Branding is more important than labelling a product as natural – expert

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Organic certification

Despite all the hype about natural and organic certification, branding remains more important for consumers, claims industry expert Dr. Burkhard Schaer, founder of Ecozept.

Dr. Schaer believes that consumers have largely shunned natural and organic certification programmes in favour of brands associated with the organic and natural trend they know and trust.

“Primarily, I think it’s a trend that has been focused on both the industry and distribution decision makers. Consumers never cared that much for it, in my opinion,”​ Dr. Schaer told

In fact it is trust-building that is the key element to winning over consumers to brands, and in Dr. Schaer’s opinion this trust is ‘a strategy for reducing complexity’.

Brand trust is built on associations

Largely the trigger for this trust is first hearing about the brand and then discovering at a point of sales associated with natural and organic products. This point of sales is an important part of the equation and one that serves to ‘ennoble the brand’.

“Once acquired, the status of ‘trustworthy’ is hardly ever questioned by the consumer,”​ said Dr. Schaer.

“One brilliant example of a natural cosmetic brand that has achieved this type of success worldwide without labels is L’Occitane. The company only recently started to use​ some labels once it entered into specific natural sales channels.”

Certification is complex!

Certification of organic and natural personal care products has proved complex enough for cosmetic industry professionals, a complexity that is shared by consumers who are confused by the number of certification programmes and what the different labels represent.

Dr. Schaer said he first clearly identified this trend about two years ago, when it was documented in an Ecozept report he authored on the natural cosmetics market in Germany. Ecozept provides market information concerning the natural and organic food and cosmetics markets in both France and Germany.

Underlining the trend is the fact that several key brands in Europe have invested in the brands and communicating their natural, organic and ethical commitments, rather than pouring resoucres into certification.

Lavena, Alverde and Weleda...

Example of these include Lavena, Alverde and Weleda, who, according to Dr. Schaer have successfully extended their product portfolios into areas such as hair care and sun care without the use of natural and organic labels.

“The absence of, for example, the BDIH label [German naturals certification body] on ‘natural brand’ shampoos does not hinder the success of these products,” said Dr. Schaer, who also drew attention to the Borlind brand, which has designed its own natural label for its cosmetic products.

But natural and organic certification bodies can still have an important part to play in European cosmetics, particularly if they follow two primary criteria: following a strict independent control and ensuring that those controls are communicated to the consumer.

This means abiding by rules on a legal and government level, where the criteria are pre-determined and control is guaranteed, said Dr. Schaer, while in turn the label has to be clear and concise and easy for the consumer to understand.

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