JUNGLE CARE TARGETS CLEAN TWEENS

Byline: Kerry Diamond

NEW YORK — When Bobby Batmanghelidj’s young son developed a skin irritation on his hand, the family’s dermatologist dismissed it with a wave and a prescription for some topical cream. “It’s probably from the soap or shampoo that you use,” said the doctor nonchalantly. “It’s very common.”
Batmanghelidj, the director of a software company, was used to finding solutions for problems. Rather than just accept the doctor’s explanation, he rounded up nine of the family’s favorite toiletries and sent them to a lab to have them analyzed at $900 a pop.
Batmanghelidj was dismayed by the results. Some of the products that were designed specifically for children were almost as harsh as dishwashing detergent, he noted. He decided the time was right for a children’s line with packaging that would appeal to a preteen sensibility, and products, performance and prices that would appeal to parents.
The result was Jungle Care, which was launched in June 1997 with four stockkeeping units — shampoo, conditioner, bath and shower gel, and detangler — packed with natural ingredients and sold exclusively in salons.
The line has since expanded in sku’s and distribution, and industry sources expect Jungle Care to do $5 million at retail in 2000.
“The response from parents has been very positive,” said Batmanghelidj. “They realize we’re quality driven — not gimmick driven.”
There are 14 products today, including hair spray, styling stick, mousse and pomade. Batmanghelidj’s wife, Leily, is the director of product development. Most of the products are less than $10 and come in two or more sizes. The three shampoos — moisturizing, tear-free and swimmer’s — cost $7 each for an 8-oz. size.
“The price points aren’t exaggerated, so parents can buy it on a regular basis,” noted Batmanghelidj.
There are four gift sets. One of them, the Boys Zone gift box, features moisturizing shampoo, conditioner, styling gel and a sporty watch. It retails for $19.99. Another, the Girls Take Charge gift box, also $19.99, comes with moisturizing shampoo, conditioner, bath gel and detangler. More gift sets will be launched for back to school and holiday.
As for the packaging, Batmanghelidj wanted something that was unisex and that could be understood by children who were too young to read. But it couldn’t be perceived as babyish, or the over-10 crowd would turn up their noses. “There’s a logic to the packaging,” he said.
Batmanghelidj seized on the idea of a jungle theme and identifying each product by a brightly colored animal print on the packaging. The conditioner features a zebra print, the tear-free shampoo features a cheetah design and the swimmer’s shampoo, appropriately, has fish scales.
Jungle Care is sold in 5,000 salons, select Nordstrom locations and New York’s Zitomer Pharmacy and Henri Bendel, said Batmanghelidj. The Vienna, Va, company also sells its products on Babystyle.com and Kidstyle.com. It also has its own Web site, junglecare.com, but the pages are strictly informational. As for international distribution, the brand can be found in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Batmanghelidj, who has his own little focus group at home — a five-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son — plans to expand the line into body care and other categories. Jungle Care already features a bath and shower gel called Bubble Gel, and sun products will be added in the first quarter of 2001.