Lifestyle changes and innovative products are expanding acne skin care into new subsegments, according to retailers, manufacturers and analysts.
While teenagers are the primary demographic targets, there has been a shift to develop remedies geared toward adults.
One health and beauty care buyer at an East Coast-based chain said, "Manufacturers are trying to fill a niche that adult [acne] skin care products haven't filled before."
"It's a need that has been dormant," Suzanne Grayson, partner at marketing and consulting firm Grayson Associates, San Juan Capistrano, Calif. "What's going on in the culture is a great deal of stress."
Kelly Doss, brand manager for St. Ives skin care, manufactured by Alberto-Culver, Melrose Park, Ill., said, "Women in their 30s and 40s are working more, have more time constraints and less time to care for themselves -- it's creating a whole new type of skin care."
Grayson said that supermarket retailers who provide prominent displays of appropriate products and literature on adult acne can generate new traffic. "When [customers] walk into a supermarket that talks to them about adult acne, it provides a service to the customer," she said.
Although Circle of Beauty, the exclusive private-label line for Sears, Roebuck and Co., Hoffman Estates, Ill., will soon be discontinued by the chain, it recently showed its interest in the adult acne category. In May, it rolled out the Skinplicity Skin Control skin care line targeted to consumers with adult acne.
"Adult acne is an area of increased interest, and it is an increasing problem due to environmental stress," said Dorothy Sexton, vice president, marketing and new product development, Circle of Beauty, New York.
The line consists of five stockkeeping units -- a cleanser, a medicated cleanser, an oil-free hydrator, a topical nighttime lotion and an acne spot treatment -- that range from $9.50 to $15.
According to ACNielsen, Schaumburg, Ill., sales of acne remedies in the drug, mass and supermarket channels reached $343 million in the 52-week period ending May 19. Although all three channels were up in dollar sales last year, supermarkets lagged behind mass merchandisers and drug stores. The food channel was up 7.9% from the previous 52-week period, compared to a 12.7% increase at drug stores and a 16.8% gain at mass merchants.
One general manager for marketing, general merchandise, health and beauty care, and procurement for a Western wholesaler that services all states west of the Rocky Mountains, said some retailers are reluctant to dedicate themselves to the category.
"Buyers are reluctant to put in upscale premium products -- smaller stores are especially worried about shrink, so they limit the assortment, sizes available, or lock up their premium HBC products," he said.
Nonetheless, manufacturers have branched out in the category with line extensions and delved into acne application for the whole body.
Paul Sklar, senior brand manager for Oxy, a part of London-based GlaxoSmithKline, said there appears to be an increasing interest in treating acne all over the body. He said Stridex and Clean & Clear recently launched body washes, joining existing products from Neutrogena and Oxy.
Natural and homeopathic remedies have also gained awareness. Nature's Cure, a homeopathic remedy that combines a tablet and topical treatment that is gender-specific, is one such innovation in the category. In addition to their existing face products, Nature's Cure, Oakland, Calif., rolled out gender-specific, full-body acne remedies at the beginning of the year.
"Consumers have become more and more familiar with natural, alternative medicine over the last several years," said Dana Doron, director of marketing for the company. "This is a trend that will continue to grow and supermarkets can take a proactive position to prevent loss of consumers to natural food stores. This type of innovation is critical for continued growth in the category, particularly in the supermarket channel, which is still building its [health and beauty aids] presence."
The four-stockkeeping-unit line retails for $9.99 per unit. Nature's Cure is being merchandised by grocers that include Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif.; Winn-Dixie, Jacksonville, Fla.; and Fleming, Lewisville, Texas.
While acne skin care products are only one part of a health and beauty category, industry insiders told SN that educating consumers and creating proper placement go a long way in capturing the teen and adult audiences.
"With the incidence of adult acne and teens as an elusive target audience, [supermarkets] should recognize it as a dedicated segment," said Jamie Barickman, partner at Meridian Consulting Group, Westport, Conn., instead of placing the products "inside a sea of skin care brands." To snag the growing teen presence in supermarkets that help with the family grocery shopping, he said, "cross merchandising with other general merchandise items like audio or books that appeal to teens can create a destination for them."
Doron said retailers should provide customers with a wide selection to create loyalty.
"Everyone knows that they can buy the big brands anywhere -- and they're impossible to miss on the shelf when they have a set of 10-plus SKUs -- but it's often the smaller, more innovative products that make a store a preferred destination for consumers," she said.