To NFM readers:
Looking back at our industry over the last 30 years, we see unprecedented success and growth. Looking deeper, we see a series of reforms, which underpin that success. These reforms transformed the way people think about food, their health and the environment.
The first reform eliminated objectionable ingredients in food. We asked why our food was made with so many synthetic ingredients, artificial colors, flavors and toxic preservatives. This advocacy created the natural food business and transformed the food industry.
The second reform was our advocacy for the elimination of persistent, toxic chemicals in agriculture. Here again, we questioned the need for toxic herbicides, pesticides and petroleum-based fertilizers and revealed their danger for farmers, soil, waterways and consumers. Our advocacy defined the organic industry. Our good work delivers safer fruits and vegetables and an expanding offering of organic products. We have been rewarded with double-digit sales growth of organics.
This will produce another important distinction for our industry, differentiate us from mainstream retailers and manufacturers, and affirm the confidence consumers have in us as protective gatekeepers.
Enacting the Third Reform will dramatically increase sales of body care, skin care and cosmetic products in our stores.
- Personal care products contain an alarmingly large number of toxic chemicals. European scientists studied cosmetic, body care and skin care products sold in Europe and identified over 1,100 chemicals categorized as carcinogens, reproductive toxins or teratogens?chemicals that cause birth defects in fetuses. Under an EU Directive, enacted in March 2005, these chemicals are now prohibited from all cosmetic and body care products sold in Europe.
- These same toxic chemicals are present in products sold in the United States. Women?s health organizations such as The Breast Cancer Fund, The Environmental Working Group and others are taking action to remove these toxic chemicals from cosmetic and personal care products sold in the U.S. To date, Revlon, Procter & Gamble, Lancôme, Estée Lauder and other leading cosmetic and body care manufacturers are resisting these changes and have not signed the Compact for Global Production of Safer Health and Beauty Products. This creates great opportunity for our industry to further distance itself socially and environmentally from mass brands.
- While personal care products sold in the natural products industry are generally cleaner, safer and less toxic than the mass market brands, many still contain carcinogens [including p-phenylenediamine and other coal-tar derivates], known endocrine disruptors [including parabens], formaldehyde donors, petroleum-based chemicals [including propylene glycol, mineral oil and petrolatum], artificial colors, phthalates in synthetic fragrances, and other objectionable ingredients.
- Aside from health issues, we need to do this because mainstream retailers and mainstream body care companies have usurped our ownership of natural body care with misleading products sold as ?natural? or claiming to deliver ?the organic experience.? They have lured our customers away.
- Studies of consumer purchases of personal care products in the natural products industry?s most successful retailers sadly reveal only one out of 11 customers who shops for natural and organic foods in natural food stores actually purchase personal care products there. Instead, they purchase them in supermarkets and drug stores.
- Clairol?s Herbal Essence has estimated sales of $400 million. This is greater than the combined sales of Avalon, Nature?s Gate, Jason, Kiss My Face, Aubrey and every other brand in our industry. Think of it: If we could increase personal care sales to even two out of 11 natural products customers, we would double our business in this high-margin area. Becoming destinations for safe personal care products would be extraordinarily good for everyone.
This can happen if we come together, with a higher shared purpose. Let?s:
- Establish new, safe ingredient standards for cosmetics, skin and body care products sold in our industry.
- Educate consumers that what they put on their skin is absorbed into their bodies and that continual application of even small amounts of toxic ingredients is dangerous because they can build up in body tissue.
- Teach consumers about the objectionable ingredients found in so many of the personal care products they buy in mainstream markets and what makes our products safer.
- Support advocacy groups working to enact legislation to ban toxic ingredients.
- Provide space in stores for educational materials and signage, explaining not only the dangers of these ingredients, but also the safety of the alternatives natural retailers offer.
- Educate our personal care sales team members about these issues and ingredients so they become advocates for safe body care.
- Make store personal care departments more exciting, more experiential, better-organized and more attractive for customers shopping in their stores.
The Dalai Lama tells us: ?Adopting an attitude of universal responsibility is essentially a personal matter. The real test of compassion is not what we say in abstract discussions but how we conduct ourselves in daily life.?
Enacting the Third Reform will make natural food stores destinations for safe personal care products. It is time for our industry to take the leadership role once again, as we did in food and agriculture. It is time again to honor our roots and renew our mission. Time to acknowledge our high social purpose that has distinguished and allowed us to create astoundingly beneficial social change.
It is time to reaffirm consumer confidence in us as trusted gatekeepers, to more clearly position our industry against mainstream retailers selling objectionable body care products.
If the past is prologue to the future, the universe will amply reward us.
Morris Shriftman has been a leader in the natural products industry for more than 30 years. Before joining Avalon Natural Products as senior vice president, he was CEO of Mozart Inc., a marketing and branding agency.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 9/p. 26, 28