By  on January 5, 2018

The mask business zoomed from niche to mainstream last year in mass-market stores. Brands that helped pioneer the category in drugstores and discounters now face competition from personal-care behemoths including Unilever and Neutrogena.The global face mask market tallied $5.7 billion in 2016, according to Euromonitor International, with a forecast to achieve a compound annual growth rate of 9.1 percent from 2016 to 2021. That translates to $8.8 billion by 2021. The U.S. represents only 3.5 percent of the market, but serves up tremendous potential, according to retailers, which report huge gains in the category.According to data from IRI for the 52-week period ended Nov. 5, 2017, the subcategory of masks is approaching sales of $70 million in multiunit doors. The market leader by sales volume, according to IRI, is Look Beauty (which sells under Que Bella and Masque Bar) with sales exceeding $21 million. Bioré clocks in next at $12 million and Montagne Jeunesse follows with $6.6 million in sales.Retailers said there is no letting up on the accelerator for masks, but they are facing challenges with how and where to merchandise the category. That’s compounded by the proliferation of not only brands, but products for the entire body.The explosion of new masks entries isn’t lost on Allan Lever, the founder of Look Beauty, one of the early players in the mass-market mask arena. “All of the skin-care brands are getting into the business now,” he said. “But what they are doing is what we did three years ago. Now new ingredients and new delivery systems are driving the business.”His company’s latest shiny object is just that — sheet and peel off masks in gold, silver and rose gold foil. The metallic masks debut this month at Target and CVS carrying suggested retail prices ranging from $2.99 for a peel-off mask in a pod to $9.99 for a tube version. Lever noted the metallic versions dovetail with fashion and even cell phone trends. Look will tee-up its masks in social media and advertising with gold, silver and rose gold prosecco bottles.“These masks are social media friendly. People will post on Instagram because they are so visual. And with our peel-off we are showing people multimasking with the three different colors,” Lever explained. Beyond the visual benefits, the foil capabilities enhance hydration and leave skin glowing, he said.Lever also kicked his digital efforts into high gear to differentiate his line. On Black Friday, the company positioned a vending machine around New York where consumers could follow the company on Instagram and get a free mask. For holiday, Look offered exclusive mask versions with animal faces. A geo-targeting campaign harnessed pop-ups on Facebook directing shoppers to a local CVS or Target to purchase a mask.Lever said there are several other product launches in the pipeline to keep Look’s assortment fresh throughout 2018.

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