Industry: Certified organic cosmetics grow despite ‘greenwashing’ issues

June 2013

Certified organic cosmetic companies report strong sales to non-mainstream stores,

while ‘greenwashing’ by non-certified ‘organic’ cosmetics on retail shelves continues to be a challenge. And a recent CHOICE investigation has found that Australian consumers are being misled on animal testing by major conventional cosmetic brands (see Newsbytes).

Mainstream supermarkets, pharmacies and department stores are not concerned with locally certified organic, only advertising dollars of a company, says Katrina Milham of NSW certified organic brand Cawarra Cosmetics. Good sales are being seen in organic speciality stores, where Cawarra’s target market shops, while online stores and naturopaths seem to be another strong market.

“I believe customers understand your only guarantee from the ‘free from’ (chemicals such as parabens) claims is to buy certified organic skincare,” says Ms Milham. “Generally, consumers are getting mislead with ‘free from’ statements. Greenwashing is prevalent in the skincare industry and unfortunately is beating true certified organic ranges to shelf space in mainstream markets.”

Fremantle, WA-based certified organic company Mokosh is seeing its biggest sales growth in organic supermarkets and stores. Mokosh founder Marion O’Leary believes its customers are well educated about the benefits of certified organic products. “We like to make sure our products go to organic stores that screen their products carefully so they’re not swamped by ‘greenwashed’ products,” she says.

“Awareness of the potential dangers of conventional skincare is growing and more people are looking for safer alternatives. Organic certification gives us the integrity we are after and customers who are aware of certification logos know they can trust the brand.

“But it takes only a cursory look at mainstream supermarket and pharmacy shelves to see that there is a lot of greenwashing going on. Many people are buying ‘natural’ products because it has that word on the label or a symbol made to look like a certified organic logo.”

Despite economic pressures on discretionary income, and the federal election, Lorelle Yee of Sydney-based Planet Eve Organics says she is experiencing continued growth within the specialist store market. Sales are being helped by better recognition of certified organic skincare.

“More consumers are in need of chemical-free products and our product range appeals because it ticks both boxes – rationally, with a 95 per cent minimum certified organic ingredients, and emotionally, with our simple but sophisticated branding,” she says. “We have focused on having a high-quality product; it’s critical as consumers won’t come back if it doesn’t deliver.

“Planet Eve is gaining shelf space in recognition by respected retailers of our ethical and substantiated claims. However, the shelves are cluttered by products professing what are potentially false and misleading claims. While more retailers and consumers are starting to understand the difference, definitely more education is needed by the certification bodies.”

Consumers choosing products that are certified by Australian Certified Organic (ACO) have every assurance. The standards that ACO certifies to are recognised as some of the most stringent organic standards for cosmetics internationally, says Jorge Larranaga, senior certification officer with Australian Certified Organic.

“The manufacturing process and starting raw materials of any cosmetics ingredient are thoroughly assessed by Australian Certified Organic certification officers, in order to guarantee that they are compliant with the standard requirements,” he says.

“Organic logos such as the ACO Bud logo on products guarantee the consumer that the product has been manufactured following strict quality controls, is compliant with the regulation regarding the use of hazardous chemicals or residues, has not been tested on animals and doesn’t contain ingredients manufactured from genetically modified (GM) materials.

“And because it contains at least 95 per cent of ingredients coming from organic farming, the consumer is assured of the purity and effectiveness of the active ingredients.”
Australian Organic Ltd Office
PO Box 810 (18 Eton Street)
Nundah? QLD 4012
Ph:? 07 3350 5716
Fax: 07 3266 5996