Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reformulation, Sodium Benzoate, and YOU

You may have heard the recent uproar over the reformulation of a certain competitor's products.  Now, I don't like to bash other companies because I think it's just uncalled for.  Name calling is not a way to do business, in my opinion, and turns us all into nasty sounding people.  That being said, I felt like I had to say something in response to all the drama that is unfolding around this "scandal".  If you want to read more about this company and what has happened, I would Google "calendula cream" and "[name of a sunny west coast state where movie stars live] Baby".  That should get you more than enough to read.

The general story that is unfolding is that this company, which has purported to produce natural products for babies, reformulated their famous calendula cream as well as added sodium benzoate as a preservative to many of their other products.  After releasing the new formulation and not announcing it as such, they began to receive many complaints with many people reporting rashes, hives, etc.  Apparently, and this comes just from what I have read online from consumer comments, the initial response to these complaints was to flat out deny that there was any reformulation.  Consumers were told that it was the same product.  Complaints, and photos of skin reactions I'm told, were posted on the company's Facebook wall en mass and the company eventually made a statement and came clean.  However, all complaints, responses, and the company statement have since been deleted.  

As a maker of natural products, especially ones that are used on pregnant moms and babies, I find this whole scenario sad. It is true that many companies will reformulate (or formulate in the first place) based on costs. It's expensive to create products that are truly natural and/or organic.  And, when production costs are higher, that means we have to charge more for a product when it's on a retail shelf just to break even. The end result is typically companies that make excellent products that you've never heard of.  It's hard to compete with a product that appears similar and is half the cost.  In the end, though, you get what you pay for. 

Speaking to the actual ingredient that is getting so much attention in all this mess, sodium benzoate, let me ask you this... does it sound natural?  In reading a list of comments left on a blog about all of this, one commenter said she found the ingredient listed on the Seventh Generation Baby Wipes that she uses.  Upon inquiring to the company about it, she was told:
 You ask a great question. The concern with Sodium Benzoate is when it is in the presence of ascorbic acid, which we don’t use in any of our products. This concern came to light in sodas and soft drinks because they use both ingredients. We are using sodium benzoate as a preservative for our baby wipes and is the most responsible, natural option that we can find.
Sodium benzoate naturally occurs in several fruits like apples, plums and cranberries. A few sweet spices contain small amounts of sodium benzoate, including cloves and cinnamon.
That's a nice statement and, to most, would do much to ease a worried mind.  After all, it appears it's only an issue if it's in soda, right?  I'm sure that plenty of other "natural" companies like 7th Gen will tell you that, too (and I apologize for using their name outright but felt it was appropriate since I was quoting their response to a consumer).  However, it is NOT entirely true. Benzoic acid is a naturally occurring substance BUT sodium benzoate, the ingredient in question, is a chemical that is synthesized in a lab. So, no, sodium benzoate does NOT occur in several fruits and a few sweet spices as the 7th Gen representative stated.  It is NOT the natural preservative that they want you to think it is.  And, don't even get me started on the sodium laureth sulfates that many of these natural companies' products contain!

Anyway, it's frustrating to see this kind of thing happen in our industry because it creates a veil of suspicion around all of us that create truly natural products. For my company, I determined long ago to only use ingredients my great grandmother would recognize. So, no, our products are not on the shelves at Target or Whole Foods or Motherhood Maternity.  And, while it would be nice if they were, our guiding light is not the almighty dollar.  It is YOU.  We have never received a complaint about any of our products, and we're very proud of that. Our products may be harder to find and may cost a bit more, but we believe YOU, and your family, are worth it!  For the record, here's the ingredient list in our baby balm, which is a miracle worker on diaper rash, too!
sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, shea butter, beeswax, lavender oil, vitamin E oil
Yep, that's it. Good for baby; good for Mother Nature. Yes, we know it's more expensive than others that are out there, but we're confident that, if you try it, you'll find it really is pretty spectacular. Order some today and refer to this blog in the Notes to Seller section when checking out. When you do, we'll refund $5 of your purchase price now through February 15, 2012.


  1. Great article! I get frustrated, as a person who tries her best to investigate skin care product ingredients to figure out what's acceptable as "safe" and what isn't. I get the run around on so many ingredients with companies attempting to convince me and consumers that something is safe because it was "derived from some natural plant or fruit". But what they always fail to mention is the chemical process that made the ingredient what it is.

  2. Thanks, Kathy! Coming from you, I take that as a huge compliment! For those that don't know, Kathy can be found at www.safemama.com and SHE'S AWESOME!!

    I, too, get frustrated with the whole "derived from" argument. It's either natural or it's not. Personally, I believe consumers have the ability to be smarter than what most companies give them credit for. It's up to companies like ours, though, to lull them out of their shopping slumber to see what these products are really made of!

  3. Great blog...thanks for information. This is a very confusing subject, and one that keeps us on our toes.