Once a year, around the month of November, great minds from the natural beauty sector assemble at Diversified HQ in Brighton to attend the Natural Beauty News round-table. It’s a humbling experience to be part of, to witness the merging of expert opinions, to hear the knowledgeable speak from their perspectives, and to ascertain what new terrain our much-loved industry is embarking on.
What I found most revealing this time around as Chair of the round-table, however, wasn’t the table’s desire for boundary-breaking innovation or their impassioned views on regulation, but instead a more self-effacing and introspective look at where to go from here.
There is no denying that the industry is indeed moving forward. The Soil Association continues to record around 20 per cent growth each year, with its number of applicants increasing on average by 51 per cent annually. But of course, these statistics are only reflective of certified organic growth. As good an indicator as they are, what if organic isn’t the future of natural beauty at all? What if the focus is on sustainability, instead?
The natural beauty industry has been marching to the beat of the certification drum for so long now that perhaps we’ve forgotten to tune in to the rest of the orchestra alongside it? Taking responsibility for our own health and beauty, and striving for an environmental, financial and ethically sustainable future, were the key points that seemed to truly resonate with all of the round-table panellists.
It’s good to keep innovating, and definitely necessary to keep looking outside of our own sector for new, pioneering ideas, but not to the detriment of our existing creations. Particularly when retailers are telling us that 80 per cent of their yearly sales are made up of ‘hero’ products.
Instead of following the mainstream beauty timeline, where new launches are old news within three to six months, we should be slowing down, taking our time, and investing our energy and marketing skills in educating consumers. If the future of the industry is founded on sustainability, then ‘Slow Beauty’ seems to be the obvious next step.
New product development is what the consumer thinks they want, but it’s our job, as a sector, to show them what they really need. And that is ecological, justifiable, effective, viable beauty. If you get it right the first time, then there’s surely no need to keep reinventing the wheel.
New ingredients, evolving applications, and innovative preservatives are always going to be at the forefront of an industry that is ultimately driven by a desire to look good. And there is no denying that it’s the exciting, fresh beauty inventions that entice customers through the shop door. But it’s not always necessary to be out with the old, and in with the new. Or more to the point, out with the local, and in with the organic.