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Revlon Consumer Products Corp. is out to prove that beauty isn't only skin deep with its entrance into an unlikely product category-vitamins.

Revlon and Hall Laboratories, Portland, Ore., are teaming to launch a line of retail multivitamins for women that promise to promote "radiant hair" and "vibrant skin" among other things. The vitamins will reach stores by early February, backed by print and radio ads from Revlon's in-house agency, Tarlow Advertising, New York.

In addition to Radiant Hair and Vibrant Skin vitamins, Revlon's line will include Nail Strength, Diet Assistance, Beauty A.M., Beauty P.M. and Inner Structure formulas.

Despite links between health and beauty, Revlon may need to swallow a lot of vitamins to compete in the fragmented market. Among the hurdles: Competitors are spending more on ads, shelf space may be hard to come by and consumers may be wary of buying vitamins from a company best known for cosmetics.

"Revlon is a beauty brand and my impression of the vitamin user is that they're pretty serious-I don't know how they'll relate to the brand," said Paul Kelly, president of Silvermine Consulting, Westport, Conn. "Also, having no heritage in healthcare, they may have problems getting shelf space with all the fragmentation."

Private label led the $1.37 billion vitamins and tonics industry for the year ended Nov. 30, with a 33.4% share, reported Towne-Oller & Associates, New York. The consultancy, which tracks sales in drugstores and grocery stores, said Pharmavite's Nature Made, with 11.1%, was the only individual brand to reach double digits.

The top spender for the first nine months of 1995 was American Home Products' Centrum brand with $21.5 million in ad support, via Carrafiello, Diehl & Associates, Irvington, N.Y., and a 9.5% share. MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings spent $45.8 million in measured media on the entire Revlon cosmetics brand for the first nine months of 1995, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Revlon wouldn't comment on the new product line. But it's apparent the marketer is hoping to help carve out a women's segment in a category that already successfully markets niche products for children and older adults, with such brands as Bayer Corp.'s Flintstones and Centrum Silver.

Women are said to be heavier users of vitamins than men and account for 58% of category sales. But John Ruf, a partner at New England Consulting Group, Westport, Conn., said the women's segment of the market "is not well defined."

Avon Products and Mary Kay Cosmetics also launched vitamin and mineral supplement lines recently, but those have been sold directly to consumers, not at retail.

Cheryl Halpern, VP-global product marketing for Mary Kay, said vitamins are a "very natural extension" for her company.

Mary Kay introduced premium-price Daily Benefits-packets of six pills to be taken daily for women at $29.50 per month-last July, while Avon Life, with supplements such as vitamin B and vitamin C, as well as multivitamin formulas for women, men, children and teens, is priced competitively against retail products and came out in April 1994.

Sales of both lines are said to have been disappointing so far.

"We're still figuring out how to handle the program-it's a little different than the cosmetics business," said Ms. Halpern. "Our compensation structure is different and slightly less lucrative." She declined to release figures but said the line is already profitable and that the company expects it to contribute less than 5% of sales.


Vitamin sea

Top vitamins & tonics brands for the 12 months ending Nov. 30. Sales are in millions.

1994* 1994* 1995* 1995*

Brand sales share sales share

Private label $428.0 34.0% $458.0 33.4%

Nature Made $129.5 10.3% $152.1 11.1%

Centrum $131.0 10.4% $130.6 9.5%

Your Life $95.8 7.6% $101.0 7.4%

Nature's Bounty $52.1 4.1% $50.8 3.7%

One-A-Day $40.3 3.2% $42.0 3.1%

Flintstones $30.0 2.4% $30.8 2.2%

Theragran $37.3 3.0% $28.4 2.1%

TOTAL MARKET $1,259.0 $1,371.0

Source: Towne-Oller & Associates data from food & drug stores

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