By  on April 22, 2005

NEW YORK — Curel, the Kao brand available in the therapeutic skin care aisle, will soon ditch its white, clinical look in favor of a more feminine one. As part of the overhaul, Curel will move into the natural arena with Natural Healing, a new line of body moisturizers infused with plant extracts. The update, buoyed by the new product line, could push the Curel brand — at an estimated $40 million — to a staggering $90 million to $100 million in sales, according to industry sources.

Curel’s gussied-up image follows similar undertakings by its peers — namely Jergens, a fellow Kao brand, and Olay — to make body care a more attractive category. Hand and body lotion sales slipped nearly 2 percent to $744.6 million in the mass channel for the 52-week period ended March 20 (excluding Wal-Mart), according to Information Resources Inc.

Excluding Wal-Mart, Curel sales in the mass channel dipped more than 10 percent to $32 million in the same period, according to IRI.

Curel, which was acquired by Kao in 1998, has sported the same packaging since it was introduced in the Eighties, said Curel’s senior brand manager, Nicola Bauerle. She added that Curel’s intention is to bring an emotionally engaging offering to the therapeutic skin care category, which tends to spawn cold, medicinal-looking packaging.

Updated formulas — touting a “24 Hour Moisture” claim — are housed in blue bottles.

The brand’s original square bottle has been replaced with a curved, more ergonomic shape. Bauerle acknowledged the prevalence of the 24-hour moisturizers in the skin care aisle, but said Curel will distinguish that claim by talking about what freedom from dry skin means to its customer.

The brand’s new lineup includes Continuous Comfort Original Formula (replacing Original Formula), Continuous Comfort Fragrance Free (replacing Fragrance Free), Restore & Revive (formerly Age-Defying & Firming) and Ultra Healing. Bäuerle, singling out Restore & Revive, noted product names were designed to communicate the formula’s end benefit. Curel will ax ancillary items, such as Smooth Legs moisturizer and Soothing Hands lotion.

Rather than distance Curel from its therapeutic heritage, Bauerle said the new packaging gives consumers a product they can feel good about using — not one that they want to hide under the bathroom sink. According to the brand’s consumer research, 78 percent of Curel buyers prefer the new packaging. Some 90 percent either prefer it or are indifferent.Curel will push price points up 9 percent across all items to cover the cost of the new formulas. For instance, Curel’s main 13-oz. size will have a suggested retail price of $7.49, up from $6.99.

The three-item Natural Healing collection — designed to combine natural ingredients with therapeutic healing — also seeks to tap into shoppers’ feelings. The word “natural” is emotionally engaging, said Bäuerle, who added that key ingredients communicate each product’s use. Items in the line include three 24-hour formulas, namely Lavender, Chamomile & Oatmeal for soothing; Honey, Vanilla & Shea Butter for intense moisture, and Green Tea, Aloe & Cucumber for revitalizing. Natural Healing moisturizers will be available in a 13-oz. size for $7.49.

Curel’s marketing campaign will break in September. Details are still in development, but Bauerle said print ads and TV spots will be “spirited and optimistic.” In-store displays will be tied to the ad images. To encourage trial, Curel will sell 1-oz. sample sizes for 99 cents. Curel’s makeover fits into Kao’s call to overhaul the  brands in its portfolio. “Kao is all about transforming women’s lives through beauty,” said Bauerle.

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