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Rise in demand for ethical goods

Georgia Merton 18 October 2017, 2:38PM
Rise in demand for ethical goodsEmma Hulse, left, of Nude by Nature

When Nelson's Prices Pharmacy started selling the Bonbon cosmetics range a year ago, they were the first pharmacy in the country to stock the cruelty free, New Zealand-made brand. A couple of months later, they were selling 250 units a month. Retail manager Nikki Welsh puts it down to the ethos of the brand, and says her customers are increasingly asking for cruelty-free beauty products.  

This trend is not limited to Nelson. The latest research done by Roy Morgan Research in Australia shows 46 per cent of Australian women will pay more for their make-up if it hasn't been tested on animals.  

In fact, according to Emma Hulse, this has been the fastest growing factor, and 57 per cent of the respondents say "not tested on animals" is the most important packaging claim. Ms Hulse is business manager at Endeavor Consumer Health and the New Zealand representative for Nude by Nature, Australia's leading cruelty-free cosmetics brand. 

This is not the first time being opposed to buying products tested on animals has been in fashion. According to the CEO of SAFE, Jasmijn de Boo, strong social norms developed in the 1980s on a range of issues, including against animal testing, fur farming and nuclear weapons. "People didn't have access to the internet, but found out through media and print which products were cruelty-free," says Ms de Boo.  

Since then, many consumers will assume the products they buy are not tested on animals.  

"This is sadly not true," says Ms de Boo, "because there is no marketing ban in New Zealand, so many products are sold that have been animal-tested."  

However, as access to information grows, so does consumer awareness.  

"A growing number of people do not want crushed up insects in their lipstick, and certainly do not wish for mascara or other eye products to be tested on rabbits' eyes," she says. 

The law is also playing a part. According to Ms de Boo, the 2015 review of New Zealand's Animal Welfare Act banned the use of animals for cosmetic testing within New Zealand, although still allows animal testing for imported products. 

Ms Hulse says a lot more consumers are reading the ingredients.  

"People are just becoming so much more aware and conscious of what they are putting on their skin," she says. According to Ms Hulse, pharmacies are an extremely important retailer for Nude by Nature, and pharmacists should be selective about the make-up products they stock. "You've got to look at the trends," she says.  

For Ms Welsh from Prices, the trends would be impossible to ignore. She has been retail manager at the pharmacy for nine years and says she loves people and loves selling. She says her customers are reading the label more for what's going on their body and on their face, some bringing in lists from social media of ingredients to avoid.  

"People are looking for it and, yes, it's definitely profitable to keep up," she says. 

It's not just profitable in the immediate sense, either, but as 

Ms Hulse points out, will help build brand loyalty. She says Nude By Nature has the highest loyalty rates across most mainstream brands, at 65 per cent. Ms Welsh, who has been in retail for over 30 years, has seen the same with her customers.  

"It really drives customer loyalty. If your customers can see that you're behind these brands and what they stand for, they do tell six of their friends," she says.  

Cruelty-free make-up is one of several ethical trends that indicate a change in consumer attitude. Ms Hulse says that while value for money remains number one,
number two, just above cruelty-free, is a "natural look". However, the term natural tends to be thrown around liberally, while its meaning remains ambiguous.  

"Natural is no synthetics, parabens, preservatives or chemicals," says Ms Hulse, and a breakdown of the Nude by Nature ingredient list reveals only things like baobab extract and avocado oil, with the brand being 100 per cent naturally derived.  

However, Ms Welsh says this is where pharmacists need to take care.  

"Everybody can put natural on the front of their product, and it's really hard if you don't know," she says.  

Jessica Weston, from Consumer NZ, says that although they've seen a rise in popularity of natural products, many of these can also contain an array of synthetic ingredients.  

"Our survey results also showed a degree of skepticism about 'natural claims', which isn't surprising given these claims can appear on products without good evidence to back them up," says Ms Weston.  

In particular, she says to be wary of claims for organic ­products.  

"We've previously found products claiming to be 'organic' that contain just a tiny amount of certified organic ingredients - or none at all." Ms Welsh steers clear of organic, which she says is thrown around willy-nilly. "It can mean that one ingredient used in that was grown organically, but everything else is chemical. It's just wrong!" 

It's wise to keep up with consumer trends, but wiser still to apply a dose of scepticism.  

"Retailers have to make sure the products they sell are true to label and don't carry misleading claims, otherwise they risk breaching the Fair Trading Act," says Ms Weston. Ms De Boo says the SAFE shopper app provides the best list of cruelty-free cosmetics in NZ.

For Ms Welsh, knowing that the products are the real deal is a top priority.  

"Since March this year, we've been under the Green Cross umbrella, so we don't have to worry about it, but before that I really had to have my wits about me and do a lot of research into a product before I was comfortable having it in store," she says. The ­pharmacy has two naturopaths who help her out with label-reading and understanding ingredients. 

"They don't have to be naturopaths, though, I've got some great girls here that are make-up artists and they know," Ms Welsh says. She says if you don't know, trust your staff, particularly the millenials who, while they may be the hardest to deal with, are the best to have on board. 

"They've really got their finger on the pulse, not only for the trends but for knowing what's bullshit and what's not." She has weekly meetings with her staff about what people are asking for to make sure they're all on the same page.  

Another trend to reach the cosmetic sector is environmental friendliness. Ms Weston says there's growing consumer demand for sustainably produced products.  

"When we surveyed consumers in 2016, 46 per cent rated environmental considerations as important and said they looked for 'greener' products," she says, and over a third were prepared to pay extra for them.  

"However, consumers showed the same scepticism for 'green' as they did for natural, and retailers should check that any claim a product is environmentally preferable can be substantiated by, for example, asking whether it has certification from a recognised eco-labelling scheme," says Ms Weston.  

Ms Welsh says with these trends, you've got to keep up or you'll be left behind.  

"You've got to listen to your customers, and you've got to make sure your staff are on the same page as you."  

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