NEW YORK — While many firms have begun marketing skin care products containing vitamins, Avon has decided to sell the vitamins themselves.

Early next month, the company will begin distributing Avon Life, a line of multi-vitamin and mineral supplements. The products will be distributed by Avon’s 450,000 direct sales beauty representatives and will be available through the company’s toll-free number.

“This is a natural step for us,” said Andrea Jung, president of Avon’s product marketing group, reciting the company’s slogan, “Inner health leads to outer beauty.”

“We think this category has a huge business potential,” added Barry Herstein, director of new business development at Avon. “According to our studies, 60 percent of our customers already take nutritional supplements. But they’re looking for more simplicity.”

To address the issue of simplicity, Herstein said, Avon will first introduce five items, targeting specific age groups and gender-based needs.

Woman Care I, intended for women from age 20 until menopause, provides recommended levels of frolic acid for women in their childbearing years, according to the company.

Woman Care II, for menopausal and post-menopausal women, has less iron and more calcium. Prices for Woman Care I and II are $9.99 for one-month supplies.

Kid Essentials, for boys and girls from two to 12, contains supplements of iron, other minerals and calcium. Prices are $5.49 for a one-month supply, $9.99 for two month’s worth.

Teen Essentials, for teenagers of both sexes, contains extra calcium, magnesium and vitamin D. The fifth item, Man Care, is intended for men from age 20 onward, and contains higher levels of B-vitamins than the women’s products, along with less iron.

Prices are $8.99 for a one-month supply of Teen Essentials, $9.99 for the same amount of Man Care.

In July, three supplementary products will be added. Ester-C Complex, a vitamin C supplement, will cost $5.99 for a two-month supply. The other two are Bone Support, which provides extra calcium, and Biotin Complex, which contains supplementary biotin and pantothenic acid. Bone Support and Biotin Complex are each $8.99 for one-month supplies.

The Avon Life line has been approved by the FDA and was developed by an outside manufacturer, which Avon declined to identify.

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The new products will first be promoted on the cover of Avon’s 12th campaign brochure, which will be distributed to 15 million women starting in early May.

The line will also be featured in eight pages of copy in the brochure, describing the intended use and benefits of the products. The tagline will be “Take the guesswork out.”

“This is a $4 billion category that is growing annually by 15 percent,” said Herstein. “But the market is extremely fragmented. There’s a big opportunity for someone to come in and make a statement.”

Avon Life will continue to be featured in the Avon brochures throughout this year.

“We’re considering the possibility of advertising later in ’94 and ’95,” said Jung. “We think we can be a major force in this marketplace within a short time.”

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