By  on August 29, 2008

MARCO ISLAND, Fla. — At the ECRM conference, held here earlier this week, it was all about the green for the mass market hair industry — green products, that is. And companies and retailers alike are hoping that the natural movement brings them plenty of green in the form of cash.

“We are seeing more products at this show that are organic or natural,” said David Henriksen, divisional merchandise manager for personal care for CVS/Caremark. One that especially caught his eye? Vogue International. The company launched its Organix hair care line at ECRM last summer, with 20 stockkeeping units making up the original offering.

“We added Vogue’s Organix line in January and it has been our number-one new item in hair care,” added Henriksen. “The company is adding new sku’s units for 2009 and we will be increasing distribution on this brand. Vogue is also launching Vitamin Shampoo. We will be adding this new brand to our mix by the end of 2008.”

In fact, the Organix line will grow to 53 sku’s by early 2009, said Stuart Hamilton 3rd, vice president of sales for Vogue International. The most popular items in the Organix line include Coconut Milk and Pomegranate/Green Tea. The latter is presently a Target exclusive, said Hamilton, but will become available to wider distribution at the end of 2008.

“Everyone wants natural,” observed Ross Reback, chief executive officer of Vogue International, as he introduced the company’s 14-sku shampoo and conditioner line, Vitamin Shampoo, at the show. The company is terming the new line “an energy drink for your hair.” Originally slated for a 2009 launch, the line will now bow this fall. Both lines are sulfate-free.

Many of the companies were also out to define the true meanings of the words natural and organic.

“There’s a lot of faux natural out there,” said Jennifer Adams Bunkers, who cofounded TruKid, a personal care company for kids, with Gabrielle Penniman in September 2007. The line is carried in Whole Foods, Babies ‘R’ Us, Amazon.com and a number of specialty stores. Bunkers — the company’s ceo and the mother of six children ranging in age from 11 months to 16 years — felt especially strongly about offering “real” naturals.

“There is little regulation right now, so anyone can say ‘We’re natural,’ but there’s no guarantee,” she noted.

TruKid’s Bunkers and Penniman spent a year developing a line that was both healthy and kid-friendly. “Natural doesn’t mean boring,” said Bunkers, noting that the brand uses bright blues and greens for the formulas and both type and symbols on the labels, for pre-readers.

Juice Organics, already in Target doors, is about to take a new line, Pomegranate, into a 50-store test for the retailer, said Melissa Jochim, the line’s founder. The line, which will include Pom Shave, a unisex shaving foam, Pom Peptide Moisturizer, a facial moisturizer, and an exfoliating facial foamer, will also be available on target.com. “Target has been a great supporter of the brand,” said Jochim. Pom Berry Lip Amplifiers, a lip-enlarging tint, will bow in September.

The Juice Organics line is also getting a facelift in January, she added. In addition, the brand continues to reduce its footprint in the mass market. “When we started, we were being asked to do things like cellophane wraps, which I wasn’t comfortable with,” she said. “Gradually, we are trying to reduce that. Where we can, we’re trying to go into recycled tubes, and where we’re using boxes, they are 100 percent postconsumer recycled.” Items in the Juice Organic line range in price from $8.99 to $12.99. Jochim also runs the specialty store brand Juice Beauty, which is sold at Sephora, Nordstrom and other upscale retailers.

There is increasing demand for green formulas in professional products, said Kurt Roland, vice president of sales and merchandising for Pro’s Choice Beauty Care. “Many buyers come in asking for it, although there are not a huge number of professional brands that are ‘green,’” he said.

“It took a long time for most professional products to be developed in the first place, so chemists need time to develop green alternatives,” added Randy Becker, national sales coordinator for Pro’s Choice Beauty Care. “How quickly this trend comes to mass will depend on how effective the products are and how cost-effective they are.”

But in the end, while consumers pay lip service to wanting natural and organic products, some are asking privately, “Do they work as well as those with all the unpronounceable chemicals in them?”

“While it’s definitely a category of interest for us, natural isn’t doing the same numbers as the more traditional brands,” said James Theologus, senior vice president of Primary One, which distributes salon hair care brands to the mass channel. “Consumers like the sound of organics, but they have to work.”

And the naturals craze isn’t just limited to shampoos and styling products. Shalom International was promoting its Sally Hansen Naturals hair accessories at the show. The items, which range in price from $2.99 to $9.99, are made of such materials as plastics engineered from ethanol and reclaimed tree bark, and are packaged on recyclable cardboard. “We introduced the line two months ago, and it has been extremely popular,” said Steve Hoffman, sales manager for Shalom International.

The green craze has even spread to the tool and implement category. Barbar Artist, which was selling its Barbar Eco 8000 blow-dryer, was one of those companies promoting a green agenda. The brand’s dryer uses a ceramic heating element, which causes less damage to the hair, said Dominic Barbar, owner and president of Barbar.

The ethnic category was also a hot topic at the show. SoftSheen-Carson, a division of L’Oréal USA, featured Dark & Lovely, Let’s Jam Sportin’, Sportin’ Style, Optimum Care and Waves Magic Shave, among others, at ECRM.

“Business is great,” said John Rodrigues, category manager for SoftSheen-Carson, adding that the company has 30 percent of the overall relaxer market and 76 percent of the ethnic hair care market.

Like much of the rest of the consumer world, hair products at the high and low ends of the market are generally holding their positions, while the midtier is taking a hit across the board, said Rodrigues.

Colomer USA showcased a number of ethnic brands through its Colomer USA Multicultural Group, said Ken Ray, director of general market sales for the company. Colomer’s ethnic brands include African Pride, Creme of Nature, Fabulaxer, Finisheen, Lottabody, Ginseng Miracle and others. The company also sold its general market hair care products, which include Fanci-Full, a temporary hair color that has been on the market for 75 years, said Bell.

“We’ve found that organic is very important to the consumer in general — but it’s up to 30 times more important for the African-American consumer than it is for a Caucasian one,” said Ray. “The words ‘certified organic’ really resonates with the market. Each of the items in Creme of Nature has at least one organic ingredient.” They are not 100 percent completely organic products, he added.

Nicene Brands, founded in April, acquired the Lilt home perm brand from Schwarzkopf/Henkel in May and was promoting it at the show. “It’s very well recognized in the 45-year-and-older demographic,” said Ray Burrows, vice president of sales for Nicene, noting that the typical Lilt customer generally has a household income of less than $35,000 and either has multiple children or is living on a fixed income. “We are looking to expand awareness and to give this brand the time and attention it deserves. The home perm niche is small, but we believe there is a lot of opportunity there.” Lilt retails between $6.99 and $7.19, he said.

Richard Hyken, executive vice president of World Trend Inc., was promoting licensed brushes with popular Disney show characters and shows, such as Hannah Montana and “High School Musical.” Camp Rock/Jonas Brothers brushes were also trending strong, said Hyken. The brushes, which range between $4 and $6, are also detailed to reflect the type of instrument the character plays, such as electric guitars for the Jonas Brothers and an acoustic guitar for Hannah Montana.

At Jerome Russell, James and Robert Perry, the company’s owners, were turning matters colorful with Team Colors, a sweatproof, maximum-hold spray-on hair color intended for athletes and sports fans. “This will not run — it requires shampoo to get it out of the hair — so it can be worn under football helmets or in the rain,” said James Perry, noting that the 12-sku line, which offers colors such as Punishing Purple and Turf Green, is available in beauty supply stores and in mass market stores.

And there was a male call at the show — by manufacturers and retailers seeing success with men’s products.

Neoteric Cosmetics was showing its men’s Moose Head styling brand. The Australian brand was launched at the show last year and is now sold at Target, Duane Reade and other mass retailers. According to Steven Eckert, national sales director for Neoteric, the bestsellers thus far are Paste, Wax and Dough, which each retail for $9.99. Eckert revealed that the brand will introduce a new shampoo line to the U.S. market in 2009.

Robert Shupp, national account manager for Primary One, noted that premium men’s lines are an area of large growth for Primary One. “Your average guy isn’t going to spend a lot of time comparison shopping for hair products,” he said. “He sees something he likes and which seems to work, and he’s sold. The premium level products are great for mass retailers. Any retailer is going to want to sell, say, a $10 shaving cream as opposed to a $1 item.”

Lornamead Brands featured its Finesse Hair Care brand, which it acquired from Unilever two years ago. Lornamead is in the process of repackaging Finesse’s shampoos and conditioners, said Pete Columbia, vice president of sales for Lornamead Brands. “Finesse was first introduced as a conditioner brand, so it was especially critical that we get that part of the occasion right,” said Columbia. The new bottle is inverted with slightly rounded edges, in the brand’s signature blue. The shampoo bottles will be similarly curved. The new packaging will roll out to retailers in the first quarter of 2009 and be supported with TV advertising, said Columbia.

Marc Anthony Cosmetics kept its upcoming product launches under wraps at the show, but introduced the firm’s new executive vice president of global sales and trade marketing, James McMillan, at the show. McMillan joined the company two months ago from John Frieda.

While the majority of the attendees came from the U.S. and Canada, one retailer traveled all the way from South Africa to cover the show.

“We are from NewClicks South Africa, a major drugstore retailer in South Africa whose focus is on health and beauty,” said Carole Knight, merchandise manager for NewClicks. “This is our first time attending the hair care-specific ECRM and we have found it to be a positive and learning experience. We have been exposed to a number of brands that we are interested in [she declined to specify them] and we have also picked up other opportunities outside hair care, for example skin care, that we believe could be an opportunity for our brand.…Discussions with the suppliers we met, and visits to retailers such as Walgreens, CVS and Publix has also opened our eyes to a whole new world!”

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