Natural Foods Merchandiser

Marketing functional foods for beauty

Chocolate, fruit drinks and candies, oh my! Foods and beverages are creeping into the U.S. beauty market. But will these products be successful? That certainly depends on the quality and presentation of each product, but a big part of this new category’s success lies in the hands of natural products retailers, according to analysts and manufacturers.

Earlier this year, a beauty yogurt from Paris-based Danone was pulled from shelves in France after failing to meet the company’s expectations, raising questions about whether western consumers are ready for the kind of beauty-boosting functional products that have been staples for some time in Asia. But product launches keep coming. March saw a sea-buckthorn beauty beverage and supplement launched by Salt Lake City-based Sibu, as well as skin-health chocolate chews by Genuine Health in Toronto.

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While U.S. consumers might not be used to looking in the refrigerator case for beauty products, retailers can help shoppers make the connection between the natural ingredients they would apply topically and the ingredients they can ingest for external effects, according to Taya Tomasello, senior beauty analyst for Chicago-based market research company Mintel. One category ripe for the leap: superfruits. “Especially since we see a lot of superfruits jumping into skin care products—clearly there is going to be transference of efficacy from one category to another,” Tomasello says.

“Is there enough connection to really make it go big?” asks LaMar Wiscombe, president and CEO of Sibu. “We believe that there is.” Wiscombe says Sibu is targeting naturals customers because they are concerned, educated shoppers.

Building consumer awareness about specific ingredients will be key to the success of these products, say industry analysts. Sharing results of clinical trials will help shoppers make the connection between products like chocolate chews and their wrinkles, Tomasello says. Marketing from large-scale, non-natural companies—such as Nestle, which launched the beauty drink Glowelle in department stores last year—is also helping shoppers make the beauty-from-within connection, Wiscombe says.

As with most new products, sampling never hurts, either. “Whether it’s at a food show or beauty trade show, people eat this up,” Tomasello says. But for retailers, the question might not be whether or not their customers will like the products, but where in the store to put them.

Wiscombe says the Sibu products were specially designed to fit on health and beauty shelves, and Genuine Health’s Vice President of Marketing Lisa Chisholm says the packaging for the company’s beauty chews was designed to make it stand apart from other supplements.

But when it comes to merchandising this category, it seems that retailers’ strategies will have to develop product by product. Chocolate chews, for example, might do well as an impulse buy near the register, Chisholm says. And while Mintel’s Tomasello says products like Glowelle might do better at a beverage bar than at the beauty counter, Wiscombe points out that a beauty drink could easily get lost if placed among other juices—one of the factors that analysts point to in the failure of Danone’s beauty yogurt. Manufacturers are honing their packaging and marketing for this unique category, but in the end, retailers’ choices about placement and consumer education will be essential.

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