Microsegmentation and value adding benefits helped to drive growth in the all-important UK sun care market during 2005, marking a rocky road for the category's performance in recent years.
Sales of sun protection, aftersun and self-tanning rose 17 per cent in value to reach £278m (€408m) in 2005, according to a new report by Euromonitor International's Ian Bell.
The focus on the UK market is important, given its population size and predominance of fair-skinned people, combined with the fact that its consumers also take to new products sooner than in other European countries.
The growth spurt last year in the market was said to be significant, given that in two of the previous three years the category has experienced a downward trend, broken only by the heatwave experienced during the summer of 2003.
Although 2005 was no scorcher in the UK, manufacturers have managed to reinvigorate the category by investing in campaigns to educate consumers on the dangers of potential skin damage from exposure to the sun.
This has involved tie-ups with charities such as Cancer Research UK's Sunsmart campaign, whilst L'Oreal Garnier received accreditation from the British Skin Foundation for its Ambre Solaire brand, Bell points out.
Such tie-ups were highly beneficial to the credence of such brands, but what also helped to boost sales volumes was adding value to products, allowing manufacturers to raise retail prices and margins.
Bell says that as a result many sun care products now include functionality associated with general skin care products, including moisturising and anti-wrinkle properties.
This led to innovations such as Beiersdorf's Nivea Sun Pampering Protection Mousse, with moisturising and smoothing properties as well as Johnson and Johnson's RoC Minesol Actif range, which claims to have anti-ageing and firming properties.
There has also been a significant jump in the number of self-tanning products claiming to have moisturising and skin toning properties. This has led to the creation of a new niche, with products such as Johnson's Holiday Skin providing body lotion functionality combined with a subtle self-tanning effect.
Specific demographic groups have also been targeted, with new sun care products being launched specifically at children and males.
Linco Care's Calypso Kid's Disappearing Lotion Spray comes in two colours that 'magically' disappear upon application, while Malibu's Dry Oil Spray for Men is intended to protect balding scalps.
But it is the mass segment that is primarily benefiting from this microsegmentation, at the cost of the upper-end labels who have been losing their position steadily since 2002.
Euromonitor believes that the 14 per share of the market currently held by the premium producers could be more in line with the 26 per share of the market such producers hold in the more developed skin care sector, suggesting that there is plenty of potential.
The developments witnessed in the UK market during the course of 2005 indicates that this sector still has plenty of potential for further development and also suggests that these developments are likely to be mirrored elsewhere in Europe.