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Mass market pushes toward ethnic hair care, naturally


The natural and organic trend continues to impact the U.S. hair care market, and ethnic hair care is no exception as consumers, especially African-American consumers whose hair tends to be brittle, desire products that can meet their specific needs and offer a gentler treatment.

“Since African hair has very particular qualities, approximately half of ethnic hair care products in the United States are sold in beauty specialists and barbers’ shops that are located in primarily black neighborhoods,” stated Euromonitor International in its most recent U.S. Hair Care report released May 2009. “However, in recent years, there has been a push by traditional cosmetics and toiletries channels, like drug stores and mass merchandisers, to attract African-American consumers to their stores by carrying more brands designed for them.”

This push for a broader selection of ethnic hair care products at mass certainly includes those products that leverage the natural and organic trend. For example, noted Euromonitor International, Namaste Labs’ Organic Root Stimulator averaged double-digit growth between 2005 and 2008.

Furthermore, perms and relaxants was one of the growth subsectors in 2008, rising 3%, according to the report. The market for these products largely serves the ethnic consumers, with an emphasis on African hair.

Manufacturers are heeding the call by bolstering their portfolio with products that are either natural or organic, or at least are infused with natural ingredients so as to appeal to those consumers looking for a more natural alternative.

One of the bigger launches for SoftSheen-Carson for 2009 was its Roots of Nature. As previously reported by Drug Store News, the natural-based hair care line is designed to combat severe damage the natural way and is infused with a combination of green tea and shea butter.

According to data provided by Information Resources Inc., for the hair conditioners/crème rinse segment, the new Roots of Nature, which has been on the market since April 2009, generated sales of more than $365,000 for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 9 at food, drug and mass (excluding Walmart).

Alberto-Culver expanded its Motions line by launching in March its Motions Marula Natural Therapy collection, as previously reported by Drug Store News. New products included a shampoo, conditioner and thermal oil. The products are infused with a blend of antioxidants, minerals and amino acids to nourish the scalp and hair, while providing four times more strength and 90% less breakage to strands after just one use, according to the company.

Meanwhile, Ampro, a maker of African-American hair care products, is launching in October its new Ampro Pro Style Shine ’n Jam conditioning gel. The new gel comes in regular hold, formulated with echinacea to help promote hair growth, and extra hold, formulated with honey extract to help strengthen hair. At the recent Bronner Bros. International Hair Show in Atlanta, the company handed out more than 14,000 packets of the new Shine ’n Jam regular hold to promote the products before they hit retail this fall.

Exhibiting at the recent ECRM Skin/Hair Care EPPS show in Miami in August was the new Johnson Products Co. led by industry veterans Eric Brown, formerly of Pro-Line International, and Renee Cottrell-Brown, who since 2006 operated a marketing consulting firm. As reported in late March, Procter & Gamble sold its Johnson Products Co. unit to RCJP Acquisition, a newly formed independent entity comprised of Los Angeles-based private-equity firms Rustic Canyon/Fontis Partners and St. Cloud Capital, along with an African-American management of industry veterans.

With annualized sales of more than $23 million, Johnson Products offers more than 30 hair care products, including the Gentle Treatment and Ultra Sheen brands, in a global market estimated to be approximately $1.8 billion. While it was too soon to discuss details, the new company indicated in August that it is working to revive innovation in the category.

Meanwhile, the ethnic beauty business is becoming about more than just African-American consumers. ECRM attendee Afam Concept Inc./JF Labs was promoting its new Life Curls hair care line, which is designed for the Hispanic market. The five-SKU maintenance line includes intensive treatment, conditioner, shampoo, crème and frizz treatment.

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