By  on March 18, 2011

NEW YORK — Once again, shoppers want greener options. However, there’s bewilderment over what “going natural” means. For some consumers, the goal is natural ingredients. Others want less packaging.

“There is still a lot of confusion,” said Kathy Steirly, a former beauty retail executive who now consults on the business. “But natural is becoming more mainstream and while people might not know what they want in their products, they know what they don’t want, such as parabens.”

The confusion makes it harder for retailers to create the right natural planogram. Should they stress natural or emphasize vendors that are reducing waste?

“I think when it comes to natural, there’s more interest in food than cosmetics. But, shoppers are searching for products with less packaging and harmful chemicals,” suggested industry consultant Allan Mottus.

Manufacturers think natural ingredients are a consumer’s priority. “Consumers at all income levels are increasingly realizing the importance of not just the ingredients in the food they put in their body, but also the ingredients in the products,” said Doug Hosking, chief executive officer of Freeman Beauty. “Natural ingredients are absolutely becoming more important within the mass market, as everyone looking for beauty care products formulated with good-for-you-ingredients is looking for value,” he said.

Retailers do see a more informed shopper. “We know our shoppers respond to natural beauty products,” said Joe Magnacca, president of Daily Living Products and Solutions for Walgreens. “We have to find the right mix. We just added H2O+ to our Look Boutique.”

At Bartell Drug, there’s a fusion of natural products and waste reduction in packaging. The chain also has its own natural proprietary line. “At Bartell Drugs, we stock many natural and organic items produced with minimal environmental impact. To highlight these offerings, we are introducing everyday elements for wellness — products you use to take care of yourself and your family, the natural way, without additives, chemicals or the other stuff you don’t need,” a representative of the chain explained.

Target, suppliers said, is about to debut a fresh look in their naturals section, and Ulta is amping up their natural assortment as the chain remodels its stores. Rite Aid, said sources, is also in the process of adding natural offerings to join Eco-Tools, Jason and Alba.

Data support manufacturers’ moves toward being more natural. According to research from Mintel, in 2010, 13 percent of new skin care, hair care and cosmetics made paraben-free claims (up from 5 percent in 2008) and almost 9 percent of new skin care, hair care and cosmetics made organic claims (twice as many as in 2007). Mintel said being more natural is one of the biggest trends for 2011.

“Companies are stressing efficacy, but also they are finding they don’t need fancy packaging anymore. It is becoming chic and a cool thing to have less packaging,” said Steirly.

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