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New Natural: The Next Generation of Conscious Consumerism

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Natural is back—As anxious consumers reject an industrial system that appears increasingly toxic and damaging to health, they are turning toward natural products as a solution. Raised on digital culture, they no longer see nature and technology as mutually exclusive, and are combining the best aspects of both to build New Natural lifestyles.

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New Natural: The Next Generation of Conscious Consumerism

  2. 2. NEW NATURALS 2INTRODUCTION Natural is back—from ingredients to messaging, brands are creating new products that draw on nature and natural processes to connect with anxious consumers. A New Natural renaissance is upon us. As consumers search out their own product information online, they’re becoming increasingly skeptical of mainstream products. The common household products that were once heralded as miracles of modern industrial society are now scrutinized and suspect, seen as potential sources of harmful chemicals or vaguely defined “toxins.” Consumers are experiencing a loss of faith in traditional authorities, including governments and brands. As consumers experience rising anxiety over a civilization that appears increasingly toxic and driven to digital distraction, they are turning to nature for comfort and escapism, and discovering a newfound appreciation for processes once forgotten or devalued. New Natural. Leeds Juicery by Amrit Kaur, UK
  3. 3. NEW NATURALS 3INTRODUCTION Today’s consumers, however, have less direct experience of nature than past generations. When they think of “nature,” they might think of YouTube videos of exotic animals rather than recalling childhood camping trips. Nature and the digital space are not seen as opposites, and already, innovative brands are recognizing this, pitching products that combine natural claims with the language of science, technology and scientific enhancement. For readers of a certain age, the rise of “natural” may not seem like news. An inevitable mental image—crunchy, laid-back, anti- consumerist—looms whenever discussion turns to all things natural, organic, holistic, and so on. Today’s natural wave, in contrast, puts consumerism front and center and operates at a massive scale. Whole Foods Market, for example, is now a retail behemoth with over $14 billion in annual revenues. Natural brands that might have remained obscure and niche now have channels they can use to rapidly scale up to the mass market, even as they repudiate the big brands that came before them. New Natural products also present themselves as cool and aspirational, rather than quirky and alternative. From food and drink to beauty and personal care, the “natural” label makes a product more desirable, rather than consigning it to a niche. Nature and the digital space are no longer seen as mutually exclusive. New products are combining natural claims with the language of science and technology.
  4. 4. NEW NATURALS 4INTRODUCTION Products from makeup to nail polish to perfume and even tampons are now being pitched to consumers as natural and free of additives and chemicals, while bacteria are no longer seen as something to be scrubbed away, but something to be cultivated. Women are even looking for a more “natural” approach to birth control, ditching the pill and instead paying attention to their bodies, with assistance from apps. This rapid expansion is already provoking doubts. For this report, SONAR™, J. Walter Thompson’s proprietary research unit, conducted a survey of 1,000 UK and US consumers; 69% of respondents say they don’t believe products labeled “natural” are truly natural, a sentiment shared across generations. New entrants to the market are now encountering the very consumer skepticism that created an opening for natural products to begin with—and it is being directed right back at them. Even as Jessica Alba launched a new line of natural cosmetics under her Honest line in September 2015, she was battling a lawsuit alleging that her products contain synthetic and unnatural ingredients. In this report, we explore the New Natural renaissance in terms of cultural drivers and current trends, with a deep-dive analysis of the beauty sector. We also take a quantitative look at how consumers feel about the trend, based on our own SONAR™ survey. We show why the New Natural, a return of revivalism with a dash of new technology, is the wave of the future. Looncup, a smart product that can measure, analyze and track menstruation, 2015
  6. 6. NEW NATURALS 6NEW NATURALS 6CONSUMER TRENDS Beginning in food and drink, and now moving through other sectors, the New Natural ethos reflects deep distrust of industrial processes and products. The closer a product comes to the body, it seems, the more consumers now want it to be “natural.” New Natural thinking is already impacting health, packaging, apparel and even architecture. The desire for more nature in our lives begins with the products we put into and onto our bodies, but it will eventually also extend to our homes, possessions and environments. Atlantic Kitchen co-founder Dawn Hourigan
  7. 7. NEW NATURALS 7CONSUMER TRENDS Pro-Probiotics The human immune system is highly dependent on the gut, which is responsible for about 70% of its key processes, such as creating detoxifying enzymes and neutralizing pathogens. It’s well documented that this can affect the health of skin, among other things, which has led to a wave of fermented product launches, both edible and topical, in the beauty sector. Implications: Consumers are increasingly considering digestive health in a wider context of holistic wellbeing, and seeking probiotic products that help keep guts in a more natural state. Fermented foods—those produced or preserved by the action of micro- organisms—are catching on as a solution to what ails us. For more than 8,000 years, human cultures have utilized the process of fermentation to produce cheese, chutneys, kimchi, sauerkraut and wine. Research shows that the process of fermentation eliminates harmful bacteria, resulting in nutrient-packed food with healthy bacteria that restores balance to our gut. Venues such as Gyst Fermentation Bar, which opened in Minneapolis in November 2014, are putting fermented foods front and center. “We have a serious imbalance in our diet,” co-owner Kylene Guse says. “People are finally understanding the incredible health benefits of fermentation.” Artisan MN, Minnesota
  8. 8. NEW NATURALS 8CONSUMER TRENDS “People are finally understanding the incredible health benefits of fermentation.” GYST by Kylene Guse, Minneapolis KYLENE GUSE CO-FOUNDER OF GYST FERMENTATION BAR
  9. 9. NEW NATURALS 9CONSUMER TRENDS Nano-Natural Personal-care products are emerging that offer more natural methods of maintaining health and hygiene. At Milan Design Week 2015, Japanese designer Kosho Ueshima showed a toothbrush that cleans teeth without using toothpaste. Its bristles are coated in nano-sized mineral ions that are activated by water. Makers say that the ions remove stains and create a protective coating for tooth enamel. Bioengineer Aakriti Jain is developing an advanced kind of biological bandage. His Growduce, created in partnership with industrial designer Guillian Graves, is a tabletop “microfactory” that allows users to grow their own cellulose using modified bacteria and yeast. The result can then be fashioned into a bandage. “We envision something like a coffee maker or toaster in your kitchen,” Jain told Wired. The microfactory would be a part of a natural revolution that would be “a kind of a parallel to the industrial revolution.” Implications: In line with New Natural thinking, people are using advanced technology to reduce their need for conventional industrial products. As with clothing, the most advanced, high-tech approach may be more “natural” than the conventional alternative. Misoka toothbrush by Kosho Ueshima, Japan, 2015
  11. 11. DEEP DIVE: BEAUTY Waterless Washing As water shortages occur more frequently throughout the world and consumers reconsider the assumption that more washing is better, far-sighted brands are investing in processes and products that use less water. “Keeping clean used to be about disease prevention,” Kate Fletcher of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion told The Huffington Post. “Now the culture of whiter than white has weakened our immune systems, lined the pockets of detergent manufacturers, and led to the startling fact that the energy needed to wash your favorite garment is about six times that needed to make it.” Innovations in apparel and appliances are emerging to address these concerns. Levi’s new Wellthread collection is the first to use its Water<Less fabric, which uses 65% less water during the dyeing process and 50% less water during finishing. Garments are shipped with a “care tag for the planet” advising consumers to wash them less. “Even a mild detergent and water disrupts the skin’s acid mantle, which takes around four hours to re-form.” Xeros washing machines replace water with polymer beads that absorb stains and reduce the need for water and detergent. And the “next gen washing device” Dolfi claims to clean clothes with ultrasonic technology that consumes 80 times less energy than a conventional washing machine. Over-use of detergent-based products has also been shown to compromise the skin’s barrier function, resulting in a global increase in the incidence of diseases such as eczema in children, with primary irritants identified as soaps and detergent-based cleansers, according to research published in the January 2014 edition of the academic journal Allergy. ALEXANDRA SOVEROL FACIALIST NEW NATURALS 11
  12. 12. DEEP DIVE: BEAUTY “Even a mild detergent and water disrupts the skin’s acid mantle, which takes around four hours to re-form,” says facialist Alexandra Soveral. “In that time, skin is more susceptible to pollution, dust, UV radiation, free radicals and pathogens.” Soveral advocates skin cleansing as opposed to skin washing. It’s more than just semantics: while cleansing may involve products containing water, such as micellar or floral waters, lotions, oils or balms, the process doesn’t require detergent or a water supply. Implications: From a sustainability and health perspective, consumers are realizing that using less water and detergent leads to better outcomes, and are looking for products that help them achieve these goals. Dolfi by MPI Ultrasonics, Switzerland, 2015 NEW NATURALS 12
  13. 13. DEEP DIVE: BEAUTY NatureLab Beauty Having achieved parity in terms of aesthetics, packaging, and pleasure of use, premium organic beauty brands now face perhaps the ultimate hurdle: to compete on efficacy. Now, it seems, many are achieving it. “With investment in clinical trials and new-tech natural ingredients, certain organic brands are getting serious and leading the way in competing with mainstream ranges on results,” says Imelda Burke of the London-based specialist organic boutique and online store Content. Burke cites German brand Amala, whose 100% plant-based products not only sound serious—for example, Rejuvenating Advanced Firming Complex—but are backed up by serious science. Each product’s efficacy claims are matched with clinical data for each formula from 28-day in vivo tests undertaken by a third-party lab, the better to reassure consumers. NEW NATURALS 13 Yüli Skincare by Yun Li, NYC
  14. 14. NEW NATURALS 14DEEP DIVE: BEAUTY At Yüli skincare, the laboratory is closer to home—actually on the farm where organic and wild-crafted ingredients are grown and then optimized for cosmetic use. Co-founder Yun Li leads a team of biochemists, dermatologists and botanists who bring cutting-edge green technologies to the table. Fundamental to this trend is the latent power of plant ingredients that are just waiting to be tweaked and improved by science. In a pre-consumer research project, scientists at the University of Leeds worked for two years with Shetland seaweed company Böd Ayre to find alternative sunscreen ingredients and safer alternatives to amines in hair dyes, which have been linked to long-term health effects. A key aim of the project, which was partly funded by L’Oréal and The Body Shop, was to find new, clean methods of extracting natural polyphenols, polysaccharides and pigments from seaweed for cosmetic use. Faced with increasingly green-leaning consumers, even luxury brands are turning their attention to the potential of botanicals. YSL Beauté worked with a team of ethnobotanists to source a strain of saffron with the greatest concentration of phytochemicals for its Or Rouge skincare range, launched in March 2014. Back in the lab, the most potent part of the plant was extracted using fractionating science to deliver an intensely concentrated active ingredient. Implications: In a New Natural world, the benefits of nature can be augmented with scientific interventions without turning off consumers. The language and processes of laboratory science can enhance and support claims about natural efficacy. Amala by Ute Leube, Germany
  16. 16. Which of the following do you believe has a greater effect on beauty? (US/UK) MILLENNIALS (18–34) GENERATION X (35–49) BOOMERS (50+) Across the board, large majorities of consumers believe that the best path to beauty is through a healthy diet. 100 % 75% 50% 25% 0% WHAT YOU PUT INTO YOUR BODY 82% WHAT YOU PUT ON YOUR SKIN 18% WHAT YOU PUT INTO YOUR BODY WHAT YOU PUT ON YOUR SKIN 75% 83% 86% 25% 17% 14% However, in both the US and the UK, millennials are more likely than older consumers to put their faith in products for the skin. BY NUMBERS NEW NATURALS 16
  17. 17. 18% Have you changed your shampoo use or habits at all in the past two years? (US/UK) Most consumers have not changed their shampoo use in the past two years. But among those who have, consumers were about twice as likely to say they were reducing their shampoo use than increasing it. Among those who switched brands, more than one-third switched to an all-natural shampoo, while a smaller but significant number switched to shampoos free from specific additives. 38% 20% 35% 24% 34% 66% YES NO SWITCHED TO AN ALL-NATURAL SHAMPOO SWITCHED TO A SULFATE- OR PARABENS-FREE SHAMPOO SWITCHED TO A DETERGENT-FREE SHAMPOO REDUCED SHAMPOO USE INCREASED SHAMPOO USE BY NUMBERS NEW NATURALS 17
  18. 18. NEW NATURALS 18KEY TAKEAWAYS 1. BE NATURAL Conventional products that were once taken for granted now provoke consumer anxiety and fear of contamination. Create products that calm these fears. 2. BE TRANSPARENT Brands should be prepared to defend the ingredients and processes that go into their products, because consumers will ask tough questions. 3. EMBRACE THE ME-COSYSTEM Consumers now think of health and beauty as part of one holistic system, and appreciate brands that help them keep it balanced. Key Takeaways for Brands 4. AUGMENT NATURE People are turning against conventional products, replacing them with natural solutions enhanced by technology. 5. REDUCE WASTE Don’t just create natural products, embed them in natural systems and processes throughout their lifecycle, and communicate this to consumers.
  19. 19. NEW NATURALS 19KEY TAKEAWAYS Key Takeaways for Brands 6. ELEVATE NATURAL Natural products are no longer consigned to a niche, but are now considered aspirational and cool. Create products to match. 7. THINK CLEANSING, NOT WASHING People don’t want to clean their skin so aggressively that they lose the benefits of natural oils and microbes. 8. RETHINK DIRT Whereas we once turned to products to sterilize our spaces, we’re now worried about the negative impact of artificially clean environments. 9. LOOK TO FOOD FIRST Natural trends that emerge first in food and drink are now rapidly applied to products in other sectors. 10. BE READY TO SCALE Natural products that might have remained niche in the past now reach a mass consumer audience faster than ever.
  20. 20. About the Innovation Group The Innovation Group is J. Walter Thompson’s futurism, research and innovation unit. It charts emerging and future global trends, consumer change, and innovation patterns—translating these into insight for brands. It offers a suite of consultancy services, including bespoke research, presentations, co-branded reports and workshops. It is also active in innovation, partnering with brands to activate future trends within their framework and execute new products and concepts. It is led by Lucie Greene, Worldwide Director of the Innovation Group. About J. Walter Thompson Intelligence The Innovation Group is part of J. Walter Thompson Intelligence, a platform for global research, innovation and data analytics at J. Walter Thompson Company, housing three key in-house practices: SONAR™, Analytics and the Innovation Group. SONAR™ is J. Walter Thompson’s research unit that develops and exploits new quantitative and qualitative research techniques to understand cultures, brands and consumer motivation around the world. It is led by Mark Truss, Worldwide Director of Brand Intelligence. Analytics focuses on the innovative application of data and technology to inform and inspire new marketing solutions. It offers a suite of bespoke analytics tools and is led by Amy Avery, Head of Analytics, North America. Contact: Lucie Greene Worldwide Director of the Innovation Group J. Walter Thompson Intelligence Report editor: Shepherd Laughlin Visual editor: Emma Chiu Beauty editor: Anna-Marie Solowij SONAR™: Diana Orrico Contributors: Jane Helpern Hannah Stodell Cover: Published in Beauty Papers 2015 Photographer Claire Brand Make-up Alexandra Pouliadis Hair Asashi Yamaguchi Model Jessica at SUPA Model Management
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Natural is back—As anxious consumers reject an industrial system that appears increasingly toxic and damaging to health, they are turning toward natural products as a solution. Raised on digital culture, they no longer see nature and technology as mutually exclusive, and are combining the best aspects of both to build New Natural lifestyles.


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