By  on April 25, 2008

Alberto-Culver Co. is betting that it can parlay its expertise in hair care into a success in treatment in the ethnic market by launching Soft & Beautiful Skin, which will represent a leap forward for the brand that has specialized in hair care for women of color.

Soft & Beautiful plans to introduce the six-item Soft & Beautiful Skin collection in July. The line, which is priced from $5.99 to $6.99, will be rolled out to Soft & Beautiful's U.S. distribution network of about 5,000 doors, including top mass merchants, drugstore and grocery chains and beauty supply stores in markets where the brand reaches a high percentage of African-American shoppers, executives said.

"There were hair options [within the Soft & Beautiful offering], now there are skin

options," said Tiffanie Jones, marketing manager for Soft & Beautiful Brands. "We can truly say we are a beauty brand."

She added that African-American women are looking for the same thing in skin care as they are in hair care: "It's about hydration. This consumer loves to be moisturized, youthful and glowing."

Jones noted that 70 percent of African-American women say their main beauty concern is dry skin and a need for moisturization. The Skin range will be marketed closely with Soft & Beautiful hair care, according to Jones, including via cross-promotions and sampling in store — and with a positioning that contends good skin is fashionable.

When it comes to the ethnic personal care category in the mass market, Soft & Beautiful occupies two spots within the top 20 African-American hair care brands, a $197.5 million market during the 52-week period ended March 23, according to Information Resources Inc.

Sales of its Just for Me brand, for example, rose 12.2 percent to $4.8 million, excluding Wal-Mart. Sales of the Soft & Beautiful brand came in at $2.5 million for the same period.

There are already some stalwart players in the market that Soft & Beautiful is preparing to enter — ethnic skin care, a $40.6 million category, excluding Wal-Mart, which generally accounts for about 30 percent of sales.

Palmer's Cocoa Butter, for instance, had a 57.5 percent share of the category ($23.3 million in sales) for the year ended March 23, according to IRI. Ambi skin care was number two, with 16.8 percent of the market, and Queen Helene skin care had 14.3 percent of the category.While the firm does not break out sales projections, market sources estimate Soft & Beautiful Skin could approach first-year retail sales of $15 million.

Soft & Beautiful Skin items are designed to provide 24-hour moisturization and the range includes a body lotion, body butter cream, hand cream, body oil gel, exfoliating body polish and HydraFirm firming lotion. The

exfoliator is priced at $6.99, while the rest of the items will cost $5.99 each. The line's key ingredients include cocoa, shea and almond butters and olive and aloe oils. The firming lotion includes ginseng and collagen proteins.

A print ad campaign, which features a model in the nude highlighting the line's ingredients, will accompany the July launch.

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