A World of Texture

March 28, 2008

New sources of innovation spark the ethnic hair care market

A World of Texture

New sources of innovation spark the ethnic hair care market.

Melissa Meisel
Associate Editor

How do you qualify the word “ethnic” as it pertains to hair care? Does it address particular textures, such as curly, kinky, wavy, relaxed and/or dry? Can it apply to certain styles, like braids, dreadlocks or twists? Would the brand marketing target a select demographic that prefers specific ingredients?
The answer is all of the above.

 “Ethnic hair care products are specifically designed to be effective for a smaller subset of consumers (mostly African-Americans) that have unique hair care needs or desires. They are not mass marketed or of interest to the universal population, so by definition, this is a niche market,” says Carrie Mellage, director, consumer products, Kline & Company, Little Falls, NJ.
According to Kline, the ethnic hair care category accounts for 4% of the U.S. hair care market.  Sales of the entire ethnic personal care category totalled $249 million in U.S. supermarkets, drugstores and mass merchandisers excluding Wal-Mart, according to an Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) report that ended Jan. 20, 2008. This includes $196 million for African-American hair care and $6.5 million for Hispanic and other ethnicities.
Fight the frizz with Sunsilk hair care products
Just For Men topped the African-American hair care list at $20.9 million, followed by Organic Root Stimulator at $15.2 million and Motions at Home for $8.6 million. In the Hispanic and all other ethnicities hair care category, La Bella lead the sector at $1.8 million trailed by Three Flowers at $1.4 million and Pantene Pro V Extra Straight (Liso) at $1.1 million.
According to a January 2008 report from market research firm Euromonitor International, the ethnic segment is putting the shine back into the hair care market. “Ethnic hair care has become an important new source of innovation, enabling manufacturers to tap into underserved consumer segments within the more mature markets, but also giving them leverage in emerging ones,” notes Euromonitor Senior Analyst Virginia Lee.
She adds that the ethnic hair care range does not just open up opportunities for new brand extensions, but also drives growth in smaller or less buoyant sectors, particularly conditioners and relaxants. In the U.S, the conditioners sector was the only hair care category to achieve real growth over 2001-06, according to Euromonitor.

Dollars and Sense

Trends toward more natural styles and less damage to hair through chemical processing have resulted in lower sales in relaxers, which is significant to the overall ethnic hair care market, according to market research company Mintel in a June 2007 report. New product trends within the market in the past three years include continued emphasis on natural/organic products, products that reduce breakage, men’s hair care lines, while trading chemical straightening for heat styling is keeping the need for therapeutic and moisturizing products high.
Introductions of Hispanic-focused brands by major mainstream manufacturers are drawing some Hispanics who once used African-American hair care products out of the market, notes Mintel. This has resulted in declining sales due to loss of potential consumers who may have hair issues similar to those of African-Americans. This significant growth has led several of the major mainstream manufacturers to introduce brands specifically formulated for Hispanic hair in 2006 including Pantene Pro-V Extra Straight/Extra Liso and Unilever’s Sunsilk Anti-Sponge/Anti-Esonjado (anti-frizz).
In fact, Mintel notes that Sunsilk is the No. 1 selling brand in Latin America, so familiarity with the brand is of considerable importance due to the number of foreign-born Hispanics in the U.S. The Sunsilk Anti-Esponja Collection is designed to address a common issue that impacts 34% of Hispanic women: hair gets bigger and bigger when it dries and tends to take on a sponge-like appearance. Avocado works to deeply hydrate hair and seal the hair fibers. The Sunsilk Anti-Caída Collection targets dry and damaged hair that tends to break and fall out. The line features nopal, a Mexican plant in the cactus family that hydrates the hair.
And Asian hair has different care and styling requirements than other ethnic hair textures altogether, according to Michael Shaun Corby, global creative director of Alterna Professional Hair Care, Los Angeles, CA.
“Asian hair is usually strong but quite dry, can be naturally wavy, and doesn’t often respond to typical styling products or hold a style for long. This type of hair requires a product that won’t weigh hair down, but has enough hold to style.”

Shopping for Specifics

Consumers in the ethnic hair care category look for products that deal with the requirements of their particular hair texture and address such issues as frizz, versatility and manageability, notes Ms. Mellage of Kline, who adds that more and more, consumers moving away from chemical relaxing treatments. “As such they look for products that provide deep conditioning and heat protection against damage, since many consumers will implement heat as an alternative to the chemical relaxers.”
“Consumers are truly looking for products that help manage, protect, and style that support their individual personality. Because of the S-pattern of multicultural hair (i.e. tightly coiled), manageability takes on a new meaning from the general market. Products that straighten, remove frizz, add moisture, bring out the natural shine and prevent breakage are a must in order for a multicultural consumer's style to look its best,” says Tiffanie E. Jones, global marketing manager, Alberto Culver, Melrose Park, IL, whose company manufactures popular ethnic hair care brands such as Soft & Beautiful Botanicals, TCB and a children’s collection, Soft & Beautiful Just for Me.
SoftSheen-Carson recently rolled out its Weave Care line.
For Spring 2008, Soft & Beautiful Just for Me will introduce two new products—a Smoothing Gel and Curl Smoother Crème—for moms who desire gentle styling and maintenance to suit their daughters’ active lifestyles and unique hair textures.
“Just for Me will be the first ethnic brand to offer a styling gel for children,” said Ms. Jones. “Our team listened intently to feedback from moms who let us know they were using alcohol-based adult products to tame their daughters’ unruly locks. We created products better suited for young girls’ fragile strands.”
From young to old, damaged tresses are a paramount concern in the ethnic hair care market.
“Since naturally curly hair tends to be dry and then you add color treatments and environmental stresses to the mix, these consumers are searching for products to hydrate, nourish and sometimes repair damaged, brittle hair,” says Antonio Lopez, a hair technician at Phyto, whose company markets the PhytoSpecific line for textured, curly hair. According to the New York-based company, PhytoSpecific provides three levels of hydration and emollients in its beauty program. The newest addition to the collection is a shine spray.

Fruit extracts assist in cleansing and conditioning.
Besides treating existing damage, consumers are also looking for products that strengthen the integrity of the hair.  According to Kiesha Galloway, a stylist at the Mario Russo Salon, Boston, MA, many ethnic women have chemically treated hair and require products to protect and moisturize.

“They are in need of intensely rich shampoos and conditioning treatments, since ethnic hair tends usually to be on the dry, sometimes brittle side,” says Ms. Galloway, who recommends Mario Russo’s olive oil-based product line to deliver moisture and shine while enhancing hair health.

In the Hispanic category, consumers want a shampoo that thoroughly cleans their hair, and are more likely to use a leave in conditioner to really get that soft and silky feeling hair, says Teca Gillespie, a scientist at Pantene whose Pantene Pro-V Extra Straight/Extra Liso collection was specifically designed for Hispanic women who want smooth and extra straight hair.

In regard to Pantene’s other ethnic hair care line, Relaxed & Natural, when Pantene created the collection, it leveraged years of scientific research and listened to what consumers were saying to develop a product that would effectively address her needs—soft and beautiful hair through a healthy foundation, according to Rachelle Brown, assistant brand manager, P&G/Pantene, Cincinnati, OH.
“This consumer is seeking education. She wants to learn as much as possible.  And as the market continues to change, many of the brands that she trusted and used may not be available on store shelves.  This consumer wants products that will deliver superior conditioning and help maintain or bring her hair to a healthy state.  She now understands that having healthy hair will help her achieve the look,” Ms. Brown tells Happi.
For those who choose to add a little bit extra to luxurious tresses, L’Oréal’s SoftSheen-Carson is launching Weave Care for Spring 2008, a line targeting consumers with hair extensions and weaves. Styling is also a top trend, as seen at Soft Sheen-Carson, with the expansion of its top-selling Let’s Jam line of styling products and the introduction of the product line Sportin’ Style by Sportin’ Waves for men.

Alluring Aromas

Fragrance is very important to the ethnic consumer, but within certain ethnic groups it will influence them in different ways, notes Risi-Leanne Baranja, editor-in-chief of Palacinka.com, a website for women of color.  According to Ms. Baranja, popular fragrances in the Hispanic and West Indian community are much stronger, veering toward sweeter, flowery fragrances. However, many Asian women do not wear perfumes, so hair care products can have unique scents that linger, but should still not be overpowering. For many women in the African-American community, fragrances should be fresh, light and unique.
“Fragrance is extremely important to the multi-cultural consumer in all beauty products. This consumer loves more exotic fragrances without being too heavy,” says Ms. Jones of Alberto Culver. “She is buying products from non-mass stores like Victoria Secret or Bath & Body Works to try them out. I think a lot of fragrances within the ethnic hair care set are a little dated and there is an opportunity to modernize fragrances to reflect this trend.”
The ethnic consumer tends to have a different scent preference than the general market, according to Brian Marks, president of hair care line Dr. Miracles of New York, NY. “He or she reacts to medicinal type scents that provoke a psychological feeling that the product is working. For example, Dr. Miracle’s products contain menthol, clove, and peppermint, which evoke that feeling.”
Shawn Tollerson, vice president, marketing, Colomer Multicultural Group, Jacksonville, FL, notes that hair care fragrances can range from relaxing to invigorating depending on the product, and that ethnic consumers tend to enjoy products with sweet berry and fruity fragrances. Colomer’s Crème of Nature line is launching two new treatment products for Spring 2008—Jojoba & Olive Oil Moisture-Active Deep Conditioning Treatment and Red Clover & Aloe Daily Breakage Relief.
All and all—it just has to smell good!
“Hispanic consumers are very in tune with scents and are looking for the hair care product that not only works well, but smells fantastic,” notes Ms. Gillespie of Pantene.

Critical Components

Natural ingredients—part of the burgeoning green movement—are the biggest trend in ethnic hair care, according to industry insiders interviewed by Happi.
“Consumers are becoming more and more savvy these days and are learning about certain botanical ingredients.  In this market, ingredients such as shea butter, essential oils such as jojoba, kukui, macadamia nut and sunflower are becoming more and more popular,” notes Mr. Lopez of Phyto.
Ms. Jones of Alberto Culver agrees.
“Natural oil ingredients have become a huge trend and play an intricate part in what products consumers are buying.  Ingredients such as olive, sunflower, sage and carrot oils help consumers believe in the efficacy of hair care products. These ingredients are rooted in tradition that the benefits of these oils keep hair looking and feeling healthy. Consumers also use products to prevent issues like damage, breakage and dryness.”
Ingredients that support the benefits of the products are incredibly motivating to consumers, according to Kat Peeler, senior vice president, marketing, SoftSheen-Carson/L’Oréal. In particular, natural ingredients are very appealing, she said.
Ms. Peeler points to the SoftSheen-Carson Optimum Oil Therapy line as an example, as it uses nourishing ingredients such as coconut, olive, avocado and jojoba oils, which penetrate the hair using Micro-Oil Technology without weighing hair down. “The line really speaks to the consumer need, and we’ve been able to achieve tremendous success with this line.”
But how much of these natural ingredients are actually the main components in the products? Not many, according to Jane Carter, product developer of Jane Carter Solution, a New Jersey-based line of hair care products specifically designed for all types and textures such as dry, curly, relaxed, permed or color-treated hair.
“I think a lot of manufacturers represent themselves as using natural ingredients. Unfortunately, those ingredients listed on the label are used in the product in such minute amounts that they don’t have any impact on the performance.  It’s called advertising,” said Ms. Carter. “At the end of the day, ‘ethnic’ women will be loyal to products that work. They know the difference immediately.  They don’t care if it was made in your kitchen or made by P&G.”
Mr. Marks of Dr. Miracles concurs that efficacy is key in repeat purchases.
“Nowadays consumers are bombarded with products in drug stores, magazines, television, and even the internet, but consumers are mostly drawn to products that will achieve a desired result.”

Future Focus

So, what does the future hold for the ethnic hair care category? According to Mintel, the total market is expected to grow 2% in constant dollars, yet the sectors forecast to see the largest declines by 2011 in constant dollars will be hair color, relaxers and styling products.
Mintel predicts the total ethnic hair care market is expected to grow 11% at current prices, but decline 2% when considering the effects of inflation. Individual sectors will vary greatly as far as growth and declines. Shampoo and conditioner is the only sector to expect real growth—7% in constant dollars by 2011—while styling products will decrease 6% in constant prices. Hair color will experience the greatest decline in sales through 2011, followed by relaxers.

Mr. Tollerson of Colomer predicts sales of naturals-based relaxers will grow.
“A revolutionary switch to relaxers with an oil additive is emerging as consumers recognize the increase in performance when they mix in the natural ingredient themselves. This nutrient transfer gives more moisture, shine and conditioning power versus regular relaxers. This is a major innovation that we have just released into the ethnic category for Creme of Nature and African Pride.”
And with that health comes shine by way of keratin complex hair therapy, according to Ms. Galloway of Mario Russo.
“I think the next big thing in ethnic hair care will be the return of rich, luxurious feeling shiny hair. Healthy hair in beautiful shades of mahogany, caramel and chocolate brown are always popular. Textured hair is going to be big—the curls are back!”
SKUs targeted toward classic, natural curls will indeed be a leader in style, according to Ms. Jones of Alberto Culver.

“Products for natural hair types are the next big thing. Consumers are looking for flexibility and versatility of hair care products that help express their individual style. They would like the process of going from straight to curly back to straight to be simple and easy.  Superior maintenance and styling products that will provide long-lasting frizz control, curl maintenance and straightening properties will soon hit the market by storm.
The ethnic hair care market target demographic changing as the make-up of the U.S. population changes. Ethnic hair care has become multi-cultural with a focus on hair texture versus ethnicity. Notes Ms. Jones, “As more people of color with varying hair textures need products, so too will the product offering change to meet those needs.”
Ms. Brown of P&G/Pantene agrees.
“There is more communication; so in essence, other consumers become the most important influencers to each other.  Brands will still need to play an active role in being the consumer’s advocate, but to be authentic they must always listen to and keep the voice of consumer at the forefront.”
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