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Reformulating a Product and the Presence of Preservatives

01.24.12 Reformulating a Product and the Presence of Preservatives

reformulating a product

There's been an interesting dialogue swirling around about the company California Baby, who recently reformulated some of their products but forgot to mention the change to their loyal customer base. OOPS! Why they weren't above board about changing their formulas is anyone's guess but why make the change in the first place? What was there to gain when they already had a front and center spot on health food (and large chain!) shelves?

Stephanie Greenwood founder of Bubble and Bee Organics has first hand insight owning a small USDA certified organic skincare company. She's made terrific observations on her blog about the motivations behind reformulating a product. Here are some of the highlights to understand why:

  • When a company decides to grow, especially into a more mainstream marketplace, this inevitably involves more people to please (investors) and inevitably more corners to cut for a healthy return.
  • If a larger chain store picks up a product (which seems like a success story to a little company) along come some huge demands. Firstly, FREE product samples, called "free-fill" and a lot of them, thousands of them. For free. 
  • Then, there are demands for demos and special discounts and more free samples for customers. And some stores even charge for shelf space! Of course this leads to higher overhead for multiple reasons.
  • And finally, without the major demand for USDA certified organic products from consumers (more on that later) this growing company is faced to decide where to make changes for the sake of profit.
Greenwood is also a firm believer in staying small and connected to her customers assuring her following that they, "never have to worry about us changing our standards or back-tracking on our morals." At MightyNest, we have the same commitment.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic's Earth Mama's Blog, writes an excellent take on why personal care products need a preservative anyway. She recommends balm or oils for moisturizing your baby's skin to avoid the use of a preservative. The reason there isn't a preservative is no water=no bacteria.

Kathy Scoleri, from the fabulous and informative blog, Safe Mama outlines the added chemical of concern and  culprit: sodium benzoate. Even though this chemical was given the relatively low toxicity risk score of 2 on EWG's Skin Deep database, it still poses a health issue for some folks. She had also posted California Baby's statement from CA Baby Facebook page but it has since been deleted. Here is a lowdown of the California Baby brouhaha:

  • Sodium benzoate (a preservative) has been added to California Baby's shampoos and body washes, hand soaps, and bubble products.
  • Some CA Baby products have had up to 10 ingredients changed or altered.
  • They changed safflower oil to "organically grown canola oil".
  • They started making (in-house) a more concentrated calendula oil that is darker in color and has a slighty different smell.
  • CA Baby did not announce any of these changes and furthermore handled calls/complaints in a defensive way, claiming it's the  “same great product it has always been”. Except that it wasn't the same.
  • CA Baby has apologized for the misinformation but has also deleted the entire strand of comments made by concerned and angered parents. Probably not a great move.

Scoleri has also posted a great list of alternatives for calendula creams and balms as alternatives on her most recent cheat sheet.

If you are hormonally sensitive or imbalanced, it is advised to avoid products with the preservative sodium benzoate and especially when combined with vitamin C as the combination creates benzene, which is carcinlogenic.

At MightyNest, we are proud to feature some of the companies on Scoleri's list. Earth Mama Angel Baby, Badger and LuSa Organics are all fabulous and safe companies making quality products without preservatives. We'd also add Trillium Organics to the list.

What are your thoughts on the topic?

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