Market Share and Recent Trends in US Skincare Packaging

Skincare packaging in the US is much consolidated, dominated by HDPE bottles, lipstick tubes for lip care, and squeezable plastic tubes. Together these three pack types accounted for 595 million pack units in 2009, over 52% of total retail packaging.

All three pack types are well accepted by the consumer and offer simple functionality, but in the light of the recession brand owners have recognised that in some cases this isn’t enough. In our latest packaging research we have identified three trends in skin care packaging that are helping brand owners maintain share of the market.

Often unwilling to invest in large sizes of unfamiliar products, consumers have turned to travel sizes as a way to limit their investment while experimenting with new products. So despite the fact that travel in the US has declined throughout the recession, travel-sized products have nonetheless gained in popularity. Indeed in 2009 packs of 1-4 fl oz accounted for 355 million units.

Brand owners have recognised this trend and expanded their offerings in small travel sizes, knowing that if they don’t offer this size the consumer may try a rival brand and stick to it. Online retailer is even highlighting travel-sized products, promoting trial/travel sized products to consumers via a convenient website with the tagline ‘For those who travel, those who are curious and those who can’t commit’.

At the same time, such travel products offer convenience to consumers, who can stash small amounts at various places they frequent (eg their office, a gym locker, or a purse), rather than carry around a full size bottle or tube of skin care product.

Manufacturers are continuing to turn to packaging as a means to add value to their products, often using custom packaging that delivers a new or unexpected functionality. For example, L’Oreal Paris Go 360 Clean has a ‘scrublet’ cleaning pad embedded into the bottle providing consumers with an applicator for the product.

Manufacturers are using such functional add-ons as a means of appealing to the craving for premium and luxurious products that existed among many consumers prior to the recession, whilst attempting to remain within the mass-market price range. With application in mind Euromonitor expect the continued growth of metal aerosol cans which enable consistent and easy application, for example as used by Coppertone sun care products.

Premium skin care accounts for just over a quarter of all US skin care spending, however this care segment experienced significant declines in 2008 and 2009, as women faced difficult budgetary choices in the deepening US recession.

Consumers increasingly shunned premium moisturisers and cleansers for more affordable mass-market products, while premium anti-agers remained the lone bright spot in an otherwise declining market. For women who are unwilling to compromise regarding their appearance, these premium anti-agers proved to be a necessity rather than an indulgence.

With the high retail price of these products, consumers will not tolerate waste or overuse, benefiting the lotion pump that enables controlled dosing and gets out every last drop.

Whilst novel packaging may help some brand owners in times of recession, staying with the status quo might actually be best for others.

Consumer’s will turn to trusted and established brands in times of trouble, not wanting to risk purchasing a product that doesn’t work for them, so for these products packaging needs to retain strong brand recognition that could be lost in a new packaging format.

However for product extensions and new launches packaging needs to be the right size, to dose the right amount and sell at the right price.