In 2008, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps stirred up a lot more than organic body care when it sued personal care manufacturers for using “organic” claims sans certification. This year, the issue hit the personal care industry hard, as activists, retailers, regulatory authorities, and consumers spoke out. Meanwhile, a new certification, launched in 2009, gave personal care companies another organic label to reach for—NSF/ANSI 305 requires at least 70 percent organic content but allows some stabilizing processes considered “synthetic” under NOP regulation. What Dr. Bronner’s President David Bronner called “a responsible compromise between purists and industry.” 

But it wasn’t until a retailer—not a regulatory authority—made a bold announcement in June that purists, industry, and everything in between faced impending change resulting from self regulation: Any product with organic claims appearing on Whole Foods shelves must have USDA Organic or NSF/ANSI 305 certification. As manufacturers make abbreviations to meet the criteria in 2011 (taking “organic” out of their names or changing formulas to get certified) those products will appear in other retailers nationwide—large and small, natural and conventional—affecting all consumers, not just the Whole Foods shopper. Maybe beauty and honesty will agree. 

I recently spoke with Farah Ahmed, Personal Care Products Council vice president and associate counsel, about personal care policy, consumer perception, and progressive trends. Soon after, the “first ever ingredient-free cosmetic” landed on my desk. The natural personal care industry is manic to say the least, but could this identity crisis work in its favor to help push the envelope, even if this means going back to basics? “The ‘green’ cosmetics space is continually evolving—both in terms of innovation and consumer understanding,” Ahmed said. The more things change ... Aside from Whole Foods’ latest move, these trends—from chemistry and ingredients to packaging—will continue to evolve in 2011.