How has sustainability impacted the spa industry from an operator’s point of view?
There’s a growing demand for socially responsible hospitality. The key is to provide a luxury experience while at the same time making the guest feel like the experience has minimal impact—that’s the challenge. And some are doing that very well. When the green frenzy hit the spa industry, around 2006 or so, the emphasis was on how to obtain expensive certifications like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)—but that led to an unrealistic excess based on almost arbitrary (for our industry) guidelines. The good news is that sustainability has made a lot of businesses much more efficient and accountable.
How has it impacted the industry from a brand point of view?
Unlike the building certifications, products have been very successful in tapping into the natural and organic market using real ingredients for increasingly sophisticated consumers. People now read their product labels and they have plenty of lists that tell them what to avoid. Those lists are increasingly serious, and failing to take them into account is increasingly costly. As a result, many traditional spa brands have cleaned up their acts.
Are there challenges to brands competing in the green / organic market at this time?
The problem is that so many companies are shifting in this direction—according to Transparency Market Research, global demand for organic personal-care products is expected to reach $13.2 billion by 2018—and so standing out from the crowd becomes increasingly difficult. Now, people are as interested in the story of a product as in the product ingredients. And the story—from A to Z—better be authentic.
What are some marketing trends you have found in the green segment of the beauty industry?
The difficulty is that the market is changing so quickly. At the extreme edge you’ll find a shift from coconut water to maple water to birch water . . . and all of those waters are now eating into sales of traditional sports drinks. This is all happening almost overnight. Food, drink, and beauty trends are more connected than ever, as consumers embrace the concept of a holistic lifestyle. The challenge is to keep reinforcing the story, whatever that may be.
What makes you optimistic about the future of green beauty?
If you look at the soft drink industry right now, no matter what they say in their ad campaigns and their packaging, their sales are declining, in America anyway, because consumers are waking up. That sort of awakening is great for the entire green industry. The other major trend is the dramatic increase in various kinds of sensitivities—think of the gluten-free movement—that huge interest is completely applicable to personal-care products of all kinds. What makes me optimistic about the future of green beauty is that the need is becoming so obvious in a world that’s becoming more toxic and people are becoming more reactive (allergies, asthma, food sensitivities). That doesn’t make me optimistic about the world, particularly, but it does make me optimistic about the future of green beauty and healthier self-care.