ISO 16128’s Growing Impact on the Cosmetics Ingredients Industry

Going “natural” isn’t as simple as it used to be in the world of cosmetics: In the past, brands only needed to claim that their products were natural and perhaps promote their packaging as environmentally friendly. And, at the time, that was enough for consumers to literally buy into their claims.

But beginning in the mid-1990s, consumers became less complacent, with the shift no doubt coinciding with their increasingly easy access to information, their growing ability to disseminate info far and wide via social media, and the demand for transparency that these developments engendered. In an effort to provide standardization around the definition of “natural,” various certification bodies started to appear (e.g., Cosmos, Ecocert, and Natrue) and companies began to be required to list their ingredients to varying degrees. While these certifications are well recognized by consumers, confusion remains. There are a number of different bodies, each with its own set of requirements, and there is a lack of universal recognition ― i.e., some certifications are only accepted in the United States, others only in Europe, etc. Further, obtaining these certifications can quickly become a very expensive proposition for companies, as they must pay a fee for each one. Enter ISO 16128. “ISO 16128 represented a breakthrough,“ says Nikola Matic, director of our Chemicals & Materials practice. “For the first time, the industry had clear, internationally agreed upon guidelines to work with to define what was — and what wasn’t — a natural ingredient.” The standard provided designations that were based on mathematical calculations for each ingredient, whereby the brands were able to tally the numbers and concretely identify whether their product qualified as “natural” or the lesser “natural-derived,” or whether it fell into the “non-natural” category. With every ingredient assigned an index value, ISO 16128 applied the same definitive guidelines to the cosmetics ingredients industry as it did to the cosmetics brands — with the highly lucrative “natural” labeling being equally as sought after by the ingredients manufacturers.

What Does ISO 16128 Mean for the Cosmetics Ingredients Industry?

Although ISO 16128 was issued several years ago, it wasn’t until recently that the standard gained traction, with the ramifications becoming increasingly meaningful for the cosmetics ingredients industry. Among the reasons for this delay was that ingredients suppliers were waiting to see whether the cosmetics brands — their customers — were going to go along with these guidelines. “The answer,” says Matic, “is a resounding ‘yes.’ The European brands are pioneering the adoption of ISO 16128, with others expected to follow in Europe’s footsteps.” This growing momentum is pushing cosmetics formulators to look very carefully at the ingredients found in large concentrations in their formulations in their quest to obtain a high percentage of ingredients that are natural-derived, upon which they can support their claims of “natural.” Surfactants represent the best example of a group of ingredients possessing a high ISO 16128 Natural Index. Further, because fermentation provides manufacturers with an efficient way to create natural-derived ingredients that have this sought-after index, these ingredients are now considered extremely desirable by formulators and are being purchased at a premium. One outcome has been heightened R&D and M&A activity within this area.

Who Wins?

According to Matic, “The multitude of small companies that had or have interesting intellectual properties in this area — a number of them have already been acquired — is reaping the benefits. The market is also rewarding the large chemical companies that moved first in this field and the companies that have a presence in the oleochemicals value chain.” Names to thus keep your eye on include Croda, Evonik, Clariant, and Stepan.

About this blog:

ISO 16128’s Growing Impact on the Cosmetics Ingredients Industry contains insights from Nikola Matic, director of Kline’s Chemicals & Materials practice. His areas of expertise span a broad range of chemical and energy projects. Matic is currently focused on the Chemicals & Materials industry, including managing flagship industry programs such as Personal Care ingredients, Specialty Actives, Synthetic Latex Polymers, Specialty Biocides, and Specialty Excipients. He additionally brings to the table extensive international market research experience. Prior to joining Kline, Matic worked in the environmental services consultancy for a leading French corporation, where he was responsible for business development in Central and Eastern Europe. He holds an engineering degree in process engineering from the Université de Technologie de Compiègne.

Press inquiries:

Lance Debler

Content Marketing Manager

Kline & Company


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