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Organic may not matter to cosmetics consumers, unless …

Shoppers who regularly buy organic food won’t necessarily purchase organic cosmetics, according to a new, small study by Chicago-based market research firm Kairos Consumers.

Why not? They don’t seem to have a firm grasp on whether products are safe, what product claims like “organic” and “natural” mean and what good ingredients are. The small study included store audits and focus groups of 19 females primarily between ages 35 and 45.

"Cosmetic shoppers told us they believe cosmetics are deemed safe when they are free of ingredients they view as "bad," such as parabens, dyes and chemicals. They also place great importance on the brand's reputation in the organic or natural marketplace, making brand familiarity an important influencer of cosmetic decisions," explains Betsy Hoag, Kairos Consumers co-founder.

Other findings include:

  • Consumers who regularly purchase organic food generally place less value on buying organic in cosmetics.

  • Vanity prevails over safety for the results-oriented cosmetics customer. In other words, products have to work.

  • Consumers show greater awareness of “bad” ingredients (“free of” certain ingredients) than “good” ingredients.

  • The word “natural” remains a nebulous product descriptor rather than a premium branding element.

  • Consumers tend to associate the USDA Organic label only with food, but the certified organic classification has credibility if consumers have more education on its meaning and value in personal care.

The takeaway: Education may be the answer. (And settling our confusing standards, as I've said before.) Keep in mind that after years of double-digit growth, sales of natural and organic personal care products dipped by 1.4 percent in 2009. We have some catching up to do.

How will you educate your shoppers on the benefits of the PC products sold in your store and get them to branch out to new brands? Sound off below.

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