By  on February 26, 2010

Idelle Labs may just be the beauty firm to get Infusium 23 back to its glory days.

After spending almost eight years within Procter & Gamble’s hair care portfolio, along with megabrands Pantene, Herbal Essences and Head & Shoulders, the beauty giant sold Infusium 23 in March 2009 to the personal care division of Helen of Troy for an undisclosed amount. Under P&G, which acquired the salon-inspired hair care brand in May 2001 when it bought Clairol, sales of Infusium 23 slipped from $100 million in 2001 to $40 million last year, Idelle executives said.

John Honeycutt, vice president of marketing for Idelle and a former P&G beauty executive, said Infusium spent much of the past several years being heavily promoted in Canada, and ultimately became associated as a value brand there. Here, he said, the brand underwent a severe packaging change — P&G swapped out Infusium’s iconic white bottle for a silver one — but also a less aggressive formula tweak and ad plan, and overall was “quiet for so long.”

Part of the comeback plan, Honeycutt said, is to return Infusium to its salon roots, which includes upgraded formulas in line with the brand’s heavy treatment image. The silver containers will stay, said Honeycutt, after consumer feedback revealed containers needed even more color, not less. New formulas also have been introduced.

Founded in 1924 in Southern California as a treatment line (it was positioned as hair care that “infused 23 types of vitamins into hair,” hence the name), Infusium soon became best known for its conditioning leave-in treatment, and by 1973 it was sold nationally in salons. In 1986, parent company Duart was bought by Clairol, and ultimately Infusium was brought to the masses.

Next week, Idelle is shipping out a revamped version of Infusium to 20,000 stores, complete with the new packaging (silver containers now have a new logo and graphics) and formulas that contain several ingredients they didn’t before. According to Uma Tripathi, vice president of research and development at Idelle Labs, formulas now have special hydrators, such as a cuticle membrane complex, as well as a “newer class” of behentrimonium chloride, which is used in Infusium’s rinse-out conditioners that the brand said only sticks to damaged areas of the hair, reducing buildup.

Infusium continues to offer five different collections, Frizz Controller, Color Protector, Repair & Renew, Moisture Replenisher and Volume Builder. The volume range includes a shampoo and conditioner, while the other collections also include a leave-in treatment that’s been formulated to address a specific hair concern.

To remind consumers Infusium is still a hair care player, last September Idelle launched new TV and print ads. The ads, said Marc Broccoli, marketing director for Infusium 23, made an impression with retailers and may help in landing one last, big account — CVS — which could come in the next several weeks. Broccoli added that sales of Infusium could increase between 10 and 20 percent by the end of the year.

Despite the new, more expensive ingredients, Infusium’s price range of $7 to $8 will remain the same.

“We are absorbing the cost,” Tripathi said, adding that, in his 30 years, he has never formulated a hair care product that takes so long to create. “Most shampoo takes eight hours to make. But Infusium takes 24 hours to make. You must mix it and let it cool down in such a slow way.”

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