For forward-thinking natural beauty companies, genetically modified organisms' (GMOs) fate may look similar to common personal care offenders such as parabens and sulfates: red flags for customers seeking safe personal care products. Andalou Naturals, a Novato, Calif.-based skin and hair care company, is one brand using the non-GMO verification to prove its dedication to transparency.
“Many natural foods shoppers want to ensure that everything they put on or in their body is as healthy as possible, and that includes being non-GMO,” according to Courtney Pineau, assistant director of the Non-GMO Project.
Earlier this month, Andalou became the first entirely Non-GMO Project Verified beauty manufacturer, obtaining the certification for every one of its 66 products.
“Partnering with the Non-GMO Project and achieving third-party verification was consistent with our brand standard to use natural and organic ingredients that are safe for our customers and the environment,” said Alissa Berihu, formulator for Andalou Naturals. “Andalou Naturals recognizes the importance of consumer protection and education, so we decided to lead by example and help set a new standard for personal care.”
Along with the eight other beauty brands with products boasting Non-GMO Verification, including EO (the first to become verified in 2011) and Desert Essence, Andalou Naturals has helped make personal care the fastest growing non-food, non-GMO category, according to Pineau.
GMOs and cosmetics
Many health and environmentally conscious consumers are realizing that GMOs are ubiquitous in packaged food products, such as in corn and soy food fillers. As a result, sales of Non-GMO Project Verified products surpassed $2 billion dollars in 2012.
The non-GMO industry will continue to grow as awareness increases around the widespread use of GMOs in other product types such as personal care. Herbs and vegetables used in cosmetics are often extracted with alcohol or glycerin, which could be made using high-GMO risk corn. Other common high-GMO risk cosmetic ingredients include soy or canola oils, according to Pineau.
Retailers have recently become privy to the use of GMOs in cosmetics, asking questions and touting non-GMO beauty products as important to the safe cosmetics industry.
In a press release, Jeremiah McElwee, executive Whole Body coordinator at Whole Foods Market, said: "Andalou’s commitment to the Non-GMO Project and ingredient integrity continues to define and expand industry standards."
While consumers may just now be gaining awareness about GMOs in cosmetics, Pineau points out that informed shoppers will support brands with shared values beyond the grocery department.
“When [customers] see the Non-GMO Project verification mark on a product they feel an alignment between their personal non-GMO commitment and the commitment of the company to provide shoppers an informed choice,” said Pineau.
Non-GMO supports transparent supply chains
However, giving consumers this choice isn't easy. Non-GMO Verification is a considerable feat for personal care brands because “often beauty care products contain extracts and derivatives, so the source material may not always be apparent to the manufacturer,” Pineau said.
Take Andalou, which researched more than 200 ingredients in order to become verified. What made this process possible? It was all about close relationships with suppliers that “support of transparency form farm to shelf,” said Berihu. “Non-GMO Project Verification was a team effort, as it required dedicated Andalou Naturals staff members, and cooperation and transparency from our manufacturers and suppliers to confirm not only that source ingredients were non-GMO, but also that the manufacturing process for each final ingredient did not include GMOs.”
Andalou will continue to focus on innovative and clean ingredients such as argan stem cells and probiotics, while working with retailers to educate on the non-GMO beauty category.
As for the category’s future, expect to see explosive growth this year based on an unprecedented number of beauty product inquiries at the end of 2012 and into 2013, said Pineau.