The Nature of Natural Ingredients

We work with them every day, and yet even we need to be reminded occasionally that nothing is certain with natural ingredients. Not the color or quantity, not the potency or price.

Various spices and natural ingredients

 

Evidence of Truly Natural

Whether it’s the linoleic content of this year’s safflower harvest or the sudden disappearance of madder root powder from the world market, natural ingredients are – before they’re anything else – crops and commodities.

As crops, they’re susceptible to weather and growing conditions. As commodities, they’re subject to price spikes and shortages. This is always true, and while some people consider the uncertainty of natural ingredients to be a drawback, for others it’s confirmation of their non-synthetic identity. As the ground-breaking British natural products manufacturer faith in nature says on its website, “variations are your guarantee that the materials we use are truly natural.”

Safflower

Image: http://bobquinnorganicfarmer.com/safflower-harvest/

Not So Orange

There are times when the nature of natural ingredients is more of an issue than others. Sometimes an ingredient is so popular and used for so many things that competition for just what you want – or what you’ve always had – gets too fierce to be successful. That was the case with annatto seed powder and our citrus lavender bar soap a couple of years ago.

Annatto seed powder is an ingredient, like bergamot essential oil, that you know very well even if you don’t know it by name. It’s used as a light-to-deep-orange food coloring in hundreds of products, including cheddar and American cheeses, most crackers, nearly all cereals, light-colored ice creams, commercial potato salad, sugar-free Jell-O, gourmet mustards, and ready-to-eat chicken from grocery stores.

What About the Soap?

Our citrus lavender soap is always in competition with the makers of these foods, and sometimes the upshot of competition is not getting what you’ve been accustomed to having. That was the case with the annatto seed powder we’d used for years. The newer version of our organic, ready-to-ship Citrus Lavender soap wasn’t the same Popsicle-orange color it had been, because we hadn’t been able to source the annatto seed powder we’d always used.

Our Citrus Lavender soap was darker for a while, less summery perhaps, but it was also richer and deeper. It was still the same great soap, but it was also a good example of how natural ingredients can vary due to conditions, more proof that despite all our knowledge, skills, and attention, we’re never really in charge of the natural world.

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