On 6th and 7th October 2015, the annual Natural Cosmetics Conference (Naturkosmetik Branchenkongress) took place in Berlin. Organised by Naturkosmetikverlag together with Messe Nürnberg, the Branchenkongress has become one of the most important dates on the calendar for the European organic industry.

More than 240 international participants met at Berlin’s Ellington Hotel for two days of discussions, lectures and networking.

The German market
The conference opened with a lecture by Elfriede Dambacher from Naturkosmetikverlag. Mrs. Dambacher presented the latest data for the organic market in Germany: in 2014, turnover of certified organic C&T hit the 1bn Euro mark. For 2015, industry experts expect further double-digit growth.

While retail brands became stronger last year, the certified organic own label brands began to slow down a bit, Dambacher said. Germany has strong proprietary organic brands which is one of the reasons why the market has grown so strongly over the last year. Ingredients scandals – parabens in hair care, aluminium salts in deodorants – also helped to boost the market’s growth rate in 2014. Vegan is still a major trend in organic cosmetics and the most important target groups for organic beauty are consumers aged 25-35 (the much-quoted “Generation Y”) and people aged 55+.

At the same time, the German market is facing important challenges. It is a mature and saturated market, with certified organic brands available in every retail channel and every price range. Online retail is becoming an increasingly important distribution channel for organic cosmetics and beauty brands are finding it more difficult to stand out amongst its competitors. To tackle these challenges brands have to create an attractive retail experience, use creative marketing strategies, and pay attention to their different consumer target groups.

Consumer demographics were also the focus of Wolfgang Adlwarth’s presentation. Adlwarth works for consumer market research agency GfK. In his lecture, he analyzed the specific requirements of the Generation Y, and also spoke about how organic brands need to emphasize the authenticity and credibility of their brand values while at the same time staging the full-on brand experience that their customers expect.

In her presentation on global beauty trends, Alina Scheinker from Euromonitor International talked about how consumer perception of what is organic varies across the world. She also gave examples of natural brands that have managed to achieve international success by tailoring their marketing strategy to specific regional markets and pointed out China, India and Indonesia as the beauty markets to watch.

On the first day of the conference, Ulrich Reinhardt from Hamburg-based future research institute BAT Stiftung für Zukunftsfragen (Foundation for Future Studies) was the keynote speaker. In his lecture, Reinhardt discussed how our consumer behavior will change in the future – based on current demographic, political and socioeconomic developments – and what the retail industry will have to do to tackle these challenges.

The second keynote speaker was Christoph Engl from consultancy Brand Trust. Engl spoke about how the new currency in brand marketing and brand communications is relevance and attention. In a saturated organic market, consumers are constantly bombarded with brand messages and visuals, so they have become adept at tuning these messages out. The challenge for a brand is to create a connection with these jaded consumers.

Regional Forum
Each year Natural Cosmetics Conference also offers a regional forum that focuses on a specific country or geographic market. At the 2015 Branchenkongress, there was the discussion on the organic beauty markets in Austria and Switzerland. Verena Egger from Swiss supermarket retail market leader Migros, Martin Bangerter from Swiss drugstore association Drogistenverband, Wilhelm Luger from Austrian organic salon chain CulumNatura and Alexander Ehrmann from organic luxury perfumery Saint Charles in Vienna discussed the similarities and difference between the German, Austrian and Swiss natural cosmetics markets. Although the three countries share a similar language, the market structures and demographics are very different.

On the second day of the conference participants could choose between two different panels. “Big Data in Natural & Organic Cosmetics” focused on the necessity of authentic communication and outlined some of the pitfalls and challenges of communicating with customers through social media. Speakers included Felix Ermer from US beauty brand Brooklyn Soap Company, Ute Holtmann from EHI Retail Institute and Fabian Sippel from marketing agency Klartxt.

The second panel highlighted halal certifications. Halal is an increasingly important standard for the cosmetics market – The global halal beauty market is worth around 2-3bn USD – but at the same time, it is one of the most difficult international certification sectors.

Farhan Tuhail from Swiss agency Halal Certification Services described some of the difficulties: there is no recognized global halal authority, so there are no fixed international parameters. Consequently, every halal certification agency works with slightly different regulations. Many Muslim countries also have varying halal requirements so a product certified for one market would not be allowed for retail in a different country.

Aside from these formal difficulties, organic beauty and ingredients manufacturers also face a very particular challenge: Alcohol is a non-halal ingredient. And organic cosmetics frequently use alcohol as a product preservative since synthetic preservatives are not allowed under the rules of organic certification.

Certifications also played a major role in the special forum on the new ISO guideline for organic cosmetics. Speakers include S. Selҫuk Mumcu from US organic brand Aubrey Organics, Michael Pfeiffer from consulting agency Pfeiffer Consulting, Moritz Aebersold from Swiss agency Contura Consulting and Stefan Mulder from personal care manufacturer Lornamead, who discussed the implications, potential difficulties but also possible opportunities that the ISO guideline will offer. There were also statements from European certification associations Natrue, Cosmebio, Ecocert and BDIH.

The very last session of the conference was a performance of business theatre company Art of Change. The Art of Change actors summed up the finding and conclusions of the two conference days in a series of trenchant and ironic scenic sketches.

The next Natural Cosmetics Conference (Naturkosmetikbranchenkongress) will take place 27th-28th September 2016.