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Can you really eat this stuff?

By Simon Pitman , 29-Aug-2006

Once dismissed as a fad, edible cosmetics are starting to make their mark on the global market as an increasing number of launches hone in on consumer desires for natural ingredients that often happen to cross into the realms of the food world.

"Food first stepped out of the fridge and into the bathroom cabinet with launches including Jessica Simpson's Dessert, which aims at the young, fun set with 'lickable, kissable' shampoos, moisturisers and lip glosses" said Diana Dodson in a recent article written for Euromonitor.

Other players that have crossed food and beauty have tended to be small niche players featuring organic or natural products. Such companies have included names like US-based Tahitian Noni International and UK-based Natural Organic Cosmetics.

 

But the bigger players are getting involved too, with companies such as the Body Shop, Estee Lauder, and even the world's largest cosmetic company, L'Oreal blending traditional food ingredients into their formulations.

 

Food and cosmetics have long been closely associate, indeed in the United States the Food and Drug #administration is the country's legislative authority governing both the food and cosmetics industry.

 

The increasing number of launches entering this category are inextricably linked to the huge demand for natural ingredients, currently one of the biggest driving forces for growth in the industry.

 

But 'natural' is also an ambiguous term, making it difficult to define what ingredients fall into this category and why. According to Dodson using food-grade ingredients is a way of getting around this problem because it 'circumvents potential consumer scepticism', leading to a plethora of fruit- and vegetable-based products.

 

Whether it be olive-oil based skin body lotion, strawberry lip balm, cocoa-butter shampoo or cucumber face packs, there seems to be a different product represented by just about every popular fruit or vegetable, to take advantage of natural health and beauty properties.

 

Fruit and vegetables are also known to be high in antioxidants, a popular means of increasing the efficacy of anti-aging products. This means that many companies are racing to include anti-oxidant extracts from food ingredients such as cocoa, cranberry and tomato as a means of fighting wrinkles.

 

In conjunction with this move towards natural cosmetic, Dodson also points out that consumers are increasingly moving towards creating their own personal care formulations at home.

 

According to UK supermarket chain Asda, shoppers are spending millions on ingredients used to make home-made natural-based formulations, often using a host of food ingredients in the process.

 

In the UK Advanced Formulations is one of the niche beauty providers, and considered to be a pioneer of the cosmetics craze. It has created a line of organic skin care products using food-grade ingredients called NOe Cosmetics, with 'NOe' standing for 'natural, organic, edible'.

 

Likewise Skin Food's 'almost edible' skin, body and hair care and colour cosmetics products have proven so successful in its home market of South Korea, the retailer has expanded into neighbouring Asia-Pacific markets, including Singapore, Dodson says.

 

Food giant Nestlé is also getting in on the act, bringing the natural moisturising properties of yoghurt to the beauty industry by enhancing the dairy product with collagen to create a rejuvenating day/night skin treatment.

 

The ageing baby boomer and mature consumers is also expected to be a target for cosmetics incorporating food and naturals. According to Dobson, this type of consumer is more likely to latch on to products that are simple and incorporate ingredients that they can identify with - with fruit and vegetables often hitting both these requirements.

 

Dodson points out that French-based Caudelis has sold well within this group, on the known antioxidant properties of grape, which is incorporated into its complete range of anti-ageing products.

 

Likewise Estee Lauder's Origins anti-ageing skin care line, incorporates white tea into the formulation and has also proved extremely popular with this age group.

 

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