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Nov 15, 2021

Beauty from nature: The market for natural cosmetics is growing

Nature Box – from product idea to market success

A happy woman holds two Nature Box solid conditioners in front of her eyes.

   

In this story, you’ll learn:

The success story of a brand usually begins with a good idea. But where does this idea come from? And how does a good idea turn into a successful brand? A behind-the-scenes look at Henkel's sustainable natural cosmetics brand, Nature Box, with International Marketing Manager Carolina Cordero McNamara.

"Nature Box has the character of a jester," is how Carolina Cordero McNamara describes the Henkel Beauty Care brand for hair and body care. As International Marketing Manager, she knows that all brands that want to hold their own in the market have one thing in common: an authentic personality. "The jester used to be the person at royal courts who was very humorous and entertaining, but who also told the truth." This is true of Nature Box. "Nature Box gives consumers the straight facts about sustainability and natural beauty, packaged in a colorful presentation." Nature Box's character is playful, cheeky and honest in its design, slogan and communication.

Portrait photo of Carolina Cordero Mcnamara, International Marketing Manager at Henkel

   

Nature Box gives consumers the straight facts about sustainability and natural beauty, packaged in a colorful presentation.

Certified natural cosmetics: From niche to long-term trend

"Rethink what’s natural" is the slogan of the natural cosmetics brand, Nature Box, which is both vegan and sustainable, and therefore has a finger firmly on the pulse. The market for natural and sustainable hair, skin and body care is growing rapidly. Certified natural cosmetics have been booming in the retail sector for several years, with double-digit growth rates. There are many reasons for this, Carolina explains: "Today's consumers have a high awareness of themselves and the environment. They want environmentally compatible products without chemical ingredients." Carolina’s team decided from the very beginning of the brand that everything related to Nature Box must also revolve around nature and sustainability. But how can you tell if they are natural, sustainable cosmetics? And how do you market sustainability in a timely and credible manner?

"Natural cosmetics brings to mind precious natural ingredients. But most of the time, that is not the case," Carolina explains. While these ingredients can be part of a natural skincare product, they can also be many other things. This is because the term "natural cosmetics" is not clearly defined. Orientation is provided by certifications from independent associations with clear guidelines. These guidelines regulate the requirements for the origin and quality of ingredients, as well as the fulfillment of animal welfare and environmental protection requirements. The most well-known and recognized labels are Natrue and ECOCERT, a French label, which Nature Box products have been bearing since 2020.

"A minimum of ninety-eight percent of the ingredients are of natural origin, with vegan formulas and no synthetic dyes or silicones, all meeting the standards of a natural cosmetics brand," Carolina said. In addition, the bottle bodies are made of 98 percent recycled plastic, called Social Plastic®. It is sourced from the social enterprise Plastic Bank, which Henkel has been working with since 2017 and which uses recycled Social Plastic® to draw attention to the value of plastic as an important resource and to fight for better living conditions. "Nature Box offers a sense of 'beauty positivity,'" Carolina explains. "You feel really beautiful because you are doing something good for yourself and the environment. The inside and the outside are in harmony."

Photo collage of the team members of Nature Box

Together for diversity and equality: The Nature Box team set a common example during Pride Month.

Involving consumers in the innovation process

In 2016, a small but passionate team developed the idea for the natural cosmetics brand. The starting point was a "white spot," a gap in the market that emerged from data analyses and trend research. "There was a strong demand for natural and environmentally-friendly cosmetics," Carolina said. But competitors recognized that, too. The brand needed a unique selling point. After conducting extensive tests with various materials, the team decided on cold-pressed oils from fruit pips and nuts – "superfruits" – and foods such as avocados, coconuts and almonds. "The mechanics of cold pressing have been around for a very long time. It is one of the best methods for extracting oils. No external heat is added during the cold pressing process and energy consumption is low. The natural colors and scents from the oil are thus preserved and all the important nutrients are retained."

Portrait photo of Carolina Cordero Mcnamara, International Marketing Manager at Henkel

   

There was a strong demand for natural and environmentally-friendly cosmetics.

The product focus quickly became clear: "We wanted two categories from the beginning: Hair and body. We wanted shower gels, body lotions and exfoliants in addition to shampoos and conditioners," Carolina said. It was also clear that the brand would be developed with consumer input. Consumers were asked what came to mind when they heard the word "nature." "One of the most common responses was that nature is colorful. This is how the colorful design of the brand, products and packaging came about."

A hand holds the nourishing hand cream from Nature Box

Not only hair wants to be naturally cared for: Body lotions and peelings are also part of the Nature Box range.

The reference to nature is also reflected in the name, which was voted on by the consumers. The highest number of votes went to "Nature Box." The name establishes a reference to the term "unboxing" known in the advertising field, which describes the exciting unpacking experience of a product. "Meanwhile, some of the product packaging also looks like a box, which creates an 'aha moment' for our customers." It's in moments like these that the brand's jester-like, playful character shines through, Carolina says.

Nature Box products: A brand with character

For a brand to develop character, it needs a solid strategy. It forms the foundation without which no strong identity can emerge. "You should know," Carolina says, "what the brand is all about at its core, where it comes from, where it wants to go, and last but not least, who the customers are." When developing a brand, surprises are part of the process, Carolina notes. That is why it is important to have an agile team that can react quickly.

One of many surprises Carolina and her team experienced was in terms of the intended audience. "We initially thought of a younger audience, but then realized that it is very diverse. It ranges from 18 and 49 years old." The products appeal to young, dedicated people, but also to older people due to the higher price and exclusivity. A broad marketing strategy was needed to fit the target group. "We decided on a 360-degree marketing strategy. We deliberately did not exclude any channels and chose a healthy marketing mix of television, digital, print and social media."

A Nature Box shampoo advertisement with the cowboy hat wearing blonde avocado

Tongue-in-cheek marketing by Nature Box.

Always on the move – from liquid to solid care products

In 2018, the time had come and the brand was launched. "Initially, Nature Box products were only packaged in large bottles, all liquid. That has changed," Carolina explains. Brands are constantly changing, according to society’s needs and the markets. "Both the industry and consumers are always looking for something new." In recent years, products have been added such as spray conditioners without rinsing or hair oils. But that was not enough to match the brand's innovative, playful character. "As before, the approach was: What doesn’t exist yet on the market? Or, alternatively: What used to exist before?" The approach that everything created for the brand must be even more sustainable was also the same. Both approaches combine the solid shampoos and shower care products.

The idea was not entirely new, because solid care products such as soaps already existed in the past. "Even our grandmothers used solid soaps for washing," Carolina points out. But solid shampoos are not classic soaps. They only resemble them visually, and not in terms of production or ingredients. A soap consists of oils or fats that are boiled with a lye. This boiling results in a chemical process called 'saponification'. "Our solid shampoos and shower care products, on the other hand, are made of almost the same ingredients as the liquid ones and achieve the same great results. They just contain much less water," Carolina explains.

A hand holds the solid conditioner from Nature Box

The solid shampoos and shower care products are now among the most popular products of Nature Box.

In 1949, the first cream shampoo was launched – a revolutionary product innovation that established the mass market for liquid shampoo in many countries and replaced classic soaps. For Carolina and her team, it was clear: Solid care products would recapture the beauty market. The solid variants offer numerous advantages: They are more productive, more durable and can be packaged in paper. Their lighter weight helps reduce transportation emissions. "We at Nature Box wanted to be among the first to embrace this trend. And it fits with the brand identity, because Nature Box wants to have a disruptive impact on the market."

The concept was first tested with consumers. And the result was clear: The sustainable approach and the idea of offering something surprising that is not yet often available harmonized very well with the playful character of the brand. In the meantime, the solid shampoos and shower care products are among Nature Box's most popular products. Of course, with continued development also comes mishaps. Not all variants went down well with customers: "Products with avocado, coconut and olive sell well." These ingredients are popular because they are well-known and healthy. However, macadamia and apricot did not do as well. Despite these challenges, the goal was and remains clear: "We want to become one of the leading cosmetics brands in the mass market for natural products," Carolina declares. That may be a bold aspiration, she says. But we as a team are just as bold as our brand. We reflect the character. That's the way it has to be. Otherwise, we would not have fun – or success."

Carolina's favorite Nature Box products are the solid shampoos, but also hair oils that reduce frequent washing. She consciously pays attention to sustainability in her everyday life, for example with regard to her water usage. "Every action counts – with soon to be eight billion people on our planet, we can make a big difference together."

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