CHICAGO (July 17, 11:30 a.m. EDT) — Clariant Masterbatches is beefing up its staff and adding machinery to keep up with the ever-changing custom color market.
Easton, Md.-based Clariant, which ranks as one of North America´s largest makers of color compounds and concentrates, now has seven full-time marketing staffers in its personal-care division. In 1998, that division had only one full-time marketer.
The firm also installed a $300,000 blow molding machine in its design room in McHenry, Ill., last year and will install three more multilayer blow molding machines — including one each in Europe and Asia — at its product development labs by the end of 2001.
The increased activity is the result of shorter cycles in consumer tastes and the application of color-trend research long used in the fashion industry for personal-care items such as deodorant, shampoo and cosmetics, according to Theresa O´Neill, Clariant´s global industry leader for packaging.
"Designs for personal-care products are relaunched every 18 months now," O´Neill said in an interview at NPE 2000 in Chicago. "Five years ago, they were being relaunched every three years."
A good example of this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately thinking can be seen in Thermasilk, a shampoo made by Unilever´s Helene Curtis division. Strong sales for Thermasilk, which is sold in bottles that use Clariant color concentrates, allowed Unilever to pass Procter & Gamble Co. to become the world´s largest supplier of hair-care products in 1999.
Unilever already is looking at relaunching Thermasilk, in spite of its success and in spite of the fact that it debuted less than a year ago, O´Neill said.
The growing size of the market also plays a big role. Sales of personal-care products to teenage girls have tripled in the past three years, according to O´Neill.
At Clariant, those changes are offering a lot of opportunities, but also are leading the firm to do more color-trend work than ever before. Clariant now works with a number of private consulting firms to anticipate where consumer color preference will go. The prediction, based on economic and demographic trends, is that muted colors will be popular in 2001 and 2002.
"Marriage rates are up and gardening is increasing in popularity," O´Neill said. "There also are a lot more `post-parentals´ —people aged 45 and older — in the population.
"These people have more confident and relaxed lifestyles. They want pale lilac as opposed to metallic blue."
Such trends also can affect resin buying at a firm like Clariant. The muted-color trend is leading Clariant to look at more soft-touch thermoplastic elastomers and PVC, while improved bottle technology and rising aesthetic demands have led to a lot more PET being used in personal-care products in recent years.
Aesthetics continue to play a large role, as recent consumer research indicates that most purchasing decisions are made within 10 feet of a product.
O´Neill sees Clariant´s personal-care focus as a long-term strategy for the company, and not just an opportunity to take advantage of a passing trend.
"Personal care is recession-proof," she said. "When times start to get tough, we spend more on little things to satisfy ourselves."