By  on December 17, 2004

NEW YORK — In a category as competitive as hair care, it’s never lonely at the top. Established players and feisty newcomers are all vying for space in the overcrowded category, and would like nothing more than to oust the top seated brand, Pantene.

Beginning in January, the $2 billion Procter & Gamble brand will swing back with a barrage of new initiatives, including an updated formula, backed by a $250 million marketing budget, according to industry sources.

Here’s what Pantene has slated for 2005: a reformulation of the basic line; the introduction of a color care collection called Expressions; a new subline for Hispanic women dubbed Extra Straight, and a slew of styling and treatment products to augment existing lines.

“We are basically touching every piece of the business,” said Sonsoles Gonzalez, vice president, North American Hair Care for P&G.

To complement its mushrooming portfolio, Pantene has recruited three celebrity hairstylists to its newly formed Pantene Shine Squad, namely stylist Brett Freedman, colorist Rita Hazan and owner of Luxe salon in Manhattan Tippi Shorter, who specializes in African-American hair. Their combined client list includes A-listers such as Kate Hudson, Jennifer Lopez and Kimora Lee Simmons.

“We started with trying to find stylists who would mirror Pantene’s philosophy, which is ‘great hair starts with healthy hair.’ We also wanted them to be high-profile and well-known in the industry. Each of them specializes in a different type of consumer, and they will play critical roles in how we approach those consumers,” said Gonzalez.

Although executives would not discuss figures, industry sources forecast that Pantene’s ambitious launch schedule and aggressive marketing plan will generate $170 million in sales over 2005.

Bent on broad-stroke change, Pantene has updated its ubiquitous Pro-V formula with amino acids to create Amino Pro-V Complex. Pantene’s principal scientist, Cheri McMaster, explained that after five years of research, P&G developed a formula to restore three of the six amino acids lost through brushing and general wear and tear of hair. The Amino Pro-V Complex is designed to repair damaged locks, restoring their strength to that of virgin hair (healthy hair free of environmental or chemical damage), said McMaster. She added that clinical tests show that the new formula will make good on this claim within seven to 10 days of regular use. P&G scientists will present the Amino Pro-V Complex formula at the American Academy of Dermatology this February.

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