Byline: Chantal Tode

NEW YORK — Playtex Products Inc., manufacturer of Banana Boat, wants to cast a cloud over Coppertone’s number-one spot in the sun care category.
Playtex purchased Banana Boat four years ago and helped the brand go from the number six position in sun care to number two. Now the company plans to break into the top spot by expanding into niche segments such as sun care for teenagerss with a new brand called Tan Express.
The company is also introducing a bug repellent and sun lotion product in one. For the older set, the company will also offer high-level protection with a new brand called BioSun.
Coppertone, which is owned by Schering-Plough, already has entrenched positions in the teenage market and in the high-level protection category. It also has plans to introduce a bug repellent sun care line this year.
Both manufacturers’ lines include selections in other sun care segments such as kids, sunless tanning, sport, after sun and lip protection.
“Our goal is to be number one in the category by coming out with other brands. We aren’t going to be taking away share from Schering-Plough. We will do it by taking share away from the smaller guys,” said Kenneth Meeker, vice president sun care marketing, Playtex.
Brenda Landry, an analyst with Morgan Stanley who follows Playtex, said it’s a good possibility that the company could achieve the number one status. Playtex “deserves accolades for how well they’ve done in the business. They are growing pretty fast and this is not an easy business from a logistics standpoint.”
Giving support to Playtex’s strategy, said Meeker, is a trend that finds increasing numbers of mass market retailers looking to stock deeper product selections from fewer manufacturers in order to decrease handling costs.
In sun care, sales tracking firm A.C. Nielsen follows 1,500 stockkeeping units and 150 brands. With Coppertone and Banana Boat already accounting for 45 percent of sun care’s unit sales in the mass market, according to Meeker, retailers don’t need to stock so many other brands.
Meeker predicted that in the near future, Schering-Plough and Playtex will account for 60 percent of the mass market sun care business. Retailer opinion is mixed on whether or not they will also be streamlining sun care selections.
Supervalu, a national wholesale company servicing 42,000 food stores, has decreased the number of sun care brands it stocks to four: Coppertone, Banana Boat, Hawaiian Tropic and private label. Jeff Maxwell, category manager, explained that marketplace research indicated these brands do 80 percent of the business.
“Sun care is not a profitable category if you figure out all the handling costs. If I get into four brands that produce large dollars, then I’m going to cut expenses involved in handling,” said Maxwell.
Kmart, on the other hand, has added Fruit of the Earth, a value brand, and Bullfrog, which promises high-level protection, to its selection this year. Anne Marie Kehoe, category manager, said Kmart has traditionally had a more targeted selection in sun care than other discounters.
“We really felt we had an opportunity to pick up some business by expanding to a broader customer base,” said Kehoe.
Playtex will also look to a bigger marketing program as it pursues its goal of being number one in sun care, said Meeker.
Playtex’s marketing plans in sun care this year include significantly increasing its advertising budget, which will be split evenly between print, radio and TV advertising. Meeker declined to give an exact figure.
The company has also hired a dermatologist as a spokesperson to teach consumers how to use sun lotion.
Other promotional activity will include sampling and freestanding inserts in Sunday newspapers across the country over Memorial Day weekend.
Coppertone’s spokesperson wouldn’t be more specific about its marketing plans this year other than to say Coppertone will be a corporate sponsor of the Association of Volleyball Professionals. The association holds a beach volleyball competition every year that receives regular coverage on both network and cable television.
The sun care manufacturer will also host the Coppertone Beach Volleyball Championship of Florida on April 26 and 27 in Miami Beach.
Banana Boat’s and Coppertone’s product introductions for the summer season bear a striking resemblance to one another. Both have a new teenage line, oil-free lotions and products that offer bug repellent and sun protection in one.
Product is starting to hit the shelves now in warmer areas and will be completely rolled out by Memorial Day, the official start of the summer season.
The teenage segment is getting attention from many sun care manufacturers this year. Banana Boat, Coppertone, Ban de Soleil and Hawaiian Tropic all have entries specifically geared to this segment.
Banana Boat is introducing a new brand called Tan Express that’s meant to appeal to a growing teenage segment desiring tanning products with no sun protection, said Meeker. Marketplace figures provided by A.C. Nielsen show that the zero SPF segment experienced a 15.5 percent growth in food, drug and discount outlets for the 52-week period ended last June 1.
Tan Express will target 15-to-25-year-old consumers with its modern packaging, free T-shirt offers and promotional tie-in with MTV this summer, said Meeker.
The Banana Boat trademark remains on Tan Express packaging, but in a smaller version. It’s the company’s intention to win over teenagers with this line and then to keep them buying the Banana Boat brand as they get older.
In addition to teenagerss, vacationers and tanning salon users are also big customers of tanning products, said Meeker.
There are six Tan Express sku’s: Ultimate Oil, Sonic Gel, Magna Spray Lotion, Optimum Lotion, Enriched Moisturizer, and Arctic Aloe Gel. All of the items come in 8-oz. bottles.
Prices for all Banana Boat and Tan Express products range between $4 and $6.
Coppertone is also going after the tanning segment with Coppertone Gold, a line of four products that have low or no SPF. They are Dark Tanning Oil Spray in SPF 2 and SPF 4 formulas; Dark Tanning Exotic Oil Spray with no SPF; and Tan Magnifier in SPF 2. All four products come in 8-oz. bottles priced at $5.69.
Coppertone Gold replaces Tropical Blend, a tanning line that had been around for 20 years and “which was probably becoming a little outdated,” said Coppertone’s spokesman.
Banana Boat, Coppertone, Ban de Soleil, Neutrogena and Hawaiian Tropic are all coming out with oil-free sun protection lotions targeted to the teenage market. The products promise not to clog pores or irritate skin.
Banana Boat Oil Free comes in 4-oz. tubes in SPF 8, 15 and 30 formulas.
Coppertone’s line includes: Oil Free Sunless Tanner Dark in a 4-oz. bottle for $7.89; Oil Free Lotion with SPF 4, 8, 15 or 30 in 4-oz. tubes that range in price between $5.99 and $7.49, and Skin Selects Oil Free Formula for Oily Skin with SPF 15 in a 4-oz. bottle for $6.99.
Playtex is introducing a premium-priced brand, BioSun, in the high-level protection segment, that will have no relation to Banana Boat, said Meeker.
BioSun will go up against Coppertone’s Shade, Neutrogena and Bullfrog.
Meeker said the high-protection segment consists of an over-40 crowd that wants to avoid any sun exposure, but still wants to lead an active life outdoors.
According to figures from A.C. Nielsen, higher SPF sun care products are the fastest growing in food, drug and discount outlets when compared to lower SPFs for the 52 weeks ended last June 1. Sun care lotions with an SPF of 45 and over grew 15.9 percent in dollars over year-ago figures, and products with a SPF of 25 to 44 jumped 31.9 percent.
There are five BioSun products: lotions in SPF 15, 30 and 45; an SPF 25 lotion for faces; and an SPF 30 lotion for children. They come in 6-oz. tubes and range in price from $6.50 to $7.50.
Both manufacturers are also introducing two-in-one products that provide sun protection and repel insects. This segment already includes Avon’s Skin So Soft and bug-repellent manufacturers such as Off.
Banana Boat’s entry is called Bite Block. It’s a DEET-based formula with an SPF of 15. Four-ounce tubes come in an adult and a children’s version.
Bug & Sun is Coppertone’s offering. It has an adult formula with SPF 15 for $6.99 and a children’s formula with SPF 30 for $7.59. Both are available in 4-oz. tubes.
The 1997 introductions from these two companies diverge at this point.
Banana Boat has a new product geared towards men called Action Sport. It’s a spray gel that comes in a cobalt blue 3.8-oz. bottle and has an SPF of 25. The company will target golf courses and other sport-related outlets for distribution.
According to Coppertone’s spokesperson, the brand’s most innovative new product this year is Kids Colorblock, an SPF 30 lotion that goes on with a purple color and then disappears completely after it’s rubbed in.
The product is designed to make it easier for parents to convince children to sit still while they are rubbing lotion on them and also to help parents insure they don’t miss any spots.
Kids Colorblock comes in a 4-oz. bottle for $7.49 and in an 8-oz. one for $8.99.