By  on October 22, 2007

PARIS — L'Oréal hopes its 50-year-old Biotherm brand will become the top-selling treatment brand globally following a repositioning set to begin later this year.

The Biotherm skin care line will be rebranded "dermobiotic," a term L'Oréal patented that refers to the properties of thermal plankton, Biotherm's key ingredient. The aim of the repositioning, according to Guillaume De Lesquen, Biotherm's managing director, is to take the top spot across all treatment segments in the 70 markets where the brand is present.

"We want to accelerate strongly," he said, stressing the belief that natural, effective products are a long-term trend. "Biotherm has to be more effective and more natural than what is already on the market."

Starting at yearend, all of Biotherm's packaging will carry a stamp that reads "The 1st dermobiotic. Pure. Active. 100 percent natural," underneath the Biotherm name.

In 2008, Biotherm will introduce two products, one for women and another for men, but details about them are under wraps.

Biotherm's dermobiotic positioning results from studies by L'Oréal researchers and a Stanford University team, which says it recently discovered that pure thermal plankton, already used in Biotherm skin care products, stimulates skin cells' capacity to defend themselves against environmental aggressions, such as UV rays.

L'Oréal hopes the term "dermobiotics" will tap into the consciousness of consumers already familiar with probiotic supplements, which contain living microorganisms that have health benefits when ingested. The word "dermo" is used because the products act on skin and "biotic" because the plankton originates in living matter.

"Pure thermal plankton works on the cell's defense system to help the skin to be healthier, which is exactly the process of probiotics," explained De Lesquen.

While Biotherm's formulas remain unchanged, De Lesquen is confident the brand's new identity will help it gain market share.

"Dermobiotic is for us a trampoline to conquer the antiaging market in Europe," he said. "It also gives a fantastic [unique positioning] to go further into the Asian market, where [baby-like] skin is so highly praised.

"We want to take a step ahead, taking the lead [among] brands that are selling efficacy and naturalness," continued De Lesquen, who named Clarins and Clinique as key competitors."We don't have many ingredients," he said. "We cultivate and isolate a pure extract of thermal plankton using bio-fermentation [methods] over 21 days to obtain the most effective and purest form," he said. "We then add other key ingredients for other purposes, to fight acne, for example."

To explain the concept, the brand will launch a series of advertorials at yearend.

While De Lesquen declined to reveal Biotherm's revenues, he said sales have doubled over the past seven years. Industry sources estimate the brand generates 500 million euros, or $713.2 million at current exchange, in wholesale revenues annually.

Biotherm is the second-largest skin care brand in L'Oréal's luxury products division after Lancôme and it is expected to register double-digit growth this year.

"We are growing twice as quickly as the skin care market globally," he said, adding Biotherm is the best-selling men's skin care line worldwide and ranks eighth in the women's treatment category.

Biotherm's men's category has been growing at double digits for five years, De Lesquen continued, adding it represents 20 percent of the brand's business.

Biotherm, which generates more than 90 percent of its sales outside of France, is also ramping up its international expansion. After the Ukraine in September, Biotherm will be introduced in Vietnam and India before yearend.

There are no plans yet to return to bricks-and-mortar U.S. distribution, where it pulled out in March to concentrate on e-commerce. Industry sources estimate Biotherm's two U.S. e-commerce sites generate annual sales of $2 million.

Biotherm launched an e-commerce site in France in September, and sites for Germany, the U.K. and Spain are planned through December.

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