood shelves, and all products are cruelty-free, including sunscreens that don’t damage coral reefs.

Other grocery stores are launching their own clean lines. Wegmans offers an organic hand and body collection of washes, lotions and creams; Trader Joe’s has skincare products with clean ingredients; and Walmart’s Earth to Skin brand promises no parabens, phthalates, petrolatum, mineral oil, sulfates, gluten or animal testing.

There’s also Ahold’s Nature’s Promise, which has expanded into beauty, with natural, free-from—and for some products, vegan—body care and hair care; Kroger’s Simple Truth; and Albertson’s Open Nature brands, which include a variety of natural skin care products.

“We expect convenience and value to continue to drive natural purchases going forward, making private label well-positioned for growth.”

“We expect convenience and value to continue to drive natural purchases going forward, making private label well-positioned for growth,” says Moberly of Daymon.

According to Daymon, for the 52 weeks ending May 22, 2021, while total HBC department sales were hampered by the pandemic, organic HBC sales were up 9% in grocery.

“Recent consumer surveys have highlighted that one-third of clean beauty/personal care shoppers purchased products in a traditional grocery store over the last 12 months, which is a promising trend,” says Moberly. The growth is seen most, he points out, in organic and natural products for soap and shower, which are up 51% year to date.

Avoidance Strategies

Consumers buying natural health and beauty aids look to avoid certain ingredients. For O-N-E Market, these are parabens and sulfates, while Minor says products that are unscented or containing essential oils are doing well. But consumers are also interested in companies that are cruelty-free, have sustainable practices, are cause-based and contribute, as well as businesses that are women- and minority-owned, she points out.

Scott Dicker, marketing data analyst with SPINS, sees an increase in products with impactful HBC label claims, including aluminum-free (up 27%), organic (up 7%), vegan (up 18%) and paraben-free (up 9%). Conversely, he points out, consumers are steering clear of products with other ingredients. Label claims on products containing parabens are down 7%, sodium laurel sulfate is down 6% and aluminum salt is down 9%. And in particular, he’s seeing growth in natural categories such as hair care (up 12%), deodorants and antiperspirants (up 29%) and shaving and hair removal (up 28%).

For Raley’s it’s important to continue to educate customers about these items. The company uses its proprietary shelf tag system, Shelf Guide, to specifically call out paraben-free, phthalate-free, sulfate-free, clean label, no added fragrance, and sustainability.

“Our team spends a lot of time reviewing the ingredients on each product to make sure it goes above and beyond our standards.”

Offering these products and providing education is a lot of work “but it’s a labor of love,” Minor explains. “We partner with third parties that help us ensure claims and ingredients. Our team spends a lot of time reviewing the ingredients on each product to make sure it goes above and beyond our standards.”

The Packaging Dilemma

Consumers who seek out natural and nontoxic health and beauty products also often have another agenda: packaging.

“The health of our environment is one of the most important issues of our time, and consumers know packaging is one of the largest contributors to waste,” says Lisa-Marie Assenza, co-founder and CEO of New York-based Impacked, a marketplace that helps brands source sustainable packaging for beauty and personal care products. “More than half of U.S. consumers today are highly concerned about the environmental impact of packaging in general.”

There are niche companies offering products in “better” packaging. More than 85% of Aveda’s jars contain 100% post-consumer recycled materials, as well as bioplastic, which is mostly derived from plants; Meow Meow Tweet, whose vegan range includes skin and hair products, uses biodegradable tubes that are refillable and reusable; We Are Paradoxx offers packaging that’s 90% plastic-free; and Farmacy’s packaging is sustainably sourced and safe for the environment.

Consumers expect products to come in packaging that’s at the very least recyclable, and Europe is far ahead of the U.S. in driving improvements. It has introduced a plastic tax, for example, and is leading in creating regulations for consumer goods brands to reduce packaging.

Driving the demand for packaging that’s less harmful for the planet is younger consumers. “They’re looking for a greater purpose and it’s driving consumer demand for more sustainable solutions,” Assenza says.

She expects to soon see more brands move toward refillable products, though this also took a hit during COVID. Brands already offering this include Love, Beauty and Planet, which also launched aluminum shampoo and conditioner bottles this year; Fenty Beauty; Milk Makeup; and even larger players such as Dove and Secret deodorant from Procter & Gamble.

“When you start seeing some of the big consumer goods brands [invest in refillable packaging] it can really help move the market because some of the smaller brands often don’t have the budget,” says Assenza.

She expects refillable packaging to move forward in two ways: Through consumers buying refill bags at the store and filling their own containers at home, or through a program like TerraCycle’s Loop, which is backed by a number of CPG companies, including Unilever and Procter & Gamble, and retailers such as Kroger. Loop collects used containers from consumers’ homes and delivers filled ones. 

Beyond Puppy Chow

In health and wellness, one particular area is becoming more important for pet owners and that’s supplements. Sales of these grew 20% during the pandemic, says the National Animal Supplement Council in Sun City West, Ariz.

Online sales of supplements have jumped, partly due to our inability to shop in-person, says Johnna Devereaux, clinical pet nutritionist and director of nutrition and wellness for online retailer Bow Wow Labs.

“More consumers are looking for alternative, proactive and preventative measures to increase their pet’s health,” she says.

They’re particularly looking to products that promote calm and mental balance; probiotics that diversify the gut microbiome and increase overall health; and musculoskeletal products for joint health.

But the main focus, she says, is supplements that will increase pets’ longevity. “However, there’s a big divide between those that are interested in doing this proactively and those looking to address a specific issue, reactively. I feel the trend is definitely changing and more pet parents are looking to find ways to invest in their pet’s wellness, not their sickness.”


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