Natural Foods Merchandiser

How to market ethnic personal care

Conventional personal care manufacturers are stepping up to meet the needs of the fast-growing multicultural market. Will naturals follow suit? There is good reason to. Across the country, the ethnic population is booming. In 2008, the Census Bureau reported the United States had more than 103.5 million ethnic residents, a number that is projected to rise to 116.5 million in 2014 and to more than 54 percent of the population by 2050.

A recent report from Rockville, Md.-based market-research firm Packaged Facts emphasizes the force of the ethnic-specific hair, beauty and cosmetics market, pegged at $2.6 billion in 2008, a 40 percent increase over 2004. As a result, the natural personal care market is getting hip to this business opportunity. Diane Da Costa, ethnic hair care expert and author of Textured Tresses (Fireside, 2004), points to the growing popularity of mass products with a natural bent that appeal to ethnic shoppers, including hair care lines such as Curls, The Jane Carter Solution and Aveda’s Brilliant line. Ethnic skin care lines such as Carol’s Daughter and Shea Moisture are also gaining ground. On the cosmetics front, many manufacturers—especially those producing mineral makeup—are increasing their range of skin tones.

However, while a Simmons Market Research report found that ethnic consumers tend to be more green-minded than Caucasians, natural skin and hair care manufacturers shy away from pinning their products specifically to the ethnic market. “Even though our ethnic following has been really strong, we don’t want to be pigeonholed,” says Michael Hellerman, a partner at The Jane Carter Solution, which is sold in Whole Foods and The Vitamin Shoppe.

“In response to demand from the ethnic market, we have a very wide array of [cosmetic] colors,” says Tim Schaeffer, senior vice president of marketing at Mineral Fusion Cosmetics, a natural-makeup manufacturer based in Denver. “For example, we have foundations for everyone from the palest to the darkest person.” The company reaches out to the ethnic consumer via in-store demos that showcase the line’s full color range.

By Erinn Morgan

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