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Nordic countries lag behind other Western European countries in value sales and distribution of organic cosmetics. The dominant Ecolabel in the region, which has paradoxically become a hindrance to the potential growth of these products, is part of the explanation. Over the last 10 years, however, organic cosmetics have still been able to show good growth in the Nordic region. This good positive growth is also expected to continue in the years to come.
The reason behind the growth of organic cosmetics is due to increased environmental concerns and health awareness among Nordic consumers. Initially, the environment was the primary sales argument for organic cosmetics in the Nordics, but, in recent years, concerns about ingredients that may harm the body has grown into an equally strong argument. Increased media focus, word of mouth and an increase in the number of people suffering from various allergies and eczema raised awareness among consumers about the potential effects of beauty products on the skin and body. However, the concern for the environment is still there and a much bigger portion of Nordic consumers have now evolved their product demands to include more fair trade-labelled products from manufacturers with sustainable production and a greater social commitment.
Nordic consumers also view organic products to be of high quality and they have become more willing to spend money on premium products that are more skin-friendly. The higher price also feels more justified as it pays for greener production. Spa treatments in the Nordics over the last five years have also boomed thanks to the quest for improved wellness. This has further increased the interest in purchasing superior quality cosmetics that are marketed towards offering better care for the body. Nordic consumers in general also like to look and feel natural, which further boosts acceptance of organic and natural beauty products that are gentler on the skin.
At country level, Denmark is estimated to be the biggest market in value terms when it comes to organic cosmetics in the Nordic region. The country has a strong tradition in organic products in general, with organic packaged food and beverages sales putting the country in the lead globally in per capita terms. With this strong tradition for organic products, Danish consumers have developed a preference for natural products with a limited amount of ingredients. Denmark is also the origin for Urtekram, one of the strongest brands and companies in organic cosmetics in the Nordic region. Sweden ranks second with its large population in comparison to the other Nordic countries. The country is also ahead of Norway and Finland when it comes to the demand for and availability of organic beauty products. Norway has, however, experienced good growth in organic cosmetics in the last few years. This growth is boosted by Norwegians’ preference for natural solutions that complement their healthy lifestyles. Norwegian consumers have also been more skewed towards the physical benefits of organic cosmetics rather than the environmental aspects, which have been the main market driver for Swedes. This has allowed Norway to do some catching up on the top two. Finland has the smallest market among the four Nordic countries. Finnish consumers show both a certain scepticism towards organic products in general and a lower awareness of these products. One reason for this is the more limited distribution compared to the other three Nordic countries. The growth of organic cosmetics in Finland has recently also been constrained by the weak economic performance of the country.
Compared to other Western European countries, however, the Nordic countries are estimated to lag behind in terms of the percentage value share held by organic cosmetics in total cosmetics sales. One of the main reasons for this is that manufacturers have focused on getting their products licensed to the Nordic Ecolabel standards. This licence primarily focuses on the environmental impact of products and not specifically the ingredients they consist of. True organic products have therefore experienced dampened interest and exposure, as the majority of natural and organic cosmetic products are licensed under this label. As a consequence, the Ecolabel has become a hindrance for growth, and even more so in the current situation, where consumer focus is shifting from environmental issues to concerns about personal health and ingredients.
Sales of true organic cosmetics are not expected to reach their full potential in the Nordic countries just yet. Regulations are not strict on what can and cannot be marketed as organic cosmetics and the main Ecolabel limits the potential consumer exposure of true organic cosmetics. However, the expansion into new distribution channels, an increase in organic private label products, further segmentation and increased concern for the consumer’s own wellbeing will allow the growth figures to remain fairly high for the next few years to come and outperform conventional products. The increased exposure that Nordic consumers will experience because of these developments is also likely to spark increased interest. This interest will lead to more educated consumers, who will demand more true organic cosmetics products in the years to come and offer continued growth opportunities for organic cosmetics in the Nordic region.