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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Vying for Vegans

Veganism isn't just a trendy catch phrase anymore. It's a title representative of a growing group of consumers with specific consumption patterns. Personal care companies are vying for their attention—and market share—by creating products that abide by their rules: no animal products or byproducts and no animal testing, according to the nonprofit vegan-awareness organization Vegan Action. While many natural personal care companies already abide by these standards, an increasing number are calling attention to these qualifications on their labels and specifically pursuing vegans' attention.

Expanding in personal care
From 2003 to 2007, the number of launches for personal care products abiding by “ethical-animal” standards jumped from one to 113, according to market-research company Mintel.

Need more PC know-how? Visit NFM's Personal Care Guide.

Many personal care companies, such as Hauppauge, N.Y.-based Desert Essence, Tampa, Fla.-based Aubrey Organics, Newport Beach, Calif.-based The Healing Seed and Eugene, Ore.-based Merry Hempsters, try to market their vegan products to this consumer niche because most vegans will go out of their way to find and purchase products that coincide with their strict ethical standards, according to Mintel. A study conducted by the Vegetarian Resource Group through the Harris Interactive Service Bureau showed that about 0.5 percent of Americans consider themselves vegan—roughly 700,000 to 1 million people.

Merchandising to vegans
How should retailers market to this specialty segment? “What it comes down to for us is that retailers make it easy for consumers to find vegan products on store shelves,” says Jodi Drexler-Billet, vice president of Desert Essence. She suggests using shelf headers above vegan products, and instead of mixing all products together, separating items into sections such as vegan, gluten-free, etc. “You want to make sure the customer is not confused as to where to find vegan products,” she says.

Animal-friendly certification
A helpful tool to identify vegan products is the “Certified Vegan” logo, bestowed by Richmond, Va.-based Vegan Action. The seal guarantees customers that the product is vegan, as confirmed by the organization's strict labeling standards. In addition to not containing any non-vegan ingredients, the seal requires that products not be tested on animals. A few of the most common non-vegan ingredients to look out for in personal care products include beeswax, royal jelly, carmine, honey and bee propolis, according to Kathleen Boehning, head of the wellness department at Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, N.Y. More than 140 companies have products certified by Vegan Action, and the list continues to grow.

Merchandising vegan products is particularly important because, despite the growing number of product launches, vegan personal care products are still fairly niche items. Creating signage, grouping products and drawing attention to vegan seals can all help customers find the products they want, which can't hurt when it comes to building loyalty. “Basically, you want to make sure customers in your store feel comfortable knowing they can find everything they need,” Drexler-Billet says.

Christy Mercer is a Louisville, Colo.-based freelance writer.

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