Overall skincare sales may be slowing down, but not RoC Skincare, a 65-year-old brand sold at mass-market doors. With makeup sales soaring, skincare volume flattened from its 5% consistent month-to-month gains in 2021. But that’s not the case at RoC.
“We were doing four times the rate of growth of overall skincare when sales were growing at 5%; now that has leveled off but we are growing even faster,” said Fernando Acosta, Chief Executive Officer of RoC Skincare, which Gryphon Investors acquired from Johnson & Johnson in 2019 (Gryphon also has a majority stake in Milani cosmetics). Year-to-date in 2022, RoC has grown 21%, versus the category at +0.1%, according to Nielsen total facial skincare (except cleansers, acne, and makeup) year to date for the period ended May 21, 2022.
RoC’s secret could be its success courting younger customers who formerly comprised a small portion of the anti-aging skincare market. Now 18- to 24-year-olds are starting skincare regimens earlier than their parents, explained Acosta, a seasoned beauty industry veteran whose experience includes roles at Avon and Unilever before joining RoC Skincare in 2019.
“During the Zoom-boom we saw a trend where people started looking not just at acne or lines and wrinkles, but overall skincare benefits and the impact of science-based products,” he said. That trend was driven by Gen Z and millennials, who became aware of the importance of preventative skincare.
“There is no need to go the route of fillers—and some people are afraid of needles and looking for alternatives,” Acosta said. Compounding that, younger consumers who start using fillers and Botox early have to maintain the practice.
Acosta suggests topical skincare alternatives will help return robust sales to the skincare industry. A case in point is RoC Skincare's new Derm Correxion Fill + Treat Serum, made with triple hyaluronic acids and retinol, as well as swertiamarin, which was used by the US military to treat sunburns.
“We clinically tested the effectiveness [of the serum] and it delivers a significant reduction of lines and wrinkles; in some cases, comparable to in office treatments. We believe that this could be a way to delay the need for injections.” Acosta cited results showing 100% improvement in the appearance of hard-to-treat wrinkles after four weeks, and 97% noted fine lines and wrinkles were visibly plumped and filled immediately.
To court the Genzennials, RoC Skincare tapped the power of social media which, admittedly, RoC was behind the times in adapting. When Acosta came to RoC, he had more personal Instagram followers than the brand’s account. Today the verified Instagram account @rocskincare has 121,000 followers.
Like many beauty brands, RoC nets tremendous traction using TikTok. Harnessing the power of dermatologists with a TikTok presence, RoC promoted its Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules—a very visual product to demonstrate.
RoC Skincare attracts more 125 million views on TikTok for both sponsored and non-sponsored posts. Acosta said the brand sees an immediate sales spike when TikTokers mention its products. “We have to go to younger consumers where they are,” he said.
The company also didn’t have an e-commerce site when Acosta joined the brand just before the pandemic. Acting quickly, RoC launched online sales and, along with exposure on Amazon, e-commerce sales more than tripled. The brand uses “before and after” visuals to illustrate its effectiveness, which works well online.
To stay competitive, RoC Skincare listens—to consumers, global trends, retailers, and dermatologists. “We are also consumer-obsessed—making sure we constantly hear what consumers need and how much they are willing to pay,” he said.
Acosta also keeps tabs on trends in Asia, which traditionally is ahead of the US. Staying in touch with dermatologists is also crucial, and RoC has a dermatology advisory board. “They help us know what is coming next,” he said.
Acosta personally meets with retailers and reacts to their needs. When Target requested a patch delivery form, RoC Skincare developed its Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Target Patches, which quickly became a bestseller.
RoC doesn’t jump on buzzy trends, but when something takes off in prestige, the company can produce accessibly priced options. “We look at prestige and when we can bring out formulas that match, rival or perform better than prestige—prestige quality at mass prices.” A case in point is the newly launched Crepe Repair priced at $29.99—half the cost of premium options.
RoC Skincare’s efforts are paying off in physical stores. The brand secured better shelf positioning—moving from the bottom location in many stores to eye level. The tightly edited assortment pumps out higher productivity than the SKU-intensive assortments of many competitors. Eye creams are especially productive—one is sold every 30 seconds, said Acosta.
For the second half of 2022, Acosta promises more innovations within RoC’s core strengths. In research, RoC discovered that 70% of its new customers are coming for brand innovation. To capitalize on that, RoC expanded beyond its retinol benefits to experiment with key ingredients that deliver additional benefits like hydration and brightening.
Rising prices, he reasoned, could drive more customers to masstige brands. “Some people may not want to spend $80 on a product when they can get a dermatologist recommended product at a drugstore,” he said. “We are the number one recommended product by derms in traditional media [based on Cision data].”
RoC Skincare is currently sold in accounts including Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreens, Costco, Ulta Beauty, and Amazon.
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