Categories / Cosmetics
Category Insights: Bath & Beauty

April Showers

Premium private label bath products set out to freshen up the category.

Innovation and quality improvements in the private label bath and beauty categories are helping to drive consumer acceptance of these products, but bath and

Bath and beauty Category Insights

Topco’s B-l?ve line uses clever names for its products to create continuity throughout the brand, such as b-passionate, b-colorful, b-luminous, and b-youthful. 

beauty lines, such as In-Kind at Safeway and Mirra at Kroger, create more than just an acceptable alternative to national brands. They turn private label into a brand, which is what Topco Associates, LLC., Elk Grove Village, lll., has set out to do with its new B-l?ve (b·l?ve) line.

About half of respondents (52 percent) to Mintel’s “Attitudes toward quality of beauty and personal care products, May 2012” survey — regardless of gender or income level — agree that private label beauty and personal care products work just as well as branded ones. Although 57 percent indicate they are willing to pay extra for better quality beauty and personal care products, they do not necessarily feel that higher price and better quality go hand in hand with only 37 percent agreeing that higher-priced beauty and personal care products work better than less expensive ones.

The Mintel Inspire Trend Brand Review notes that many consumers have come to view private label on par with established national brands when it comes to quality. Today, a significant proportion of consumers have switched allegiances for good. Also, more than a few of those consumers don’t necessarily consider it trading down. Instead, they’ve come to see private/own label goods as part of their portfolio, just as worthy as the name-brand goods sitting next to them in the shopping cart.

Mintel finds that when it comes to the beauty and personal care products category, it appears that conveying the value of your product through price is not enough. Shoppers are searching for the best of both worlds — best price and highest quality.

When looking at body care products, sales declined by 10 percent from 2007-12 to reach $2.5 billion, with the steepest declines seen in 2010 and 2011, according to Mintel’s “Body Care - US - July 2012” report. Mintel attributes this poor performance to a prolonged period of economic uncertainty that has consumers adjusting their use of nonessentials. What’s more, the report says, new product launches have not returned to prerecession levels, offering consumers little in the way of offerings to get excited about.

Topco looked to change that and created a new high-end personal care line centered around creating consumer excitement.

The first phase of B-l?ve products rolled out in March 2012 and included 17 products covering hair care, skin care, bath and body care, and facial skin care, all retailing at $5.99 to $24.99.

“That would be fairly comparable to what a mass performance product would retail,” Tony Harrington, Director of HBC, Topco Associates LLC., told PLBuyer.

Hy-Vee supermarkets was one of the first of Topco’s members to offer B-l?ve. Now there already are 22 members offering B-leve and the products can be found in around 2,000 stores.

In 2013, the line is being extended even further with the addition of beauty tools and bath accessories such as loofas, back scrubbers and an eye mask ranging from $1.99 to $9.99. Today there are 52 products in the line. About twice a year Topco will have new groups of products coming into the B-l?ve brand, which Harrington said they have mapped out over the next 24 months.

To develop the B-l?ve line, Topco did a year’s worth of research on who’s shopping in supermarkets and who’s buying beauty care and skincare products. Topco

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Bath and beauty Category Insights

found where there’s an intersection of the buyers and the shoppers.

“We identified that the consumers shopping in [our members’] stores we can reach with a different type of product. … A specialty, high quality, high performance product that we weren’t providing,” Harrington said.

Topco came up with three key elements in their research evaluating the customer, Harrington said.

The first was that consumers were looking for a stronger connection with the products they buy because of an increase in social media and engaging with others about products they use.

They also found a shift in where shoppers are buying products. According to Harrington, beauty and personal care products are being purchased in supermarkets now, as opposed to department stores, or even drugstores which have more recently been the place to shop for these items.

“We see that there is really on opportunity to capture this consumer as she is shifting her shopping patterns,” Harrington said.

The consumers they are looking to capture with B-l?ve are women 35-55 years old, with the ideal shopper around 40.

Harrington said the third element they found was that shoppers now have access to product information, ingredients, and benefit information.

“The consumer is also shopping with a lot more information,” Harrington said.

 With these three key elements they had to identify where they could create a brand that would resonate with this shopper at this time. According to Topco’s findings, 67 percent of that profile have bought an anti-aging product in the past 12 months and of those shoppers, 67 percent believe that anti-aging products all perform similarly. That figure gave Topco the confidence to move forward with a line that they felt shoppers would purchase in their members’ supermarkets, Harrington explained.

The B-l?ve line sets out to be engaging to its targeted shoppers on many fronts.

“We spent a lot of time in creating a package design and package elements that are unique and special to B-l?ve,” Harrington said. “We carefully sourced all the bottles and lids to create that high-end department store packaging.”

Topco utilized a color palate for the line that was derived from the International 2011-2012 Industry Trade report.

The product names are all derived from the B-l?ve name to maintain consistency throughout the line.  For example, the conditioner for color treated hair is called B-Colorful, the night cream is called B-Restful, and the day lotion is called B-Refreshed.

“We’ve incorporated that b-dot naming convention in all 52 products across the line,” Harrington said. “That’s a key element of our product personality and something that really resonates well with our consumers. There are many consumers who get enjoyment out of identifying our products in stores and seeing how we’re able to develop highly unique names for each of the products.”

Topco also carefully selected and developed the formulas, incorporating high-end technology into all of their products.  All of their facial skin care products use a proprietary technology that provides advanced anti-aging benefits of Grape Stem Cell Technology, which was identified as an emerging trend in Europe and the company worked with a specialty manufacturer on, Harrington said.

Hair care products use Cationic Chemistries technology, which does not require the use of high levels of silicones, which is an ingredient that ultimately weighs hair down. 

Body care lotions are formulated using proprietary Oleofirm technology. Oleofirm Oleosomes are derived from tiny micro-seeds found within oil bearing plant seeds providing moisturizing skin benefits that last all day and create a high-end experience.

The B-l?ve line also creates customer engagement in stores. Topco provides the necessary merchandising, which makes it easy for their members. They’ve created a customized display, which is a permanent fixture, to offer the items and consumer information. Additionally, it includes a QR code, which brings the consumer to a video about the product.

The brand has a dedicated website,, which Harrington said would include more product specific information soon, as well as the new SKUs rolling out.

The website supports point of sale material, signage and other marketing material available, but it is up to the retailer to develop their own social media marketing. Their members have taken the brand to Facebook and social media outputs.

“One of the things we want to do is make sure we’re providing our members with all of the tools, but they’ll each determine how to utilize them within their marketing plan, within their social media plan,” explained Harrington, “so we want to make sure they have [everything] they need, but they actually each uniquely put all of the pieces together for what is the best use for their customers.”

One thing that has made the line so successful, Harrington explained, is the retailers are merchandising it as a brand, keeping the products together.

“One of the great things about B-l?ve is it really creates a high-end presence in the stores,” Harrington said. “If they were dispersed throughout the store in the various categories it would be harder for the consumer to understand the entire scope of the brand and it would be harder for them to transfer the brand equity they get when they have a great experience with facial moisturizer to their makeup brush.”

When it comes to developing scents for premium private label bath products, Dana DeVorzon, CEO of Ton Savon Inc. in Manhattan Beach, Calif., (manufactured in the South of France), told us the majority of retailers and private label brands were focusing on natural and organic, and cleaning up their brands. As they are staying away from BHT, phthalates, gluten, and petroleum based ingredients, retailers are going towards natural fragrances and essential oils, as well as natural colorants, DeVorzon explained.

“I find that floral combinations are making a resurgence, but more interesting combinations … neroli, huckleberry, quince, mangosteen,” DeVorzon said. “What I find with scents is if they’re too exotic, it’s hard for a consumer to relate to them, so we tend to find that customers like to have a combination of something they are familiar with, with kind of a new twist.”

Selling premium private label bath and beauty products can be a challenge, but DeVorzon says it comes down to education and promotions.

“For instance, our soaps cost more than the national brand equivalent, but they last two-to-four times longer,” she said.

 Once you get that first try, DeVorzon said, then they’re dedicated.  

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