NEW YORK -- Cosmair is making its first major attempt to loosen Procter & Gamble's grip on the hair care category with a new shampoo and conditioner called Hydravive Performance.The effort by Cosmair -- the New York-based licensee of L'Oreal SA -- is the latest in the French parent company's long campaign to claim American market share in the hair category and in the makeup, skin care and fragrance segments of the industry.In the crowded and fiercely competitive $2.2 billion shampoo and conditioner market, said industry sources, L'Oreal has been kept to a 2 to 3 percent market share in unit sales for Colorvive and Permavive combined, two niche brands for chemically treated hair.L'Oreal is several rungs below P&G on the mass market ladder in the U.S. Among its arsenal of hair care brands, the Cincinnati-based consumer products giant has shampoo leaders Pert Plus and Pro-V, which control 7 and 5 percent shares of the market, respectively, according to sources.Overall, P&G controls 25 percent of the shampoo market in food and drug stores and 10.5 percent of the conditioner market, according to Towne-Oller & Associates. L'Oreal, by contrast, has 1.1 percent of the shampoo market and 2.6 percent of the conditioner market.With the introduction in February of Hydravive, a five-item line targeted at the market's mainstream, L'Oreal hopes to shift the balance.Hydravive is expected to double the company's total share this year, according to Joe Campinell, senior vice president and general manager of the hair division.Although Campinell declined to give specifics, industry sources say L'Oreal expects to achieve a unit share of 5 percent in 1994, a development that would translate into a 7 percent share in dollars for a volume of about $154 million for the three shampoo lines.For 1995, L'Oreal's plans call for Hydravive to edge toward a 4 percent share in units, giving the company a 6 to 7 percent share, according to sources."Hydravive, along with Colorvive and Permavive, will give us a major foothold in the mass market shampoo and conditioner business," Campinell said.Guy Peyrelongue, president and chief executive officer of Cosmair, called the entry into the American shampoo market L'Oreal's "most important strategic move" in 1994."If we want to be a real complete player in the hair care market, we must be a player in shampoo and conditioner," Peyrelongue said. "Everywhere in the world, with the exception of the U.S., L'Oreal has been a player in the shampoo and conditioner market."Peyrelongue said the Hydravive launch is particularly important because the L'Oreal hair division has been targeted for 15 percent annual growth -- and a bigger piece of Cosmair's $1.35 billion pie. In 1993, the hair division had sales estimated at $300 million to $400 million, or 22 to 30 percent of the company's total. Worldwide, including the U.S., hair contributed 31 percent of sales in 1992, the last full year for which figures were available."L'Oreal has never really cracked the mass market in the shampoo business in the U.S.," said Diana K. Temple, a cosmetics industry analyst with Salomon Bros.Until recently, Temple said, L'Oreal viewed shampoo as a lower-profit business and had other priorities.But now, she added, L'Oreal has an opportunity to build its shampoo and conditioner franchise with Hydravive, which she described as having "a demonstrable difference."Temple, who said the product made her own hair "much more manageable," said L'Oreal is smart to launch a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner, a category that has grown rapidly in recent years to command 30 percent of the market.L'Oreal plans to back the new brand with a $20 million TV and print ad campaign breaking in March, according to Carol Hamilton, senior vice president of marketing.As part of the effort, Hamilton said, L'Oreal will distribute 15 million samples of Hydravive. The company will insert five million 1.5-oz. packets of the shampoo into newspapers in March and another five million in June.Another five million packets of the shampoo will appear in April and August editions of magazines.Hydravive will be distributed in 25,000 doors. The line consists of an 11-oz. shampoo, an 11-oz. conditioner, an 11-oz. shampoo and conditioner, a 7.7-oz. leave-in conditioner and a 6.5-oz. Deep Hydrating Masque for weekly deep conditioning. Each product will have a suggested retail price of $3.79 and a promotional price of $2.99.The Hydravive launch will come at the end of a year in which L'Oreal brought two other major lines to the market.Casting, a tone-on-tone colorant, hit the stores about a year ago. Then, four months ago, L'Oreal came out with a leave-in foam conditioner called Light Step, the first product under the Studio Care banner. Studio Care is a follow-up to the Studio Line of styling products, the company's worldwide bestseller.Both falling into the shampoo and conditioner category, the Studio Care and Hydravive launches are key components to the division's strategy, Campinell said, and should help maintain the division's trend of double-digit sales gains for every one of the last seven years.Although the hair coloring category traditionally has been L'Oreal's mainstay, Campinell said, "Our object is to build the hair care business into a substantial part of the division."While L'Oreal's share of the hair coloring market has grown in the last few years to about 34 percent, Temple said its styling products have slipped from 29 percent in 1984 to 11 percent in 1993 as new brands hit the stores. Temple said L'Oreal needs to continue to refine brands the way Helene Curtis has.Campinell said he expects Hydravive to draw customers from higher-priced salon brands and lower-priced mass lines."When we introduced Colorvive, it was at the highest price in the mass market per ounce," Campinell said. Citing consumer research conducted by Cosmair, he said 12 percent of its customers said they had switched from Suave, one of the lowest-priced brands on the market.L'Oreal selected the name Hydravive because of its connotation of water and life, Hamilton said. The line contains Hydra-Protein Complex, which the company claims helps maintain hair's proper moisture level.Hamilton said today's customer wants products with "a very simple message."One way L'Oreal tried to simplify matters was by putting a conditioning level chart on the backs of the bottles. On a scale of 1 to 10, the two-in-one product rates a 1, the leave-in foam a 3, the conditioner a 4 and the masque a 7.Hamilton said she expects the shampoo plus conditioner to be the line's best-selling item, followed by the shampoo, then the conditioner.One thing going for L'Oreal, according to Temple, is its "very active product schedule."
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