Business Irish

Monday 19 February 2018

Men finding inner metrosexual helps Unilever offset sluggish food growth

Matthew Boyle

PAUL Bopp, a 38-year-old father of four, wouldn't call himself metrosexual. He played football in college, loves whiskey and never pays more than €20 for a haircut. Yet every evening, he applies wrinkle-fighting Olay skin cream to battle the crow's feet around his eyes.

"It's 25 bucks for a bottle, but it's worth it," said Bopp, a US-based wealth manager. "My dad looked like he was 60 when he was 42. I don't want that. The days of being a Neanderthal are over."

Men like Bopp are proof that guys' grooming products – hair serums, eye rollers, exfoliating scrubs – are reaching a wider audience than ever before. Global sales of male toiletries excluding razors, blades and shaving cream will rise 5pc to €13bn this year, surpassing the shaving segment for the first time, according to Euromonitor. Unilever, with its Axe and Dove brands, has 26pc of the market, more than Procter and Gamble, Nivea maker Beiersdorf and L'Oreal combined.

That dominance has helped Unilever expand both sales and profit margins at its personal-care unit, which accounts for 36pc of revenue and has offset the sluggish growth of its food brands. The segment's expansion has even attracted fashion designer Tom Ford, who just introduced a line of products such as a purifying mud mask.

"The key objective among all the manufacturers is turning a regime that you have to do into a ritual you want to do," said Phil White, European planning director at marketing firm Geometry Global. This hasn't been easy as 90pc of men spend a half-hour or less getting ready in the morning, according to researcher Mintel. Ben Voyer, a marketing professor at ESCP Europe business school, said that's due to the perception that men get more attractive as they age, so they don't need to take care of their skin, and because men simply don't worry as much about how they look.

But manufacturers have found clever ways to convince guys to worry about their looks.

As a L'Oreal ad once warned: "You think you're aging well? She thinks you're letting yourself go."

Unilever fell 1.4pc in early afternoon trading to €29.10 while L'Oreal fell 1.6pc to €126.80. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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