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Natural and organic personal care products are cleaning up right now, with sales having increased 17% from 2006 to more than $7 billion last year, according to Nutrition Business Journal. To further capitalize on this success and gain a leg up in the industry, many companies have begun jockeying for market position by addressing the issue of authenticity — why they’re the real deal, and why others aren’t.

hands.jpgJust today, for example, the Natural Products Association unveiled its own “natural” certification for personal care products during a press conference at New York City’s Mandarin Oriental hotel. Along with representatives from Burt’s Bees, Aubrey Organics and other participating companies, the association laid out details for what it claims is a higher standard that will allow consumers to identify products that are truly made of natural ingredients. Manufacturers that bear the new seal must meet a host of guidelines, including utilizing ingredients that are renewable, pose no human health risks, and are at least 95% natural. The seal should start showing up on products in stores within the next couple weeks, according to the NPA.

“Finally, we can end the confusion about what natural is and what natural isn’t,” said Mike Indursky, chief marketing officer with Burt’s Bees.

Running along the same lines, earlier this week Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps — an all-natural icon that’s been producing soaps for 60 years — filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court against several of its competitors, alleging that they’re falsely claiming to be organic. Jason, Estee Lauder, Avalon, Nature’s Gate and others will face litigation unless they commit to reformulate or drop their organic claims, according to Dr. Bronner’s.

Leaving no question about his sentiment on the issue, David Bronner, president of the Dr. Bronner’s brand, said in a statement that these companies have been “screwing over organic consumers”.

The ambiguity of “natural” has created headaches throughout the food industry, since outside of the meat industry there is no definition of the term. In the personal care category, neither natural nor organic claims are federally regulated. The Natural Products Association claims their new claim will end the confusion, but will consumers really be able to tell the difference at the retail level? In an industry that’s announcing and denouncing claims more and more, it could just be another addition to the clutter.

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