Special Newsletter: Natural and organic labelling

Soil Association on COSMOS certification: 'Consider long-term strategy'

By Lucy Whitehouse contact

- Last updated on GMT

Soil Association on COSMOS certification: 'Consider long-term strategy'

Related tags: Soil association, Organic food

We caught up with the Soil Association, the UK's leading farming charity and organic certification body, on the COSMOS certification, the current state of the natural and organic beauty market, and what brands need to do to stay ahead of the competition.

Here, Lauren Bartley, Business Development Manager for Health & Beauty at the Soil Association,​ takes us through some of the major opportunities and challenges for the segment.

Organic and naturals beauty and skin care players face high levels of competition, with increasing numbers of product launches over the past few years. How far do you see this to be a major challenge for the segment?

The rise in certified cosmetics has been phenomenal, with certified organic and natural in its sixth year of consecutive growth. Brands certified with the Soil Association are extremely supportive of each other, as together they are all contributing to a positive movement.  

The challenge comes from uncertified organic or natural brands, as there is no level playing field for the industry and no guarantee that the uncertified organic and natural products on the market contain only ingredients that would meet the COSMOS standards.

For consumers this is extremely confusing, and that’s why we encourage people to look for the logo to trust the quality and integrity of the cosmetic products they’re buying.

Can you suggest any other key challenges facing beauty and skin care brands looking to have a stronger organic or naturals profile? Why are they challenges?

As much as we try to promote positive messages with organic cosmetics, the reality is a lot of the messaging is around what the products don’t contain, such as GM (genetically modified) ingredients, controversial chemicals, synthetic colours, dyes or fragrances.

For brands that are looking to have a product mix of organic and non-organic, the brand values and ethics could be called into question. For example, if the brand is heavily promoting the benefits of organic cosmetics, it could contradict the non-organic range and the promises of those products.

Brands wanting to have a stronger organic profile need to consider their long-term brand strategy, making a long term commitment with integrity over trend-led ranges.  We would love to see brands with stronger organic or natural profiles - but done the right way.

What are the key benefits of having accreditation for natural and organic products? How important is it to make these claims on product labels?

Certified natural and organic brands go through a rigorous procedure to ensure that every aspect of the business complies with the standards.

This means environmental, water and waste management, reviewing the entire manufacturing processes including the sourcing of ingredients as well as formulation procedures and marketing messages.

For us, organic accreditation is the gold standard: we aim to make it simpler for people to choose organic formulations that are just as effective without any ugly compromises.

Product labelling is really important. Bearing a symbol that consumers recognise provides essential clarity, and offers transparency and traceability.

Independent certification tells consumers that they are buying a product formulated with ingredients produced to the highest standards, which don’t contain any controversial chemicals, is the most sustainable and, above all, still performs well! 

How far has making COSMOS a European-wide certification helped to make the naturals and organics segment more coherent across the region? What benefits does this have for the industry, and for the consumer? 

COSMOS is a globally applicable standard. We’ve had great success in Europe and since COSMOS became mandatory for new products certified from January 2017, we are starting to see the COSMOS signature with the certifier logo more and more.  

This is great for the industry and consumers as it provides one harmonised standard for everyone to follow.

Awareness and understanding of certification is gaining momentum which is great for the certified organic and natural cosmetic industry and will hopefully put pressure on uncertified brands to do the right thing.

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