Ethnic Beauty: Green, Crossover Products Big Hits

Roots of Nature

It's certainly no news that the demand for ethnic beauty products has been exploding, with annual sales of hair, makeup and skincare products now totaling $2.7 billion a year, says a new report from Packaged Facts. But what's less obvious, author Timothy Dowd tells Marketing Daily, is "the stunning popularity of the use of 'natural' or 'organic' claims with this audience." And just as impressive are the number of companies reaching out with products that are viewed as ethnic-suitable rather than ethnic-specific.

"It's human nature," he says. "We all want to stand out, and we all want to fit in. So on one hand, people of any ethnicity want to belong to American society, and use the same brands. But they also want to focus on their individual heritages."

The result is that not only do ethnic consumers -- who will number roughly 119.7 million by 2014 -- spend on beauty potions specifically targeted to their ethnicity, but they also spend roughly $6.9 billion on general-market personal care products, or about 150% more than they do on ethnic-specifics.



Dowd says he was particularly struck by the market research company's findings on green preferences -- just how important eco-attributes are to the ethnic audience.

In a survey of more than 2,600, Packaged Facts found that while white consumers tended to be somewhat resistant to "natural" and "organic" claims in their products, "among the three principal racial/ethnic minorities, incidence of use heightened significantly in inverse proportion to sector size; Asians, the least numerous of the Big Three minorities, had by far the highest index of use, at 132, or 32% above the national average of 100; Hispanics, the most numerous, displayed the lowest index, 105, which was still well above the average; while African-Americans registered only a point higher, at 106," the report says. "That's very significant," adds Dowd.

Those findings are critical for marketers trying to reach African-American consumers who "are in search of preparations that are safer and gentler than harsh chemical hair relaxers, which can burn the scalp, or traditional fade creams with hydroquinone, thought by some to be carcinogenic."

Among significant product launches that underscore that trend, he says, are L'Oreal's new Soft Sheen-Carson brand extension, Roots of Nature Remedies, which offers scalp-soothing varieties like shea butter, green tea, avocado oil, and other botanicals, and Paul Brown Hawaii's new Hapuna Paul Brown Anti-Frizz line, with olive and tea tree oils, apricot, grapeseed, kelp, and aloe, as well as makeup products like StyleHub's B.l.a.c. Minerals line of natural mineral foundation.

Also intriguing, says Dowd, is the growing number of products that use "code" words to reach out to ethnic consumers. Estee Lauder's Aveda has the Enbrightenment skin lightening line, for example. "In a brilliant move, the concept of 'brightening' replaces that of 'lightening' on Enbrightenment labels and in advertising. Thus the whole socio-political issue of whether it is morally acceptable to encourage dark-skinned people to lighten their complexions is avoided."

And Target Corp. has partnered with Sundial Brands to create SheaMoisture, a line said to be "exclusively for multicultural skin types." Even launches like Vaseline Men work that angle, he says: "African-American athletes sell very well among white men, but it also reaches out to African-Americans in a very specific way and says, 'This product is for you.'"

Dowd predicts the category, which has grown at a healthy 4% per year, even with the downturn, will return to "double-digit progress as the recovery proceeds."

Hair care accounted for a dominant 56% share of ethnic-specific sales in 2009, followed by makeup, 36%, and skin care, with 8%. The barber and beauty supplies stores continue to be the main retail channel, with 45%, followed by mass retailers, with 35% of dollar sales. Some 11% of sales now occur through direct sources, while prestige channels, squeezed in the recession, are down to 8%.

Next story loading loading..