If mass-market hair-care brands have their way, shower shelves may soon get a lot more crowded.
This story first appeared in the April 12, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The industry is out to convince women to add more steps to their two-part hair-care routine, a strategy that could dramatically boost category growth beyond its current rate of low-single digits. The move is borrowed from skin care’s playbook, designed to educate shoppers that a regimen will yield optimal results. It’s also an attempt to reclaim ground from salon brands, which have increasingly proliferated in the mass channel.
“Consumers are starting to understand the treatment process for hair,” says Shannon Curtin, divisional vice president and general merchandising manager for beauty, personal care and seasonal at Walgreens. “Premium, salon-inspired items are having great growth,” she adds, naming Pantene Expert Collection and L’Oréal Paris Advanced Haircare in particular. “Customers are looking for an affordable solution to salon trends.” To that end, hair-care brands are developing an onslaught of niche, salon-inspired lines tailored to specific needs in a concerted effort to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach.
“The hair-care market is undergoing a massive, long-term transition,” says Gina Boswell, executive vice president, personal care, for North America at Unilever, which has a portfolio that includes Nexxus, Suave, TRESemmé, Dove and Clear Scalp & Hair Beauty Therapy, among others. “In years past, the category was dominated by monolithic megabrands that offered something for everyone. We believe that time has passed. Instead, consumers are looking for expert brands with customized solutions and ranges that address their unique needs.”
The steady flow of new launches in the last 12 months—Pantene Expert Collection, L’Oréal Paris Advanced Hair Care and Clear Scalp and Hair Beauty Therapy included—has transformed the mass-market hair-care aisle, and the hair-care benefits it trumpets. Over the last year, antiaging, scalp health and natural curl have emerged as leading trends, upstaging broader concerns like shiny, healthy hair. The trends mirror a changing consumer demographic, as both aging and more ethnically diverse populations wield more spending power.
Category growth has begun to respond, albeit modestly: Last year, hair-care sales grew 3 percent to $8.4 billion across all channels, excluding salons, according to Euromonitor International. The antiaging lines—which feature a bevy of speciality products, such as oils, volumizing powders and masks—are helping to drive growth, says Tim Barrett, U.S. research associate at Euromonitor.
“Increasingly hair consumers are becoming more sophisticated and understanding that products work as a regimen of wash, care and treatment and they are willing to invest,” says Boswell. That insight prompted Unilever to significantly broaden its portfolio over the last three years, she adds. Currently, Unilever is working to encourage regimen-building with new offerings, such as Clear Scalp and Hair Beauty Therapy, Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion and Nexxus Youth Renewal, an antiaging line that offers the brand’s first dry shampoo, as well as the Rejuvenating Elixir treatment. Boswell says the new launches “have been winning in the market, and driving more than 50 percent of the category’s total growth in 2012.”
She anticipates the category will continue to grow at a 2 to 3 percent clip in 2013, but that the post-wash segment, comprised of conditioners and treatments, is well outpacing that growth so far this year, gaining 8 percent year to date, noting “We are tapping into this growth area with our latest launches of Suave Professionals Moroccan Infusion Moroccan Argan Styling Oil and TRESemmé Platinum Strength Renewing Deep Conditioning Treatment.”
Unilever’s staunchest competitors, namely L’Oréal and Procter & Gamble Co., have also kicked their innovation programs into high gear.
Karen Fondu, president of L’Oréal Paris USA, says the brand’s new Advanced Haircare intends to move hair care away from a commodity category to a true beauty need in consumers’ eyes. The collection—which was five years in the making—consists of five clinically tested regimens of shampoo, conditioner and hair treatment. The latter is billed as a critical step. The ranges, namely Total Repair 5 (restoring), Smooth Intense (frizz fighting), Power Moisture (hydrating), Color Vibrancy (color protection) and Triple Resist (strengthening), launched in January and could ring up $100 million in sales in its distribution of 35,000 doors.
Fondu says the line is “encouraging women to adopt a three-step hair-care routine of shampoo, condition and treat to help hair look gorgeous and reach its optimal health. The successful launch of Advanced Haircare is significantly contributing to the growth of the category, which has been banal for several years.”
P&G’s efforts also are focused on regimen building. The company, which launched 150 stockkeeping units across hair care and color in January alone, is working to fill what it sees as underserved but growing benefit spaces, including antiaging, men’s, multiethnic and treatment products, according to Walter Geiger, P&G’s vice president and general manager, North America, hair care and color.
The company’s latest launches include Pantene Expert Collection, Head & Shoulders Old Spice 2-in-1, Head & Shoulders Damage Rescue, the relaunch of Herbal Essences and the reintroduction of Vidal Sassoon Pro Series.
It’s an aggressive lineup, acknowledges Geiger, adding they all have purpose. “All of our innovations have a very clear target audience and consumer profile,” he says.
Speaking specifically about Vidal Sassoon, for example, Geiger says, “We are salonifying the mass retail aisles in the U.S. We are building on Vidal Sassoon’s 85 percent awareness and reemphasizing his positioning of salon genius and making our very best technology available at retail. Vidal Sassoon wanted to democratize hair care.” He explains that all the products within the brand—including shampoo,
conditioner, styling, treatment and color—are designed to work together.
P&G’s Pantene Expert range also is designed to encourage consumers to widen their regimen to wash, condition and treat. He called out Age Defy Advanced Thickening Treatment as a standout item in the Pantene Expert range. “It’s meeting a new need that’s building the category and recruiting a new customer. She’s trading up from current Pantene and she’s using an additional step in the regimen,” says Geiger. Items in the Pantene Expert Collection are priced between 200 and 250 percent above Pantene’s base line.
“All of our Pantene launches are off to a great start,” says Geiger. “There is not a single innovation from Pantene that is not performing at or above our expectations.”
P&G also saw an opportunity to appeal to consumers’ love of nostalgia with the relaunch of Herbal Essences, a move that returns to the brand’s iconic Nineties’ translucent floral packaging. Also back are the original scents, albeit in formulas free of sulfates and silicone. The brand reshot its eyebrow-raising TV commercial, too, (the newest iteration features spokesmodel Nicole Scherzinger, screaming “yes, yes, yes” in the airplane bathroom), which first aired during the Grammy Awards. Following the commercial’s premiere, Herbal Essences, using the hashtag #firsttime, was the number-one twitter trend for a 45-minute stretch, says Geiger.
He hints that more launches are slated for this summer. “We have innovation in spaces that are really pushing the envelop,” says the executive.
New introductions from megabrands—including Clear’s Ultra Shea and Pantene Pro-V Truly Relaxed and Truly Natural—have also enlivened the multicultural hair-care category. Category leader Soft Sheen-Carson says several of its biggest launches this year—particularly Dark and Lovely Au Naturale, which marks the brand’s entry into the natural hair segment, Dark and Lovely Go Intense! Color, a high-pigment colorant infused with olive oil, and Optimum Amla Legend, a line formulated with amla oil to repair damage, are off to a strong start. Together, they’ve generated 800,000 YouTube views and Facebook impressions after six weeks on the market, according to Nicole Fourgoux, vice president, general manager of Soft Sheen-Carson. “These new items are selling faster than plan, trending at two times the sales level as anticipated,” says Fourgoux.
Products for textured hair are increasingly merging into the general market assortment at many retailers.
“Multiethnic has been a big delight in terms of growth,” says Curtin of Walgreens. “It’s part of our core assortment and we did add more space to natural curl. As more hair types start to emerge, this will be an area where we’ll see more growth. It’s not just about relaxers anymore.” She notes that Walgreens calls out products for women with textured hair by style, such as natural curl and sleek and straight. “The Shea Moisture brand has been one of our most popular lines,” says Curtin.
The hope is that all the activity across hair care—and the collective call for regimen-building—will bolster growth well beyond the low-single digits in the years ahead.
“The category is advancing from one where the guest simply used to grab her item and go, to one that is an inspirational beauty experience she wants to explore, be educated about and try new things in,” says Christina Hennington, vice president of healthy and beauty at Target. “This new mind-set is creating even greater demand for newness, innovation and improved technologies in antiaging, scalp health and product efficacy.”