European natural brands focus on distribution as growth rates slow

Natural and_organic_brands_focus_on_new_distribution_channelsNatural and organic personal care brands are focusing on distribution as growth in the European market slows. New research by Organic Monitor shows single-digit growth is occurring in the European natural & organic personal care products market for the first time this year. The growth rate has dropped from double-digits because of the debt crisis impacting retailers and consumer expenditure.

Slowing growth rates are leading brands to target new distribution channels for growth. Organic Monitor finds brands are making most inroads in drugstores, pharmacies, beauty retailers and department stores. Specialist retailers – the traditional channel for natural & organic brands – still comprise most sales however, with 40 per cent market share. Although many supermarkets and hypermarkets have launched private label ranges, the market share for mass market retailers remains below 10 per cent at the European level.

The UK market has been the most adversely affected by the financial crisis. Revenues have been increasing by about 6 per cent per annum since the crisis started in 2008. The harsh retail environment has led many UK natural & organic brands to target export markets for growth. Indeed, many British brands have made significant inroads in the Nordic market. Some, like Bulldog, have gone further afield, exporting to the US and Australia, as well as to parts of Europe.

Germany, with the largest market for natural & organic personal care products, is showing sluggish growth this year. The country also leads in terms of market share; natural & organic products comprise seven per cent of total personal care products. Private labels have had most success in the German market. Alverde of DM drugstores is the third leading natural brand, housing over 300 products.

The French market has witnessed the largest number of new product launches in recent years. Many large cosmetic companies have introduced natural and organic lines. L’Oreal is marketing a range of products under popular brands, such as Garnier, Ushuaïa, Biotherm and Mixa. Other multinationals, including Henkel and Unilever, have also developed certified organic lines for the French market. Although mass market distribution has increased significantly, the channel comprises less than 15 per cent of natural & organic personal care product sales.

Rising competition from new brands and slowing market growth rates are pushing brands towards new channels. Dr Hauschka is targeting high-end outlets, including beauty retailers and department stores. PHYT’S is focusing on parapharmacies, whilst Primavera is targeting the spa channel. Many are taking the direct route and opening concept stores. Korres and Melvita are frontrunners with their international retail networks.

In its upcoming European market report, Organic Monitor expects market growth rates to recover as economic conditions improve. However, competition is expected to remain intense as natural & organic brands increasingly jostle for shelf-space with large cosmetic firms. Brands that have a clear strategy in terms of product offering or distribution are expected to succeed in the changing market landscape. 

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