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September 1, 2001

6 Min Read
Market Snapshot: Personal care products

Some good news for molders in the personal care products market: Plastic is increasingly replacing glass when it comes to packaging. According to Market Tracking International (MTI, Redhill, U.K.), the cosmetics and toiletries industry used an estimated 56 billion packages in 1998, approximately 55 percent of which were made of plastic. By 2005, MTI estimates the number of packages will grow to 73 billion, with plastic accounting for 61 percent. 

"A whole new market is opening up for injection molders," says Scott Rook, marketing manager for this market at Eastman Chemical. He is referring to companies moving away from the traditional style of glass fragrance bottles. The new style is more functional and features a more innovative design that uses plastic. (See the table below for a breakdown of resin use.) "The bottles are pretty functional, very modern looking, and are lighter in weight than glass," says Rook. These new designs are relatively simple geometric shapes such as plastic cones, stars, triangles, and rectangles. 

Personal Care Products/Housewares Market Consumption of Key Resins, million lb



LD polyethylene


HD polyethylene



Other thermoplastics



Source: The Freedonia Group; www.freedoniagroup.com

In the cosmetics segment, Rook has also noticed a shift with the manufacture of treatment jars, which typically house items such as night creams and moisturizers. "Estée Lauder's ceo has stated its intentions are to move 100 percent of the company's glass jars into plastic containers," he says. 

Reasons for strategies such as these mainly involve cost reductions on both the consumer and manufacturing end. Consumers shell out in excess of $90 to $100 per treatment jar, and the same people who are paying the high prices tend to have tile floors in their bathrooms. Says Rook, "They will move to a plastic that has a similar high-quality feel and look as the glass but that is a little bit lighter in weight and shatter proof." He says the OEMs save money by running faster fill lines because they don't have to worry about glass breaking or shattering as the jars tumble. In addition, lead times are shorter and plastic jars can be decorated at a lower cost than glass and have a wider array of options for decoration. 

Personal Hygiene 
A few years ago, soft touch became very popular in the personal hygiene segment though it never crossed into the high-end or prestige markets. "We were all wondering a couple of years ago if it was going to become popular in the prestige market," says Rook. "It didn't but it did become very popular in the mass market segments. Toothbrushes, razors, and housewares almost all have the soft-touch grip nowadays." 

In 2000, the razors segment saw mass market sales of $723.6 million, with a 7.3 percent increase over the previous year. The oral care market saw a 4 percent increase in sales in 2000, and in 2001 the buzz has been the introduction of new, moderately priced power toothbrushes. Proctor & Gamble estimated a 70 percent increase in electric and battery-powered toothbrush sales for the first half of 2001; Gillette has invested more than $30 million in research and development for its own line. 

Economic Influences 
While the economy has caused downward profit spirals in other markets, personal care products are viewed as being fairly recession-resistant, though not impenetrable. U.S. sales of cosmetics and toiletries in 2000 grew 4.6 percent to $39.6 billion. However, that growth was slightly below the average 5.25 percent growth shown by the sector from 1996 to 1999, according to Euromonitor, a global market research firm in Chicago. 

"I don't think [the economy] has the same impact on manufacturers in this industry as it does on the automotive market," says Keith Ruby, president of Motor City Plastics (Dundee, MI), which molds compacts and related products for the cosmetic and fragrance industries. "It costs $20,000 to $40,000 for a new car and it costs from $3 to $10 dollars to look nice. People want to feel good about themselves so this is an economic way to do it." 

This market will most likely benefit from the spending habits of the larger demographic segments of the U.S. The baby boomer generation totals approximately 78 million and spending on personal care products by this sector is expected to increase as this aging population uses products designed to make them look younger and healthier. The preteen/teen market has also evolved into a driving economic force; kids aged 12 to 19 are responsible for spending approximately $141 billion annually, according to Mediamark, a market research firm (New York, NY). "Makeup is being used at a much younger age today than it was 20 years ago. That also makes it a more volatile growth market," says Ruby. 

Before working at Yardley of London (Memphis, TN), a fragrance/bath and body product OEM, Jack McAllister, vp of operations, spent 17 years with cosmetics manufacturer Maybelline. History has shown him that when the economy softens, people have a tendency to pull back in certain areas, but it's not usually personal care. "Maybe they won't go out and buy a brand new suit or go on a vacation, but they may decide to pamper themselves with something that costs a little less." 

However, the faltering economy has had a negative impact on the way retail stores handle inventory and view new product launches; they have become leery about getting stuck with slow-moving inventory. 

Offshore Activity 
One of the key trends in cosmetics and toiletries is towards globalization. Rook notes that Estée Lauder used to launch one product for North America and would have a different group launch of products in Europe. However, the company now launches one product all over the world and is telling molders that if they want to grow with them, they need to have molding facilities all over the world. "That trend has led to a consolidation base in the industry," he says. 

Personal care products have seen rapid growth in regions such as Brazil and Asia. Ruby believes that the biggest competition comes from the East—namely Indonesia and China. "We compete by investing in what we feel is the finest injection molding equipment. We also try to offset the shortage of labor and cost of labor by using inline robotics, so we have invested in stand-alone robots." 

Tips for Success 
For molders looking to succeed in this market, Ruby offers this: "Many people underestimate what it takes to make this kind of product. It has to look good and function properly so there are very strict functional requirements." Also, like some other markets, it is continually promoting itself, so the demand for good, on-time service is important. "It's like launching a new automobile," says Ruby. "You just do not miss that launch date—there's too much other money attached to it, such as advertising and that sort of thing." 

At Yardley, McAllister says that the array of services a molder can offer is most important. "Suppliers need to have the capabilities to actually design packaging with us," says McAllister. "I don't have my own in-house engineer so I tend to go to a company that does a lot of engineering work and work with them." 

With a market that thrives on innovation and design, it's important to always be on top of those two things. "As a supplier in this market," says McAllister, "you want to spread your customer base as much as possible. By being in touch, hopefully, it's a head start on what's the next big thing you should be working on." 



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