Personal care products are just that—personal—and, whether prestige or mass, buying habits of consumers are reflective of what's going on in their daily lives.

For bath and body products, a need for some personal pampering and relaxation was already well underway this year, even before the stock market turned chaotic and fears about terrorism became commonplace.

In the October 2001 issue of the newsletter, WSL from the Edge, Wendy Liebmann, president of WSL Marketing Inc., reported that the first phase of the company's 2002 How America Shops consumer study was completed just before the attacks on Sept. 11. In it, American men and women indicated they were "Increasingly price conscious as signs of recession hovered." Because consumers were feeling cautious, new purchases would have to be value-oriented as well as new and innovative to be tempting.

According to Ms. Liebmann, those trends have not changed since, but with the drastic changes in national security and perceptions of individual safety, there are some products that are now more even appealing.

"Anything that makes us feel more secure and connected, emotionally and technically, be it medical, pharmaceutical or technological," she explained, those items will be more in demand.

Going forward, personal products that offer a respite from daily stresses without breaking the family budget, can be expected to hold their own.

For bath and body products, "Aromatherapy/cosmeceuticals are the growth areas, especially body scrubs, muds, and body balms in jars," stated Steven Nussbaum, director of marketing for Cosmetic Packaging Group, a division of O.Berk Company, Union, NJ. Mr. Nussbaum stressed, "Many bath and body products are no longer luxuries, but are becoming necessities in reducing stress from daily work and life. This is reflected in both the soothing bath fragrances and fluid/smooth packaging designs that are being marketed."

Designers Communicate Emotion
For designers, linking product to emotion is part of the challenge.
"Brands are looking for the perfect balance between skin care benefits, healthy skin and emotional benefits," explained Laurent Hainaut, president of Raison Pure, a packaging design firm with offices in Paris and New York. "With bath and body products, you want to feel good, relaxed or energized and protect and nourish the skin. Fragrances are usually lighter, natural, and/or flowery. The design will reflect this balance: more sensuality, more clarity and lightness."

Emotion is communicated through the use of photos or elegant illustrations, according to Mr. Hainaut. Benefits for skin care and healthy skin can be reflected in the packaging by using white and soft focus effects, as well as textured whites, matte to pearlescent, with light irridescent nuances of color, he explained.

Mr. Hainaut noted, "We still use lots of transparent effects showing very light colors and a lot of work (is done) on the feel of the material to connect with the softness of the skin. Nowadays, packaging tries to communicate emotions through all the senses."

Prestige Brands Maintain Sales

According to NPD BeautyTrends, Port Washington, NY, the prestige segment of the bath and body product business continued to sustain growth from January through June 2001. Consisting of fragrance branded lotions and creams, powders and talcs, bath and shower gels, bubble baths, hair, soap, body sprays and skin care branded body cleansers, exfoliators, body moisturizers, firming/cellulite creams and women's shave and hair products, the total prestige bath and body segment for the first half of 2001 was up over last year by 10% to total $191 million in U.S. department stores.

Body moisturizers dominated the category, accounting for 47% of sales, while prestige hair care products are the fastest growing subset, with sales up over 50% to $17 million.

The prestige line Honey & Bran from Natural Recipes Perlier is appealing on an emotional level. The natural ingredients with comfort food connections—honey and bran—promise moisturizing and nourishing benefits. Clear glass jars reveal products that look rich enough to eat. The outer packaging with a bright yellow top panel features stylized bees in the background, with a simple, clear center that is reminiscent of food products. Other Perlier lines include Sweet Honeysuckle, White Almond, Green Tea and Vanilla.

Sales of aromatherapy products for body and bath declined by 10%, to $5.7 million. The drop was not surprising, according to Mark Brooks, senior account manager for NPD BeautyTrends, because there was such a large number of aromatherapy products launched in 1999 and 2000 compared to this year. Mr. Brooks added, "We are also seeing a shift from the introduction of aromatherapy products (massage oils, inhalers and sprays) to the introduction of new bath and body products with aromatheraputic properties (relaxing, energizing)."

More for Mass Merchants
Bath and body products sold through the mass channels (food and drug stores as well as mass merchants) show patterns that indicate changes in the ways consumers bathe and care for their skin as well as where they're shopping for those products. Shoppers are buying more personal care items in mass merchant stores and choosing more products that go with a fast-paced lifestyle.

According to Information Resources, Inc., Chicago, bar soap sales through mass channels overall were down 1.6% in the 52 weeks ending Aug. 12, to $1.3 billion. In food stores, bar soap sales declined 5.5% to $631.8 million, and, in drug stores, were flat with $129.2 million. Mass merchants increased 2.5% with sales for bar soap of $598.2 million.

But don't worry, consumers are still bathing. Fast and easy-to-use liquid soaps are growing. Although still less than bar soap, liquid soap sales were up overall 7.4% to $960.7 million. In food stores, liquid soap rose 4.1% to $336.3 million. Drug stores grew 8.9% to $150.8 million and mass merchant sales increased 9.4% to $473.6 million.

Bath fragrance/bubble bath, basics for leisurely tub soaks, declined overall, as total sales of $172.2 million dropped 3.4% compared to the same period in 2000. Bath fragrance/bubble bath sales were down 8.2% in food stores, 4.8% in drug outlets, and 0.6% in mass merchant stores.

But, seeking smooth skin and a soft touch, consumers drove overall mass sales of hand and body lotion up 6.1% to $1 billion. Sales in food stores increased 4.8% to $268 million; drug store sales were up 4.3% to $339.3 million. And, mass merchants continued to build their personal care businesses with hand and body lotion sales that increased 8% to $480.5 million.

Implications for Packaging
While potential for future sales appears fair to good for bath and body products, packaging can still make or break a new product. For bath and body products, it's not enough that the packaging look great on the shelf.

Because most of these products are used in bathrooms and kitchens where the trend in the past several years has been to ceramic tile and other hard surface flooring, breakability has become more of an issue.

Julie Moore, director of marketing and research for new products at Packaging & Design Associates, Chapel Hill, NC, said that a desire for more shatter-resistant packaging for bath and body products is motivating more marketers to opt for plastic. "They're looking for ways to make plastic look upscale, mainly through closures," she said.

Ms. Moore pointed out that custom molds for plastic are not as expensive to create than those for glass, making an exclusive package more affordable. But she added that many product marketers are still asking for glass for certain items. Packaging & Design's Elegance line of tall, thin, square glass bottles and decanters are often chosen for bath oils or bath salts, according to Ms. Moore, because, "They aren't really going to be used every day and the bottle is more for a special look."

Still, there has been a significant increase in the use of copolyester resins with personal care jars leading the growth, according to Scott Rook, business market manager for Eastar, division of Eastman Chemical Company, Kingsport, TN.

Rook said that Eastman's co-polyesters offer water clarity, greater chemical resistance, shatter resistance and a glass-like look. Eastar has also seen increased use of its resins in bottles as the material can be blow-molded or stretch-molded. The Versace line is now using a rectangular-shaped bottle of copolyester for its shampoo, while Sephora uses extrusion blow-molded copolyester for many of its bottles, according to Mr. Rook.

"Companies are becoming interested in moving away from glass," Mr. Rook stressed, "because consumers don't like to drop their $20 bottle of high end skin lotion or shampoo and have it shatter into a thousand pieces. Plastic can also be more innovative and modern and is good for travel sizes."

High Tech Packages

The way bath and body products look and feel has changed in tandem with the proliferation of formulations that include sensitive ingredients. NPD's Mr. Brooks said that "air-tight, light-proof components are becoming more essential."

Atelier Dinand, a packaging design firm with headquarters in Levallois-Perret, France, as well as a New York office, seeks to balance sophisticated technical attributes with simplicity and softness, according to Henry de Monclin, vice president of sales and marketing for the company.

"You have to have added value, but without being too ostentatious. Colors and graphics make the difference," stated Mr. de Monclin. "Products are sophisticated and people want calmness and sensuality."

Products Take on New Forms
Bath and body products are no longer strictly liquid, creams or gels. Foams, mousses and souffles are consistencies gaining in popularity, according to Robert Brands, president of Airspray, Pompano Beach, FL.

"Our research shows that foam is the delivery medium most preferred by consumers," Mr. Brands said. "Foamed products are easy to apply, and rinse quickly and completely. Plus the smooth feel of foamed products gives consumers an added little touch of luxury and well-being that is perfect for bath and shower related products."

Airspray has launched several delivery systems that are designed to make dispensing foam quick and easy. It is currently rolling out its Water-Resistant Foamer, an instant-foam dispenser that can be used one-handed to dispense a precise mixture of liquid and air with a single stroke.

"It's the first innovation in a long time for liquid soap," said Mr. Brands. "A specially designed base cap, nozzle and protective shell combine to direct water away from the contents of the dispenser, which eliminates any possible microbial build-up and reduces the Ôwatering' of the product in tub and shower environments."

The Water Resistant Foamer follows the launch earlier this year of the Table Top Foamer, which was chosen by Dial Corp. for its latest market entry, Dial Complete. The Table Top Foamer can dispense two outputs, 0.8ml or 1.6ml, of precisely measured product per stroke. Mr. Brands explained, "The Table Top Foamer was specifically designed for home countertop product applications such as hand soaps, personal wash applications, body care, moisturizers and baby care."

Airspray has also developed Symbio, a dual-chamber dispenser to mix active ingredients in a precisely controlled ratio and to keep sensitive ingredients such as vitamin C in an air-free environment until the moment of use. Mr. Brands noted, "Now, for the first time, cosmetic scientists and packaging technologists can freely use vitamins, enzymes, proteins and bioactivesÑingredients that never before could be used effectively in combination with other substancesÑand be assured of maximum stability and efficacy of these formulations."

Mr. Brands explained that inside each Symbio dispenser are two pumps, each connected to a separate chamber. The same actuator activates both pumps.

3C Inc., based in Hawthorne, NJ, offers several versions of dual pumps or mixer packages, according to Lou Della Pesca, company president. The Flacone "Duo" can either combine two ingredients and dispense the mixture through one pump, or dispense each ingredient through a separate pump. The container is also available with either single or dual spray nozzles.

Getting It Out of the Bottle
"Ease of use and maneuverability is critical for bath and body packaging—flip tops instead of screw tops," stressed Mr. Brooks of NPD.

Mac Closures, Quebec, Canada, offers a line of smooth flip-top closures that are linerless and available with an orifice of 0.125" or 0.250". "The Mac 28-415 is ideal for lotions, foaming bath products and some hair care products," said Stephanie Roux, Mac Closures' spokesperson. The closures can be colored to choice.

Airless pumps are solving several problems for marketers and consumers, according Mr. Della Pesca. The airless pumps keep product fresh and allows the consumer to get virtually every drop out of the container. Rather than a dip tube, a vacuum pulls a false bottom up toward the pump, forcing product out the pump.

Shelf Appeal
First impressions in packaging are critical. Shapes and colors that are appealing are obvious goals. Eastar's Mr. Rook said, "Our research shows that many purchasing decisions are made at the retail shelf, leading to an intense competition for the consumers' attention. Bright colors, iridescent colors, frosted looks, sparkles—all of those can be achieved with copolyester."

Cost is also a factor and not all marketers are ready for custom packages. Mr. Della Pesca said that 3C has developed three new jars in polypropylene along with new caps that can be mixed and matched. "The parts are interchangeable," he explained. "The customer can add a metal band, match colors or contrast the jar and cap and create a custom-look from stock parts."