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NEW YORK — With an eye on finding a competitive edge, more than 16,000 beauty industry executives assembled at the HBA Health & Beauty America trade show this week.

The event, held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here from Sept. 28-30, was attended by movers and shakers in the beauty business ranging from companies such as The Royal Promotion Group to manufacturers including Estée Lauder.

The three-day show was fortified with several extra elements this year, such as Inside Beauty, a one-day conference linking health, well-being and beauty, and Beauty Fusion, an event highlighting the melding of beauty and fashion.

“Our attendance [for the exhibition] more than matched last year,” said Jack Gonzalez, group show director for HBA Health & Beauty America. He added that the educational component exceeded last year’s attendance with more than 2,000 people attending symposia and tutorials. “We also had success with our new events Beauty Fusion and Inside Beauty,” he said.

Inside Beauty will be expanded next year to include an exhibit floor as well as educational programs. “With market growth projected at $9.6 billion in the U.S. alone, growing at an annual rate of 15 percent, the time is ripe for Inside Beauty,” said Laura Connolly, project manager for Inside Beauty.

The combination of events, as well as HBA’s annual awards dinner held on Tuesday evening — honoring the work of Janice Teal of Avon, Paul Sheppard of Procter & Gamble and University of Pennsylvania professor of dermatology James J. Leyden — gave beauty a week to rival fashion week.

Charles Strauss, the former president of Unilever’s Home and Personal Care North America business, served as the keynote speaker and set the pace for the week with his talk titled “Challenges to Building Brands,” something Unilever has successfully worked on for decades. “Unilever is far better known for its brands than its corporate name,” Strauss said. To keep its brands strong, he said Unilever balances the need for local marketing with synergy via global efforts. “Building brands is hard work,” he added.

Those walking the show floor of more than 575 exhibitors were working hard to find items to give them a competitive edge. “I’m here because Jane products are old-fashioned,” said Lisa Yarnell, president of Jane Cosmetics. Her team was looking for new packaging, in particular to reposition the line she purchased earlier from Estée Lauder.

This story first appeared in the October 1, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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Yarnell was particularly impressed with the packages that took top honors at the HBA’s International Package Design Awards. Those included the Cream and Powder Blush with Pop-Up Mirror from Revlon, Urban Decay’s Hot Box Mini Makeup, Kanebo’s Silk Cream and Powder Duo, Yves Rocher’s Cellular Cure Skincare Regimen, Fiji Blend’s Shades of Darkness and RPM Eau De Toilette by Avon and Alexander McQueen’s Kingdom fragrance.

Tim Thorpe of HCT Packaging, the company behind two of those winners, Revlon and Urban Decay, was on the exhibit floor hoping for the next hit. “Every year HCT brings hundreds of ideas to the show and everyone, whether mass or class, seems to zero in on about 10 of them. What it really takes today is to be clever,” said Thorpe. An example is the Urban Decay package fashioned after a Zippo lighter.

HCT was one of hundreds of exhibitors hoping to deliver the right formula, package or delivery system to those prowling the floor. Sonia Kashuk, the makeup artist and creator behind the eponymous line at Target, hopped booth to booth looking for innovation.

Tom Winarick, executive vice president of Prestige Cosmetics, did the same. “We’ve seen some pretty interesting things, but what you really do is find a concept here and a concept there for something unique,” he added.

HBA provides a unique opportunity for cosmetics manufacturers to see trends in raw materials, and to also glimpse into the future for colors. Sunny Maffeo, director of creative marketing for Englehard, took companies through forecasts into 2006. Color, she said, has such an impact on everything, from the shades offered to the bottles. Her firm just worked with L’Oréal for repackaging of Fructis to feature a luminous bottle that is already outselling the old opaque bottle, she said.

The latest trends hit first at this show. For example, Haywood displayed new at-home tanning products that simulate those sprayed on in salons. Rock-Tenn, a leading display firm, reacted to the industry’s need for customized displays. With retailers needing to provide specific headers for different accounts, Rock-Tenn can produce digital images to make that more economical for off-shelf displays such as floor stands.

With packaging key to survival today, Kenra showed off very upscale platinum packaging for its new Kenra Platinum for salons. “The consumer is confused because they see salon products at mass market stores. This is our effort to distinguish our products,” said Patrick Ludwig, vice president of business development for Kenra. The styling products are off to a strong start and a shampoo and conditioner will be added in December.

In addition to the busy trade show floor, HBA had solid attendance at its educational sessions (see sidebar). The initial foray into nutraceuticals was also judged a hit with sessions such as one headed by Dr. Barry Sears, Ph.D., author of the best-selling diet book “The Zone.” The trade show’s extension next year to the health, wellness and beauty categories is expected to attract suppliers, as well as retailers looking at these trends, according to Gonzalez.