Demand for natural, sustainable, personal care products continues to grow, but consumers will only pay more for them if they deliver other benefits besides.
Global retail sales of personal care products in 2009 totaled $437bn and are forecast to grow 3.5%/year to 2014, according to market analyst Datamonitor. Sales of such products from manufacturers to retailers are estimated to be $197bn – of which natural and sustainable products account for only 9-10%, but anticipated to grow 12%/year through 2014, according to consultancy firm Kline.
Kline pegs the global ingredient market at $10-15bn, including both commodities and specialties, with 20-30% of this market defined as green/natural based on the feedstock used. ‘Notably, demand for natural/sustainable products survived the recession and continued to experience slight but positive growth in 2008 and 2009,’ says Kline’s Gillian Morris.
For speciality ingredient supplier Cognis, user demand for its environmentally sound solutions has shown remarkable resilience, remaining robust in mature markets and continuing to grow in emerging regions. ‘We see this result as a strong indication that global awareness of sustainability is far more than a passing trend,’ states Josef Koester, director marketing & technology, care chemicals NAFTA at Cognis.
Consumers who follow a lifestyle of health and sustainability are the main drivers. In a recent survey on green living, market research firm Mintel found that 35% of US consumers say they would pay more for environmentally friendly products. According to the company’s Global New Product Database, in 2006, 5% of new personal care product launches were claimed to be organic or natural; by 2008 that number was nearly 10%. Initially, most consumers accepted that sustainable products must be either natural or organic. Many finished product and ingredient suppliers hope, though, to broaden that understanding to include products produced using green processes. ‘We see a growing interest among personal care companies in green and sustainable alternatives beyond just natural,’ says Marcie Natale, market development manager at Eastman Chemical.
One small company combining natural with green is iSoy Technologies, which produces biolipids via a natural enzymatic process. Its first anti-ageing active, feruloyl soy glyceride (FSG), is prepared by enzymatically stripping away the fatty acids from soyabean oil and then combining the intermediates with ferulic acid via fermentation. This process creates a ‘new natural’ that allows the formerly water-soluble active to be carried into the body where it can do its work. It is also effective for other oils and actives, such as phenolic acids, amines, dicarboxylic acids and terpenoids, according to company president Ray Willis. The modified oils containing these actives are readily absorbed into hair and skin. The company is developing a line of biolipid soaps and a shampoo and conditioner targeted for colour-treated hair. The largest users of FSG-containing products are currently in Asia, according to Willis, and a number of companies are in the process of introducing such products into the US and other markets.
Eastman itself is exploiting a new mild, solventfree, low temperature reaction using a proprietary immobilised biocatalyst to produce esters used as emollients and emulsifiers in skincare products. The reaction, which won the US Environmental Protection Agency’s 2009 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award, proceeds in high yield with no byproduct formation, eliminating the need for any downstream processing. ‘This project was actually initiated in response to requests from our customers for ingredients made by solventfree, greener processes,’ says research associate Stephanie Clendennen. In future, the company plans to modify the process to incorporate all natural raw materials and eventually expand to other applications.
Both Eastman and Cognis follow the ‘12 Principles of Green Chemistry’ outlined by Paul Anastas and John Warner in 1998, with Cognis also adopting the ‘12 Principles of Green Engineering’ devised in 2003. ‘These 24 principles have become a widely accepted set of criteria for the rapid assessment of the ‘greenness’ of a given chemical and cover key aspects such as processes, safety and life cycle assessment,’ explains Koester. ‘They provide the framework for all decisions, especially for the development of products and processes at Cognis.’ Specifically, they guide the development of innovative ingredients that increase the degree of nature-based raw materials in products while maintaining high performance levels. ‘Innovation is absolutely central to Cognis’ corporate strategy and is inseparable from sustainability; innovation drives sustainability, and sustainability is a source of inspiration for new innovations,’ Koester says.
Cognis Care Chemicals developed its Green Chemical Solutions classification to inform manufacturers about the naturalness and performance of each ingredient. PlantaponLGCSorb is a new environmentally sound anionic surfactant based on alkyl polyglucoside (APG) technology, while emollient Cetiol C5 is Ecocert-approved and can be used as a substitute for cyclomethicones. Another ingredient Elestan, isolated from the leaves of an African tree, protects the skin by inhibiting elastase and reducing glycation and by promoting the synthesis of tropoelastin and elastin-associated proteins claimed to help reduce skin wrinkling. This product is certified as organic by Ecocert Greenlife. In 2010, Cognis will introduce another new APG-based surfactant.
Third party certification has become very important for sustainable ingredient suppliers. ‘Consumers are more sophisticated today and they require that a company back up its claims of natural and sustainability,’ observes Joseph W. DeSalvo, marketing director with DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products. With independent certifications, such as those from Ecocert, the Natural Products Association (NPA), BDIH, OASIS, and NaTrue, they can be assured that a product and its ingredients meet a set of recognised standards.
Certifications alone aren’t enough, though. ‘Product performance is still the main purchase criteria for consumers,’ DeSalvo asserts. ‘Functionality is key,’ agrees Carter La Vay, president of natural polymer producer Zenitech. ‘Until sustainable ingredients that provide the desired level of functionality are available, conventional materials will be in demand.’
Zenitech makes its body butter creams by blending natural oils – blueberry, raspberry, pomegranate, macadamia etc; waxes; and naturally derived octadodecanol. They melt at body temperature and are claimed to provide barrier properties, skin feel and emolliency as well as deliver anti-aging actives. The company also makes Zenigloss, one of the few natural products designed to provide gloss to hair. In this case, castor oil is reacted with naturally derived succinic acid and isostearic acid to achieve the gloss. Varying the structure of its components provides a range of products for numerous applications. ‘We are striving to use as many natural or naturally derived materials as possible to develop versatile products that can be used in multiple applications,’ notes La Vay.
Botaneco’s all aqueous process isolates Hydresia oleosomes from renewable safflower or almond seeds in the form of an aqueous dispersion or oil/ water emulsion by centrifugation. Oleosomes – micron-sized reservoirs of oil surrounded by thin protein membranes (page 18) – provide natural emulsification properties when in formulation, and then dry, collapse and release their contents over time following application to the skin or hair. Botaneco’s vice-president of R&D, Jack Guth notes that other oils and active ingredients, such as sunscreens, oil soluble vitamins, insect repellents and fragrances, can be incorporated into the oleosomes if carried out under low shear conditions. Because the multifunctional oleosomes possess both hydrophobic and hydrophilic characteristics, they are efficient, natural emulsifiers and also act as effective extended release delivery systems.
Guth indicates that, unlike conventional low molecular weight emulsifiers, which can penetrate the skin, disrupting skin lipids and increasing epidermal water loss, the thin oleosome protein layer is high molecular weight and remains on the skin surface. Oleosomes can also be ‘cold processed’, which reduces time and energy consumption, resulting in a more sustainable manufacturing process. The company recently launched a more robust oleosome product, Hydresia SF2, which is compatible with high levels of alcohol and is also stable at low pH, allowing its use as a moisturiser in applications such as hand sanitisers and in combination with α-hydroxy acids.
DuPont Tate & Lyle’s Zemea (propanediol or PDO), is produced from corn sugar and is a 100% natural glycol alternative that can be used as a solvent or humectant in skin care, hair care, deodorants and other products. The ingredient has both Ecocert approval and NPA certification and was the recipient of the 2003 EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Award. In clinical testing involving repeated skin patch tests, Zemea was not a skin sensitiser or irritant. It is also claimed to offer good humectancy and excellent skin aesthetics. The company has completed a cradle-tofactory gate life cycle assessment (LCA) to determine the energy consumption and carbon footprint of the production process from the farm through the time the PDO leaves the plant. ‘Ingredient manufacturers must develop products that are sustainable and enable customers to meet market needs,’ states DeSalvo. ‘It can be a challenge, because often the technology is new and there can be a real learning curve. Communicating the benefits of the new technology in such a way that has meaning for the formulator is very important.’
Familiarity with existing processes can also present a challenge to ingredient suppliers offering new technologies. ‘There are disadvantages centred around “recreating” a process that has been used, and that there is trust in using,’ explains Lisa Bouldin, sales director for Arch Personal Care.
Cost, of course, is an issue too. The start up or design of a green process may require intense capital investment at the front end; but this can be overcome by looking at business plans targeted for long term return. Importantly though, stresses Bouldin, ‘sustainable ingredients are not relegated to one product category – they make their way across the entire value chain.’ While costs for sustainable products currently tend to be higher, that scenario is expected to change as demand increases. ‘As more companies incorporate sustainability into their long-term strategies and develop high performance products, then production volumes will rise and costs will trend down,’ believes Carl Cappabianca, director of sales and marketing for Botaneco.
There is recognition, though, that consumers will probably only pay more for sustainability if it brings an added benefit. Competitive pricing is also important for mainstream products being sold into big retailers, according to Natale. ‘We believe our ester process will be an example of an affordable green alternative and that it will challenge other suppliers to do the same,’ she comments. Cognis, too, offers ingredients targeted to consumers who are prepared to buy nature-based products, but only when no sacrifice in their lifestyle or budget is required, according to Koester.
Arch Personal Care Products has chosen to implement various pathways for achieving its range of sustainable products, from partnering with the Brazilian botanical company Centroflora as a sourcing partner to expanding its fermentation expertise from yeast fermentation to plant cell culture fermentation. The company’s organic botanical range includes PhytoTerra Organic Maté, an antioxidant that is sustainably harvested in Brazil, and PhytoTerra Organic Baobab oil, an emollient and moisturiser with anti-inflammatory properties that is sourced from fruit collected by the South African not-for-profit group EcoProducts. Arch’s anti-ageing ingredient Metabiotics resveratrol – similar to the antioxide from red wine – is produced by converting resveratrol from the Japanese knotweed plant via fermentation with the yeast Pichia pastoris into a yeast extract rich with metabolised resveratrol. Currently the company is producing plant cell culture ferments to develop sustainable plant extracts from only a small part of the plant, such as the leaf or root. ‘This technology drives a reduction in the need for plant biomass to obtain active botanical extracts, and ultimately reduces our carbon footprint as the need to ship large quantities of plant material is diminished,’ comments Bouldin. ‘We feel that it is important to find as many pathways as possible to drive development of more sustainable ingredients and offer a broader portfolio of both products and processes that address this development – this is the future of our industry.’
This attitude shows how important sustainability has become in the sector. ‘Consumers have embraced the green trend as it has recently become part of everyday life. Eco products are chic and smart to use and they are regarded as able to enrich people’s lives,’ says Koester. Concludes Whalley: ‘In this highly competitive market, producers are now very committed to sustainability as a differentiator. Eventually, however, sustainability will become a requirement.’
Cynthia Challener is a freelance science writer based in Hardwick, Vermont, US.