Are you looking for a way to pump up your personal care sales? Consider focusing on your youngest customers. In 2008, sales of natural baby personal care products rose 18 percent from 2007, according to a report by Nutrition Business Journal. Overall, personal care growth slowed in 2009 amid a tough economy, but the baby personal care category continued to produce positive gains. Last year, natural baby body care totaled $177 million in sales, which comprised a significant chunk—23 percent—of total natural body care sales, according to SPINS, a Schaumburg, Ill.-based market research company.
Why the strong showing? “Parents are understanding more and more that the absorption of materials through the skin affects their children’s health as much as the absorption of food into their intestines,” says Lawrence B. Palevsky, MD, president of the Media, Pa.-based Holistic Pediatric Association. Babies’ more permeable, sensitive skin makes them particularly vulnerable to the ill effects of synthetic chemicals, Palevsky says.
Offering clean options is good for business and good for customers—as long as you target their top concerns. If you intend to broaden your selection of bubble baths, shampoos, diaper ointments and oils for baby, keep in mind what parents really want.
Parents want “-free” products
The main trend in natural baby care products may be the most obvious: “Young mothers are showing concern about synthetic chemicals such as phthalates, parabens and sodium lauryl sulfate in personal care products,” says Tina Gill, marketing manager at Organic Monitor, a London-based research and consulting company for the international natural and organic products industry. “These concerned mothers want products free of chemicals for their babies.”
Gill says the “-free” trend will help translate into a forecasted 15 percent annual increase in natural baby care sales in the United States over the next few years. Studies like a recent one linking phthalates, a common ingredient in cosmetics and fragrances, to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have the potential to drive even more parents toward synthetic-free products. See “Ingredients to Avoid” (page 30) for details on the newest baddies to pull from your shelves.
Parents want organic
As an extension of the “-free” trend, parents are increasingly scouring baby personal care product labels for organic ingredients, says Gill. The driving forces behind the interest in organics? Parents think synthetic ingredients such as parabens and phthalates might be absorbed through the skin, and they perceive organic farming as better for the environment, according to Gill. “There is a lack of research stating organic personal care products are safer and better than conventional ones,” she says. “However, consumers perceive them to be safer and better for them.”
As with adult personal care products, identifying organic baby personal care items can be tricky due to the absence of U.S. Department of Agriculture organic regulations particular to personal care. Products labeled organic are not necessarily USDA-certified organic and may contain synthetic ingredients. Some personal care products contain natural ingredients that aren’t plant-based—like the mineral zinc oxide, a common ingredient in natural diaper ointments—and, therefore, aren’t available in certified-organic form.
Parents want the basics
Despite the current economic climate, parents are opting for clean, natural and organic personal care products for their babies—even if they must go without these products themselves, says Adena Surabian, president of Woodland Hills, Calif.-based personal care company Nature’s Baby Organics. But, Surabian says, decreased family spending also means that parents might be less willing to shell out for peripheral baby products, such as massage oils and aromatherapy sprays. Sales of these items in her line have dipped slightly, whereas sales of products that parents use on a daily basis, like shampoos, conditioners and bubble bath, have continued to rise.
Parents want effectiveness
“A huge part of what parents are looking for in these products is safety,” says Sue Farr, key accounts manager for Los Angeles-based personal care manufacturer California Baby. “But it also has to have a function. It has to work.” Calendula typifies how manufacturers are responding to the demand for functional ingredients that offer specific health benefits. This herb, traditionally used to heal and nourish chapped skin, is increasingly popping up as the featured functional ingredient in everything from diaper creams to shampoos by major natural personal care brands like Weleda, Nature’s Baby and California Baby. Other popular functional ingredients in baby care products used to soothe irritated, itchy skin include lavender and chamomile.
The best part about increased baby care sales? Chances are that sales in one aisle will lead to more profits storewide. “The expectant mother and new mom are highly desirable customers to cultivate,” says Bob Burke, principal of Andover, Mass.-based Natural Products Consulting. “So offering a wide range of effective and clean products and having a knowledgeable staff will go a long way towards
winning them over.”
Ingredients to avoid
Parabens and phthalates are already no-nos in natural personal care, but here are some common toxic ingredients in baby products that you might not know about.
Ceteareth and PEG compounds
Found in: Shampoo, conditioner, lotion and moisturizer
Why they’re bad: The processing of these petrochemicals can create potentially cancer-causing 1,4 dioxane. In a recent report by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 67 percent of 48 personal care products contained 1,4 dioxane, including some products labeled organic and natural.
Found in: Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, liquid soap, sunscreen, baby wipes, lotion and moisturizer
Why it’s bad: The processing of this allergen may form potentially cancer-causing formaldehyde. In a recent report by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 82 percent of 28 products tested contained formaldehyde, including some products labeled organic and natural.
Found in: Diaper cream and baby powder
Why it’s bad: Also known as borax, it’s a skin irritant and potentially toxic to the brain.
(usually listed as “fragrance”)
Found in: All types of baby care products
Why it’s bad: This allergen can trigger asthma attacks and contains ingredients suspected of neurotoxicity, as well as known or suspected hormone disruptors.
Found in: Body wash, liquid soap and toothpaste
Why it’s bad: This antibacterial chemical may disrupt thyroid growth hormones and can irritate eyes and skin.
Entice new parents by adding four new baby products to your shelves.
California Baby Calendula Everyday Lotion
Part of a new line of calendula-based products, this lotion combines the herb with vitamin E, aloe and rosehips, which prevent dryness, according to the company.
Earth’s Best Bubble Bath
This dye-free, 70 percent certified–organic formula contains soothing ingredients like organic aloe, vanilla and lavender.
Nature’s Baby Dusting Powder
This fragrance-free powder is made with absorbent tapioca starch and contains certified-organic soothing chamomile and antibacterial echinacea. It comes in a nonsqueezable container to reduce risk of inhalation.
Terressentials 100% Organic Terrific Tush Treatment
Part of its new fragrance-free baby line, this certified-organic cream contains cocoa butter, coconut oil, beeswax, calendula and other plant-based ingredient
Sources: Environmental Working Group, Campaign
for Safe Cosmetics
O’rya Hyde-Keller is a Providence, R.I.-based freelance writer. She has a 22-month-old son and is extremely thankful for the existence of calendula.
For the lowdown on more PC ingredients, go to naturalfoodsmerchandiser.com/personalcareguide.