Natural, organic hair care grows with consumer demand

People do not merely wash and style their hair anymore. They also hydrate, protect and strengthen their hair — and many consumers want to do so with wholesome ingredients and few or no chemicals. That might explain why sales of everyday hair care items are flat or growing slightly, while manufacturers say they are focusing on new products that appeal to the changing demographic.

According to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 3, 2017, sales of shampoo totaled more than $3.08 billion in total U.S. multi-outlets, which includes grocery, drug, mass, military and select club and dollar retailers. This marks an increase of 3.1% compared with the same period the previous year. For drugstores, shampoo sales totaled more than $554.18, an increase of 0.95%. Other hair care products showed similar gains. Sales of conditioner totaled more than $2.12 billion in multi-outlet, up 0.9%, while in drug stores, sales totaled just under $471.1 million, up 0.27%. Hair coloring products were down 1.6% to $1.62 billion in multi-outlet, and down 2.7% to $526.7 million in drug stores.

Industry experts said that while these large categories are holding steady, certain areas are poised for growth. Organic and natural are a key growing segment of the market, said Steve Friedman, vice president of Miami-based Hollywood Beauty Products. “Consumers have become ingredient savvy and are very conscious of the products they are using on their hair and skin,” he said. “Products with sulfates, parabens, mineral oil and alcohol, which were once widely used in hair care, … have become taboo in today’s modern formulations.”

Instead, consumers are seeking hair care products with oils, included blended formulations and pure organics, to provide healthy fixes for dry, damaged hair. According to Mintel, natural and organic personal care, or NOPC, products are gaining in popularity, with 37% of consumers saying they bought more NOPC products in 2016 than the previous year. Also, 42% of NOPC consumers say these products are better for the environment, and 32% say the products give them general peace of mind.

One of the cornerstone elements of the natural hair care trend is oils. Hollywood Beauty’s Friedman said the oils that are on-trend now are sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, tea tree oil, vitamin E oil and grapeseed oil. Hollywood Beauty manufactures 25 different blended natural oils formulations, and also offers its Pure line of USDA-certified organic oils that also are vegan and gluten-free. The company said it currently is introducing four additional oils formulations.

Hollywood Beauty also recently acquired the Perfect Results brand of hair products. “These products focus on the consumer transitioning from chemically-treated hair to natural, and follow up with a full line of maintenance products for keeping a healthy natural look,” Friedman said.

Oils also are key ingredients in OKAY Pure Naturals, a brand from Miami Gardens, Fla.-based Xtreme Beauty International. For example, vice president Osman Mithavayani said, olive oil helps treat dandruff, makes hair manageable and soft, and is a great oil to use for detangling hair. Coconut oil bonds to the proteins of the hair shaft and penetrates the cuticle, which helps reduce breakage, and also helps treat dandruff. Black Jamaican castor oil is said to be able to regrow hair, fight dandruff and treat scalp irritation and inflammation. The company offers the Coconut Collection, Olive Oil Collection and Black Jamaican Castor Oil collection. New products from OKAY include a charcoal hair care line, and the company is working on a complete hair care collection for curly hair.

“We have a complete and comprehensive roster of hair care products, for all hair types and textures,” Mithavayani said. Manufacturers say drug stores can drive sales in the hair care sections by making sure the natural personal care product sections include some innovative hair care brands. “I think too often the natural personal care sections are relegated to a handful of big-name brands with their owned space, whether or not they are relevant to the consumer, and they exclude hair care,” said Megan Johnson, CEO of Addison, Texas-based Pure Alchemy Products, makers of the brand Conscious Collective. “Regardless of the section — natural or hair care — the consumer is limited on choice, which creates lost opportunity by way of leakage to natural grocery chains or to e-commerce.”

Johnson recommended drug stores build programs that enable testing, to gauge demand for newer brands. “Ultimately, I think more holistic and comprehensive natural section curation is needed for an improved customer experience and should not exclude hair care,” she said. To respond to these consumer demands, Germany-based Henkel, which has U.S. headquarters in Stamford, Conn., has expanded its Schwarzkopf lineup of Gliss brand products, and is bringing the brand’s fiber-plex technology to retail.

And while products that do when job well are to be commended, there is a growing trend of products that pull double or triple duty. Henkel vice president of marketing Xenia Barth noted that the boundaries between hair care, hair styling and hair color are getting increasingly blurry, with products offering multiple effects in one. These cross-category purchases provide retailers with opportunities to increase the basket, because it introduces consumers to new shelves. Consumers who want to style their hair might search in the styling and the coloration aisle. Consumers who wants to groom hair and beard might visit the styling and shaving sections.

“Retailers should seize this opportunity with adequate information at the shelf, especially with off-shelf placements to catch consumers’ attention, while they are still wandering the store trying to figure out which shelf section to visit,” Barth said. And the opportunities to grow basket size don’t stop at the end of the beauty aisle. Mintel’s insights show that retailers who merchandise these products might gain from incremental sales in other categories. According to Mintel, 60% of U.S. consumers who purchase NOPC products also buy vitamins/minerals/supplements and 40% buy organic foods.

Often, these consumers are looking for items for their kids. Mintel insights show that parents are more likely to purchase personal care products that are natural or organic than non-parents. In hair care, 50% of parents bought these products, versus 34% of non-parents. Parents are looking for products that are specifically designed for children, said Cozy Friedman, co-founder of New York City-based SoCozy. Friedman opened her salon, Cozy’s Cuts For Kids, 23 years ago, and found that there were hair care products for babies but not for toddlers and older children. She launched SoCozy products in six ranges: Cinch basic essentials, Behave stylers, Boo to scare away lice, Splash for swimmers’ hair, Hush for sensitive hair and sensitive skin, and Boing for curly hair.

Friedman said SoCozy, which was recently acquired by Eli Consumer Products, offers retailers the opportunity for incremental sales. “Before SoCozy, kids’ hair care was an add-on SKU,” she said. “Now we have millennial moms who understand the importance of clean products that work, smell nice, appeal to kids, [and] don’t talk down to them.”

Whether it's for parents or kids, industry experts agree that the hair care category is one that retailers should not o
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