Natural care

April 2016

It is said that Cleopatra regularly bathed in asses’ milk and honey to preserve her beauty: Unfortunately, we cannot be sure whether this story about Egypt’s most famous Queen is true or belongs with the myths and legends of the Ancient Kingdom. But at least one thing is for sure: The legendary beauty from the Nile had to rely on natural beauty aids in the absence of modern alternatives. However, today we have a choice: we can use natural products or opt for hi-tech ingredients tested in laboratories to counteract wrinkles and gray hair. The majority of Germans regularly turn to conventional cosmetics. Yet natural cosmetics have enjoyed an increased penetration over the past few years. In 2015, more than one in five adult consumers (aged 18+) bought natural cosmetic products for body and face care.

Whether shower gel, face cream or make-up: Germans can often meet their cosmetic requirements by choosing between natural and more conventional cosmetics. In terms of penetration, the latter comes out best: In 2015, conventional cosmetic products were found in the shopping bags of 93% of German consumers, while 23% opted to stock their bathroom cabinets with natural alternatives. Nearly natural cosmetics, which contain substances of both natural and chemical origin, achieved a penetration level of 30% in 2015. In comparison with 2014, these values have hardly changed. These are the results of the GfK Individual panel in which 40,000 people regularly report on their purchases of body care and cosmetic products.

Despite penetration levels remaining virtually stable, the market is changing slightly. This is revealed by a glance at expenditure levels – and to the benefit of natural cosmetics. On average, each buyer invested around EUR 2.50 more in these products than in the year before – although it should be noted that the average prices paid remained more or less the same. Households which value natural cosmetics therefore bought more of these products than in 2014. At EUR 24.00, each buyer invested a little less in nearly natural products than in 2014, saving above all else on price. However, in terms of conventional cosmetics, each buyer spent EUR 1.50 more on “greater quantity” than in 2014.

Natural cosmetics brand or private label: A quarter of consumers prefer to mix it up

Natural cosmetics have long since moved on from the days of odorless creams and coarse soaps found in niche shops where consumers would still have to search long and hard. Consumers who opt for natural body care and beauty products, have a much greater range to choose from today. The products can be divided up between natural cosmetics brands – such as lavera, Dr. Haushka and Weleda – and private label natural cosmetics including alverde by dm, Alterra by Rossman and aloive by Edeka. For many years now, private labels have had their noses in front in terms of penetration – but their lead is shrinking! In 2015, natural cosmetics brands were able to close the gap to private labels by 1% with another increase in their penetration. They are now held in almost equal esteem by consumers. It should also be noted that not all consumers exclusively buy private label products or those from natural cosmetics brands. Only just over a third of consumers (37%) who purchase natural cosmetics products exclusively buy private label products. In contrast, nearly as many always opt for natural cosmetics brand products. And around a quarter (27%) of respondents find that both options are viable and turn to both private label and brand products when buying cosmetics.

Natural cosmetics brands: Bought more often primarily by younger consumers

Does a light application of a cosmetic care cream suffice to keep your skin looking youthful and
radiant? Or are you trying to prevent new wrinkles? Does your shopping list include diapers or hair dye to conceal your first gray hairs? The body care products we buy depend on our age. But can the various generations be divided up by their preference for natural cosmetics brand products or private labels? Natural cosmetics brands enjoyed increased interest in their products in 2015 – across all age groups too! The increase of buyers among the 18-34 age group was particularly high at 13 percentage points. For the 35-49 age group, the number of buyers rose by a considerable 11 percentage points, while for the over 50s the corresponding figure was around 5 percentage points up. The picture looks a little different for private labels. While they certainly have cause for celebration with an increase of 11 percentage points in the youngest age group surveyed, interest among the 35-49 age group has waned significantly. This can primarily be attributed to declining sales at Aldi – this discount store has recently recorded a significant sales drop in its private label natural cosmetics.

E-commerce: Fans of natural cosmetics buy online

Why head downtown when you can buy most everyday items quite conveniently online? It seems that some cosmetics buyers are asking themselves the same question. Online trade may well only play a small role in the daily consumer goods market, but it has above-average relevance for cosmetics and body care products. This also applies to natural cosmetics. In this regard, the e-commerce penetration for both the “body care and health” category and sub-sector “natural cosmetic products” is 4.4%. Of all daily consumer goods, only pet products and OTC medicines are bought more often online. The penetration of other product groups such as drinks, frozen foods and paper goods is much less significant. And even when the penetration for natural cosmetics online is very low at just 0.7%, online buyers cover half of their needs in just a few mouse clicks. Only OTC medicines can boast a comparatively high proportion of demand fulfillment: 50% of medications required by online buyers are also sourced on the internet.

Meeting one’s own natural cosmetic needs is therefore comparatively simple these days: We have a wider product portfolio available to us in stores and can use laptops and smartphones to meet our further needs. It’s safe to say that Cleopatra and her entourage would have enjoyed having this many convenient ways of buying cosmetic products at their disposal as, according to the legend, the bath-loving Egyptian Pharaoh had to keep and look after several hundred jennies, female asses, because each animal would only produce between one and two liters of milk per day.

Data source: GfK Consumer Panels


If you have any queries concerning this article, please contact Denise Nordbeck, GfK SE.

Contact person for queries about Compact: Claudia Gaspar (e-mail to