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Category Insight: Private Label Personal Care

Analysis of private label Personal Care yields some noteworthy trends.

August 1, 2014

According to IRI, two areas show strong performance—and ongoing potential—for private label within the Personal Care category: male-specific Personal Care

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Category Insights: Personal Care

products like deodorant and hair color, as well as skin care products like lotions and liquid soaps/sanitizers. Meanwhile, innovations in lotion products will keep private label on its toes.


Gender-Specific Potential

As for changes in the past year, a few items stand out. The deodorant market is very mature, and this product area has seen little change or growth. However, as reported by Shannon Romanowski, senior beauty and personal care analyst at Mintel, men’s national brand deodorant is outperforming women’s in the segment—likely driven by strong performance in the male-specific brand, such as Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice and Unilever’s Dove Men+Care brands (see “Eye on the National Brands” for more on this market). While overall deodorant is only up 3.73 percent in dollar sales, private label deodorant has grown by 46.88 percent, according to IRI data for the 52 weeks ending May 18, 2014. With new approaches to gender-specific product development, private label men’s deodorant and other Personal Care products could be ripe for further penetration.

National brand shaving cream has remained relatively flat, down 1.56 percent in dollar sales per IRI. As price continues to factor into shaving cream buying decisions, private label has stepped into the fray. Private label shaving cream saw 49.55 percent dollar sales growth over the past year. As national brands grow more price-competitive in this product area, specials on store brands and/or unique positioning with lower pricing could help retailers continue to capturing shopper attention.

Private label razors are performing well, up 23.61 percent—again, likely indicating that this is an area of Personal Care that will continue to prove highly price-sensitive for shoppers.

Despite the fact that private label disposable razor blades were down 2.85 percent in dollar sales, it remains an important category—and one that could gain more ground through innovation. “Disposable razors have seen significant improvements in product performance in recent years, becoming more comparable to their non-disposable counterparts,” said Romanowski. “In addition, convenience and lower price points have lured some consumers back to the disposable segment.”

Men also are not shying away from going private label with their hair coloring options compared to women. Hair coloring product sales for women in the private label sector (which was already a small segment) are down by 95.30 percent vs. last year, yet men’s private label hair coloring products (a much-larger segment) are up 17.33 percent. The drop in women’s private label hair coloring options may again be economy-driven. “Improving economic conditions appear to be sending more women back to the salon,” said Romanowski, “likely to the detriment of at-home nail sales.”

Private label hair-growth products have also seen an uptick, with 8.31 percent dollar sales growth over the past 52 weeks, generally keeping pace with overall activity for the products.


Liquid Soaps and Hand Sanitizers

Soap sales are more of a mixed bag. Private label deodorant bar soap is down 12.71 percent in dollar sales and non-deodorant bar soap is up 2.18 percent. Liquid soap sales tell a similar story, with private label liquid hand soap down 0.93 percent and liquid body wash up 3.64 percent. Hand sanitizers saw a modest 0.82 percent dollar sales gain.

According to Romanowski, although private label is still a very small player in the bar soap/liquid body wash segments, it is a big player in both the liquid hand soap and hand sanitizer segments. After Colgate-Palmolive, private label accounts for the largest percentage of sales in the liquid hand soap segment, she noted.

“Shoppers are price-driven when purchasing hand soap, as these products are viewed as highly functional,” said Romanowski. “Nonetheless, private label only grew sales by a modest 1 percent in the most recent 52-week period, while seeing a small decline in segment share. Price incentives are popular in the segment, and branded products are usually priced similarly to private label, weakening private label’s low-price positioning. In addition, value-added benefits, including unique packaging, scent and antibacterial benefits, are helping to boost sales of branded products.”

Private label products that stay competitive with packaging, feature unique scents (such as seasonal offerings), and that make use of value-added functional technology can hope to boost sales and stay competitive with name brands in the liquid soap/hand sanitizer segment.


The Lotion Low-down

Americans are in love with lotions. Consumers are typically price-driven when shopping for body care products, making private label a solid competitor. However, private label saw a rather flat activity in hand and body lotions for the past 52 weeks. The introduction of new product formats, along with products offering improved functional benefits, has encouraged some shoppers to spend more on value-added, branded products.

“It will be interesting to watch the body care category, which typically has been price-driven, resulting in a solid private label presence. However, private label sales are down, as a result of packaging innovation and improved efficacy from branded products. I would expect to see private label adopt these trends, and wouldn’t be surprised to see aerosol spray lotions from private label, as well as more therapeutic-positioned products,” concluded Romanowski.

The personal care category, in general, is highly competitive—and highly saturated. This creates real challenges for both private label and branded products, with regard to how they can capture the ever-capricious consumer. Branded products are using promotional incentives and price-cutting to take away some of private label’s advantages. However, shoppers will spend more money on benefits they perceive as adding value—like therapeutic skin-care benefits, sun protection, vitamin enrichment, etc. This provides incentive for private label innovation in Personal Care—innovations that can likely carry a higher price point while still undercutting national brands.

The Bottom Line

• Personal Care products catering specifically to men show promise

• Soaps and sanitizers are strong, but need an edge to stay competitive

• Lotions are big—and private label innovation could lead to increased penetration


Everyone knows the Old Spice guy, who has literally made a career for himself through his appearances in the popular TV commercials featuring him in various manly pursuits—but always smelling good—and using Old Spice in his personal care regimen, of course.

The male-specific market is quite robust, and macho products are showing up everywhere, including skin and hair care products marketed specifically to the man of the house. Two such name brands, Dove Men+Care and L’Oréal Paris, have lines of face wash, shaving gel, post-shave balm and lotions, deodorants and hair care—all with ingredients and marketing strategies targeted to men’s needs.

The Dove Men+Care line includes body wash, bar soap, antiperspirants and deodorants, skin care (shaving cream, post-shave lotion, face wash and face lotion), and hair care (shampoo and shampoo plus conditioner). The Men+Care Thickening shampoo is billed as enriched with caffeine and calcium.

L’Oréal Paris, long-known for women’s products, recently launched a male campaign featuring promotion by “House” TV star Hugh Laurie. The Men’s Expert line includes an anti-aging shaving balm (two trends in one) and even a product that targets eye wrinkles:  Men’s Expert Hydra-Energetic Ice Cold Eye Roller.

The Baby Boom generation is aging—and companies are pulling out all the stops to meet their needs and anticipate their wants. Men’s skin care is nothing new, per se, but some of the now-ubiquitous brands, such as Procter & Gamble’s Old Spice, have captured a much younger crowd than of years’ past—often through significantly expanded and diversified lines.

Even the newer, hipper Axe brand (owned by Unilever) is moving into skin care, hoping to capture younger and younger men well before they’d usually think about aging. The Axe Face range features a face wash available in four varieties—Chilled, Shield, Boost and Control—to “refresh skin and leave it looking and feeling irresistibly smooth.”

“We’re reminding guys how important, yet easy, it is to take care of their skin,” said Rob Candelino, vice president of Axe Skincare. “We listen to our consumers and understand what guys want when it comes to grooming. Face care is a natural next step for the brand.”

Online Exclusive

 “Natural” is hot in Personal Care. Visit "Natural & Organic Personal Care Branding" for an online-only feature to discover where this market is headed. 

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