Talcum Powder: With growing health concerns, baby talc market sees shift towards organic, corn-starch-based powder, Retail News, ET Retail

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New Delhi: Amid increasing health concerns and growing consumer awareness and focus on ingredients, the baby powder market is seeing a shift towards talc-free or corn-starch based/natural ingredient-based powders, shared industry experts.

Global giant and market leader, Johnson & Johnson last year announced that it would stop selling its talc-based baby powder, after facing lawsuits and allegations that the product causes cancer. In India, the company said it would stop the production of talc-based baby powder by the first quarter of 2023.

The company faces about 38,000 lawsuits from consumers and their survivors claiming its talc products caused cancer due to contamination with asbestos, a known carcinogen. J&J denies the allegations, saying decades of scientific testing and regulatory approvals have shown its talc to be safe and asbestos-free. On Thursday, it reiterated the statement as it announced the discontinuation of the product.

Talc, a popular ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products is said to be potentially contaminated by asbestos, a carcinogenic mineral. J&J allegedly uses asbestos in its baby powder, thus resulting in scrutiny from consumers and health experts. The controversy around J&J has paved a market opportunity for organic and talc-free powders. The baby talcum powder market in India as a whole reports sales of Rs 1,500 crore a year, of which the baby talc segment generates around Rs 450 crore.

“…due to recent health concerns regarding the composition of talcum, brands and consumers are shifting to a more natural, safer alternative. Cornstarch-based powders have emerged, as a result,” commented Malika Sadani, founder and CEO, The Mom’s Co.

“The momentary pause of J&J’s baby powder in the market is a sign of the changing times – people are becoming more and more aware of the ingredients in their products, and they will only trust brands that give them the best,” said Akanksha Sharma, CEO & co-founder, Citta.

She added, “This presents a great opportunity for us to reach a larger target audience because they are already searching for safer alternatives.”

Shashank Chakrawarti, business head at pharmacy retail chain, Wellness Forever commented that the baby powder segment has witnessed many new entrants with D2C brands capturing market share. He highlighted that clean beauty products are on high recall in the consumer mind and brands like Mamaearth, Sebamed, Cetaphil, Moms Co. and more are creating good demand on Wellness Forever’s platform.

Anand Ramanathan, partner, Deloitte India noted that although the baby powder market has been disrupted due to consumer shift away from Talc, the market leader brand still occupies a majority share due to the significance of the rural market, brand recall, and distribution strength.

Commenting on how newer baby powder brands leverage the gap created due to controversies surrounding the largest player in the market, Ramanathan said, “Unlike the incumbent, newer players are advertising their product safety and natural composition prominently on their packaging.”

He added that new players should strengthen their omnichannel presence as well as an offline distribution network with a focus on urban markets. “After building strength in urban markets, it would be easier to expand in rural markets due to word of mouth. For the rural market, onboarding key distributors and small pack sizes would be key,” Ramanathan said.

Sharing brand philosophy, Sadani from The Mom’s Co. said that the brand has been focusing on incorporating customer needs into product and ingredient innovation and has been actively launching first-to-market ingredients.

Citta’s Sharma shared that the brand is investing in omnichannel marketing, leveraging social media, expanding shelf space across retail stores and pharmacies, and using varied online and offline mediums to tap the right audience.

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