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Let’s face it, “organic” is a sexy word for selling products these days. It may be food, dry cleaning, or lipstick; if it says “organic”, people are attracted. We also know that cosmetic sales rely on sexy marketing messages to stay fresh and interesting to consumers. That said, as trends go, the appeal of the word “organic” on cosmetics may have run its course. I predict that the “organic” label claim will now be marginalized and newer, bigger claims for “sustainable”, “green”, and that old stand-by, “natural”, will lead the marketplace, perhaps building a better approach to retail product manufacturing and selling than “organic” ever could.

After all my years of pushing “organic cosmetics”, I am sure some of you are wondering what has happened to make me say this.

The recent statements by Whole Foods and the Organic Trade Association that they will only accept NOP or NSF cosmetic certification (WF) and/or new standards (OTA) creates further barriers for the use of organic ingredients in “organic” cosmetic products. Most of us realize that you cannot make more than a few products that actually perform and keep a loyal following using those standards. We have been fighting this battle for the past 10 years and many people have lost interest and moved on. Since I sell ingredients, I know what people are asking for and “organic” is no longer at the top of the list. Now requests sound like:
– “Gay, do you have any Fair Trade ? Organic is good, but not required…”
– “Do you carry soy-free products?”
– “I am looking for non-GMO .”
– “Our company will only use “sustainable” palm derived ingredients. Do you have any?”

There you have it—the business as usual for cosmetics is: make a new message and sell it! Please do not depend on the American cosmetic industry to support organic farmers in any significant way in the near future. They have no incentive to do so and it will take at least 5 years to even get preliminary agreement on a Standard that covers both NOP and FDA issues. In other words, the cosmetic industry will blow right by this trend and create other new trends.

Those of us dedicated to serving the organic cosmetic community must find new ways to serve creative customers who really want to make a better product but see no return on investment in doing so with “organic”. If the use of a reasonable standard is another 5 years off, why bother? Look at any Vogue Magazine. The ads tell the story better than I do.

This change in market demand breaks my heart. Organic agriculture is a major key to environmental recovery worldwide and I have spent the past 20 years working to increase that market—but I just don’t see it happening here in the U.S.

Guess we better get down to the work of defining “sustainable” cosmetics.

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