By  on June 17, 1994

NEW YORK -- BioCosmetic Research Labs last year uncovered a profitable niche in the mass market -- skin care for black women.

First-year wholesale volume of its Black Opal line is expected to reach $10 million this year. According to BioCosmetics, which is based in Long Island City, N.Y., sales in the black skin care category rose 7 percent in 1993, to $75 million.

Now the firm is hoping to do the same for black men. Roughly 65 percent of African-American men suffer from pseudofolliculitis, painful razor bumps caused by shaving. Black Opal for Men Survival System addresses that problem with a line of four stockkeeping units.

The line consists of Pre-Shave Daily Cleanser with Alpha Hydroxy Acids, Desensitizing Clear Shave Gel, After Shave Relief Lotion with AHA and Razor Bump Recovery Solution with AHA. The cleanser, gel and lotion retail for $5.95 each; the Razor Bump Recovery Solution retails for $9.95.

"There is a need out there for a product like this. Unless a product is dispensed from a doctor, what is out there doesn't work," said Steven Manenti, executive vice president and general manager of BioCosmetics. "This solves a real problem."

Over the years, several firms have tried to crack the men's mass skin care market without success. That's why the company is marketing Black Opal as a shaving system.

"Many black men just aren't shaving. This addresses and solves a real problem," said Donna Italiano, vice president for the firm.

Warren Moon, the quarterback of the Minneapolis Vikings, will appear in print and spot TV advertising for the line. Manenti sees distribution of Black Opal for Men, which is set for an August launch, stretching to convenience stores and supermarkets, where men often shop.

He predicts first-year volume will match the $10 million of the Black Opal women's line.

BioCosmetics will enlarge its Black Opal women's line in August with the addition of three sku's. Skin Retexturizing Complex with Alpha Hydroxy Acids, along with the men's products, is the first ethnic-targeted treatment product with AHA. A 1-oz. bottle will retail for $9.95.

The other two new products are an SPF-15 Daily Protection moisturizer and a Knees and Elbows Target Treatment, each carrying a $5.95 suggested retail price. All three will be available in counter display units.Retailers welcome the line extensions.

"Black Opal has been really good for us, and we expanded it into all three stores," said Gordon Keil, president of Gordons Discount, based in Newark, N.J.

Several drug chains, such as New Orleans-based K&B and Rite Aid Corp. in Camp Hill, Pa., have had so much success with Black Opal in select ethnic stores that they rolled out the line chainwide.

Black Opal sales have also been boosted in chains such as Drug Emporium and Wal-Mart Stores, thanks to in-store sampling programs, according to Italiano.

The second annual HBA '94 Global Expo attracted more than 250 exhibitors who came to show chemicals, raw materials, fragrances, cosmetics and private label items.

More than 10,000 people from around the world came to the meeting that has been dubbed "the CosmoProf of the U.S." Among the new mass market items on display was a color cosmetics line called Jordana.

The firm, based in Los Angeles, offers color cosmetics on a spinner rack that is being used by nontraditional cosmetics retailers such as ClothesTime. Drug chains, including Duane Reade and Longs, also have added the line.

"Many see it as an option to the big names like Cover Girl," explained Rafael Bijou, vice president of Jordana.

Another niche market supplier with innovative products on display was Irene Gari Cosmetics by Fiske Industries. The company was pushing a brush-on product that temporarily covers gray hair, according to Claudia Alder, an owner and vice president of the company, which is based in New City, N.Y.

Next year, the Blenheim Group, Fort Lee, N.J., plans to increase the trade show exhibit space by 50 percent. Jack Gonzalez, the show manager, said Blenheim hopes to lure more retailers.

"We're seeing much more interest from retailers," he said.

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