Natural needs, variety could fuel the sun care category

BY David Salazar

Sun care no longer is just about warm weather and trips to the golf course, tennis court or beach. While the outdoorsy shopper still is a primary driver of the category, an increasing interest in products for daily use is opening up the segment to more shoppers throughout the year.

“Overall, we are seeing a big push toward wearing SPF on a daily basis, not just in the summertime or when people are outdoors expecting a lot of sunlight,” said Anastasia Tobias, senior brand manager for Banana Boat at Edgewell Personal Care. “They’re looking to be proactive in protecting their skin.”

Additionally, as in most other categories, there is an increasing demand for products that are free from ingredients that shoppers perceive as harmful and that seek to reduce potential harm to their skin and coral reefs as local governments and the Food and Drug Administration put more scrutiny on what’s in sunscreen.

There’s good reason that manufacturers are looking to meet consumers’ demands in the category. IRI, the Chicago-based market research firm, pegged the market for suntan lotion and oil at $1.5 billion for the 52-week period ended Feb. 24. Though not seeing earth-shattering growth, the category grew at a steady 1.5% in terms of dollar sales, with unit sales increasing by 2.2%.

“Consumers are looking for more than just SPF protection in the sun care,” said Thomas Kurnava, vice president of U.S. sales at Indianapolis, Ind.-based Australian Gold. “They are looking for secondary and skin care benefits in their products. The category growth is definitely coming through the higher SPF’s, as well as the products and brands that are focusing on clearer products, ingredients and labels.

Natural Now
Health consciousness no longer is simply confined to what consumers eat and drink. Increasingly, it is changing how consumers look at every category.

Nova Covington, CEO of Goddess Garden, started her brand when her daughter’s allergies prevented her from using most consumer products. Now, she said, what used to be niche is becoming more commonplace — driven by how shoppers think about their health.

“I think there’s a big change in that 10 years ago, no one saw their skin as an organ,” Covington said. “When we’ve done our research recently, more than 65% of people know what they put on their skin absorbs through their skin, so in terms of consumer education that’s a huge difference.”

Covington said that consumers are particularly interested in mineral sunscreens, those that use zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide that sit on top of the skin to block UVA and UVB rays, rather than chemical UV blockers.

A big driver of interest in mineral-based products has been legislation — most notably in Hawaii — that look to curb such chemicals as oxybenzone and octinoxate in the interest of protecting reefs, whose bleaching legislators have said the chemicals contribute to. These come as the FDA reviews what chemicals it considers to be generally recognized as safe and effective.

Goddess Garden recently rolled out its line of reef-safe mineral-based SPF 50 sun care products. The six-SKU line includes lotions and sticks, as well as sport, children’s and baby formulations.

The shift in consumer behavior also is partially generational, according to Brooke Strasser, special projects and media sales at Caribbean Sol, based in Orlando, Fla. Founded by Strasser’s father, Bruce Shanks, the company focuses on natural and biodegradable plant- and mineral-based sun products. The company offers Sol Guard sunscreen in SPFs 8 through 30, as well as an SPF 20 Faces Only sunscreen that Strasser said is popular for daily use and includes Hawaiian sea plant extracts.

“My generation — I’m 26 years old — is more aware and does more research about what we’re putting in and on our bodies,” Strasser said. “Plus, a lot of the people that are taking the place of buyers in the retail world are the millennial generation, and they’re also concerned with making sure they have a unique and conscious brand within their stores.”

She said that reef safety is a byproduct of formulating products meant to be gentle on skin. “Our skin is just as sensitive as a coral. It’s 100% about saving the reefs and the marine life, but it’s also about saving your skin so you’re not dealing with skin cancer or irritated skin when you’re out in the sun,” she said.

Virginia Beach, Va.-based 3rd Rock Sunblock’s sunscreen aims to bring the engineering background of founder Guerry Grune to bear on sun care to offer a zinc oxide-based product that’s completely unique. Formulated with vegetable glycerin and chelated zinc oxide to increase the product’s pH and boost water resistance and gentleness on the skin, 3rd Rock Sunblock’s sunscreen is 100% food-grade edible.

“What’s happened is we’ve taken the product that lifeguards put on their nose and we’ve made it into a lotion,” Grune said, noting that interest for the product, which is offered in unscented, aromatherapeutic and infant formulations, has been increasing.

It isn’t just smaller companies that have noticed the uptick in demand for simpler sun care, either. Edgewell’s Tobias said the company’s Banana Boat Simply Protect line — formulated with 25% fewer ingredients than its other offerings and free of oxybenzone, parabens, oils and fragrances — launched last year and is expanding this year with Simply Protect Sensitive. “We’ve been continuing to see lift toward products that are made with simplified ingredients,” she said. Regarding reef safety, Tobias said that a review of Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic products found that two-thirds of their offerings are free of oxybenzone and octinoxate. “This allows us to give consumers the choice to use products that are reef friendly, but also continue to get that same trusted sun protection they know and love from brands they use,” she said.

Among needs that manufacturers are trying to meet is creating products that can go hand in hand with a beauty regimen as more consumers focus on daily sunscreen application.

Australian Gold offers a Botanical 50 SPF Tinted Face product that is a mineral lotion meant to work as both a sunscreen and a BB cream, and Banana Boat is rolling out a face-specific product Tobias said was aimed at encouraging daily usage. Johnson & Johnson’s Neutrogena brand offers its Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Sunscreen lines in two SKUs, SPF 30 and SPF 50. The line contains hyaluronic acid meant to help with skin moisturizing.

“Hydro Boost sunscreen doesn’t feel like a traditional sunscreen. It’s lightweight, can act as a makeup primer and is fast absorbing/nongreasy,” a J&J spokesperson said. “It’s also great for all skin tones as it doesn’t leave any kind of white cast on the skin when applied.”

Edgewell’s Hawaiian Tropic brand also is looking to position itself as a part of consumers’ beauty routines. The brand recently added to the Hawaiian Tropic Antioxidant Plus line of products by introducing an oil-free, ultra-weightless SPF 30 mist meant for a quick, refreshing application.

Variety is Key
Even with the macro trends in the category, what consumers want and need from a sunscreen product varies greatly from person to person. Edgewell’s Tobias highlighted the importance of having a wide assortment of products.

“We think it’s vital that retailers offer sun care products in a variety of formats, different SPF levels and different forms to meet consumers’ preferences and needs,” she said. “Some are more open to using a lotion, others prefer a spray, and there really are differences in behavior. It’s critical there’s the options.”

Goddess Garden’s Covington said that a popular formulation for the brand has been its stick offering, which she said could be put on strip clips. Variety also is important for Caribbean Sol, which offers a range of products from SPF 8 to SPF 30, with the former offering the potential for tanning — though the company recommends starting with higher SPF and gradually going lower.

Sport offerings also are key. Melanie Leenhouts, U.S. brand manager at Biosolis, a Belgian maker of organic mineral sunscreens with U.S. headquarters in New York, said the company’s products are used by triathletes who said that even when sweating, it doesn’t streak or wear off. Though the products have a higher price point, Leenhouts said that, “You’re paying for that formula that’s not going to streak. Plus, with the mineral formulation, a little bit spreads really far. If you use it like it’s meant to be used, it will last you a whole season.”

Neutrogena has been rolling out higher SPF formulations of its products. The brand’s Cool Dry Sport Sunscreen Spray SPF 100 is designed to stay on through sweat and features a FullReach design meant to make it easy to apply the spray to difficult-to-reach spots.

“Our focus on SPF 100 is also inspired by our research recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, which showed that SPF 100 plus provides significantly greater protection from UV rays than SPF 50 plus in actual use settings,” J&J’s spokesperson said. “Knowing that most consumers under apply and forget to reapply sunscreen, higher SPF values are more important than ever in the fight against skin cancer.”

Offering various SPF strengths and products for active users isn’t the only way retailers might set their assortment apart. J&J’s spokesperson highlighted the ability of its Hydro Boost sunscreen to not leave a white cast on skin. One emerging brand is looking to prevent the same thing by having a product that doesn’t start off white to begin with. Block Island Brands, whose founder Lenard Zide — a lawyer by trade — started with small-batch soap on Rhode Island’s Block Island, offers its Darker Skin Tone, or DST, line of sun care products. The line features a literal contrast to white sunscreen by coming in a tint. He said that it also was partly driven by what he saw as a lack of products for multicultural consumers.

“What we do is make our lotion tinted, so that when people put it on their skin it doesn’t come out white,” Zide said. “It’s not a bronzer and it’s no different, but it’s an acknowledgement that there are people of different colors out there.” He noted the company’s DST line outsells its other soaps and sunscreens 5-to-1.

Merchandising Matters
Variety also extends to how products are shared with consumers. Covington said that Goddess Garden — which offers endcaps and shippers — has used smaller-sized products to drive consumers’ interest through bins near the checkout.

“It’s a great thing to put at the front of your store because it increases turns by putting paid samples at the checkout,” Covington said. “Someone buys a cute little tube that looks exactly like the big tube, so instead of wondering where they got a sample in a packet they threw away, they still have it.”

Block Island Brand’s Zide said that impulse still can play a big role in the category, which makes floor stands a compelling proposition for retailers, and Biosolis’ Leenhouts said her company’s counter display can help drive sales at the checkout.

Ultimately, most manufacturers agreed that education, whether through in-store signage and branding, in carton educational cards about applying mineral sunscreen properly, or online through social media, can play a big role in helping consumers know what product they need to buy, ultimately leading to a purchase.

“Displays or merchandising that help consumers shop the category based on their need, and educating them on the different products would be extremely helpful,” Australian Gold’s Kurnava said.


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