How to Navigate the Natural Space

October 20, 2018By Industry Intuition, Views

By Jen Johnston, CHHC,  senior marketing services account manager, as seen in Mass Market Retailer

Development of health, beauty and wellness products tends to be steered by symptom-driven or situational consumer needs. The natural space is more complicated, however, because needs are also driven by alternative or functional medicine modalities, lifestyle diets and emerging plant-based science, which are promoted heavily by online influencers.

Often it is the ingredients themselves that take center stage in the media and online. Trendy natural ingredients, such as superfoods, are often able to jump from one category to another.

"Superfood" is a marketing term coined in the 1990s. Today the word is applied to a wide array of foods, such as goji berries, kale and avocado. Most recently, it has been associated with matcha, turmeric and moringa. Influencers in the natural space promote that "what is healthy to eat is healthy for the hair and skin," so superfood ingredients are popping up in unexpected places like personal care products and cosmetics.

Brands need to look at trending ingredients across all categories to keep ahead of consumer demand. For example, turmeric is well promoted as an anti-inflammatory in food and drink circles. But Alaffia, popular among natural shoppers for its clean ingredients and social mission, offers a turmeric-infused personal care line that includes shampoo and conditioner, facial mist, cleanser, shower gel, lotion and cream.

Similarly, moringa (from a tree native to northern India), perhaps better known as a smoothie mix­in, is currently in the spotlight for supporting reduction in inflammation and cholesterol management. However, boutique retailer The Body Shop is capitalizing on the ingredient's popularity with a Moringa Body Milk, and specialty cosmetics brand Lush has a Magi­cal Moringa primer.

Matcha, a type of green tea, is also appearing in more personal care products. For example, Target Corp. offers Matcha Organic Antioxidant Face Mask by niche brand Plant Apothecary, and Not Your Mother's Naturals manufacturers a Matcha Green Tea & Wild Apple Blossom sham­poo and conditioner sold at Ulta Beauty Inc.

CBD, or hemp oil, is a plant­based ingredient that has crossed over from dietary supplement to natural O-T-C, personal care and food. While the legality of hemp­derived CBD oil continues to develop, such brands as ShiKai are innovating with its CBD Topicals line, which includes lotions and creams.

While currently off the market, Good Clean Love made a big splash in 2017 with its CBD CaraGold personal lubricant formulated with organic hemp oil. Sephora is carrying Kush high­-volume mascara with nourishing cannabis oil by Milk Makeup. Emerging brands are releasing CBD-infused bath bombs, makeup, bath salts, lip balms and soaps; however, more established personal care brands are likely to follow suit once the legality of CBD is further clarified.

Some online-only brands have timed-release CBD transder­mal patches, relief creams and muscle freeze. This is on top of the increasingly popular forms of capsules, tinctures, vapes and sprays. Also watch for cannabis-­free cannabinoids to hit the market, such as Endo Brain and Endo Sleep from Emerald Health Bioceuticals.

Back in 2016, Kline indicated that growth of natural O-T-Cs was outpacing the growth of all over-­the-counter products. One of the largest-growing categories cited was brain health. According to surveys conducted by AARP and ASA-MetLife Foundation, more than four out of five people older than 50 say that "staying mentally sharp" is their No. I concern.

In the two years since that time, new cognitive health ingredients and brands have raced onto the scene to further propel this natural O-T-C category. One such ingredient is silk protein hydro­lysate, which, according to New Hope Network, has demonstrated memory improvement in clini­cal trials. NOW recently released a product called Brain Attention with the ingredient.

MCT oil for brain support is still popular in 2018 due to its promotion by paleo and keto lifestyle advocates. A search of indicates 20+ brands of MCT oil, a fat derivative of coconut oil.
Other established ingredients, including omega-3 and gingko biloba, are in the limelight again as their status evolves into natural nootropics. Data provider SPINS listed nootropics as one of its top-10 natural trends for 2018. Nootropics are substances that improve cognitive function.

Brain Armor, a new supplement available at selected Walmart stores, is a liquid concentrate that comes in children, adult and 50+ varieties. It combines vegan omega-3 with MCT oil, plus vitamins D and E.

Keeping up with what is popular now and anticipating next year's trends can keep your business thriving. Natural Products Expo East in September and Expo West in March are the perfect places to both learn about new products and experience what is hot firsthand.