Ethnic hair care is the fastest growing hair care category in the United States in 2015, recording robust growth of 8.5%. The main reason for this dynamic growth is that the category has been flooded by “multicultural” brands that appeal to a broader audience and is no longer defined by brands exclusively targeting black consumers.
Market-movers like Shea Moisture and Carol’s Daughter (L’Oréal), increase their share with naturally positioned products that appeal to a wide spectrum of consumers, including those that previously used mainstream or ethnic brands.
However, this is not to say that all lines are blurred. Ethnic hair care brands continue to cater to the specific needs of black consumers as more black women move away from relaxers to products that provide moisture and hydration, helping them manage different types of curls. Independent brands, such as Design Essentials and Cantu, drive the market by recording double-digit growth rates in 2015 and offering natural ingredients-based solutions.
Keeping it real, natural, and healthy is the new trend as women of all ethnicities opt for less expensive, less damaging, and time-saving solutions instead of chemical treatments offered by salons. Both large and small marketers capitalize on this trend by launching naturally-positioned, hair-specific products including shampoos, conditioners, and oils that offer hydration, protection, color preservation, and the strengthening of one’s hair.
Blurring the lines between professional and retail
While there is a greater variety of ethnic hair care products being sold at an increasing number of retail outlets, such as Target, Walmart, and Walgreens, sales of professional brands through salons are stagnant. Conversely, sales through the Internet have revolutionized the segment, giving rise to many newer brands, such as Jane Carter Solution.
The importance of hair to black consumers is closely linked to who their hair is entrusted to—black consumers do not go to “regular” hair salons, as they only trust the expertise and know-how of ethnic hairstylists. The number of ethnic hair salons is massive in some markets. For example, in South Africa, there are about 100,000 hair salons dedicated to ethnic hair, although only a small percentage have a license and are officially running their businesses. In the United States, there are approximately 23,000 ethnic salons officially registered.
Purely professional brands are limited, and the market is crowded with retail brands. The market is also composed of many small and medium-sized players, and the share and position of the dominant companies differ from one country market to another. However, what they all have in common is their heritage—most brands have been established and are run by ethnic owners or are often family-run businesses. This includes key players, such as AMKA, Luster Products, and Dudley Beauty. The product portfolio of these brands differs significantly as black consumers use alternate types of products due to the differences in their hair texture.
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All insights are sourced from Kline reports: