When Amanda Baldwin joined Supergoop as chief executive in 2016, like countless CEOs before her, she wrote her vision for the business on the back of a napkin: continue founder Holly Thaggard’s mission of making sunscreen exciting by pushing education, increasing marketing and creating innovative products.
Nearly seven years later, “we’re still doing all the same things that I wrote on the back of a napkin three weeks into this job,” she said.
That napkin plan sent Supergoop on a steady climb upward. In December 2021, investment management company Blackstone acquired a majority stake in the brand, valuing it between $600 million and $700 million. Its sales reached $250 million — up 65 percent from 2021.
“I firmly believe that we are category creators,” said Baldwin. “We have changed the conversion around ‘Why sunscreen, why does it matter?’”
Sun care has indeed become a booming category in beauty, and today’s market is much more developed and crowded than it was in 2005, when the brand was founded, or 2016, for that matter. Sephora and Ulta Beauty now both carry hundreds of SPF items, from makeup brands like Ilia and Nars to luxury labels like Dior and skin care labels like Innisfree, not to mention other SPF-focussed brands like Coola. Prestige sun care sales in the US reached $480 million last year, an increase of 35 percent from 2021. In Europe, they grew 20 percent year-over-year to €120.7 million ($131 million), according to market research firm Circana.
The stakes are now higher for Supergoop to stand out, and it has a plan to do so. European expansion is first up: Supergoop debuted in the UK with Cult Beauty in 2020, then Selfridges in 2021, and was part of Sephora’s London launch in March. Last week, Supergoop announced plans to launch in Sephora in countries including France, Italy and Germany. The brand will host a newsstand pop-up in Paris March 25 and 26, aimed at driving customers to local Sephora stores.
“We’ve never been in a rush as a business,” said Baldwin. “It felt like the right moment where we had the right scale, the right capabilities and the right talent in place to change the way the world thinks about sunscreen.”
Eyes on Europe
When Blackstone acquired Supergoop at the end of 2021, one of the immediate priorities was international expansion, with an eye to markets like China in particular.
But in the sunscreen category, which is often governed by stricter regulations than other beauty segments, breaking into new markets is an especially difficult task.
In Europe, having Sephora as a partner has helped pave the way, not only in giving it a brick-and-mortar point of sale in 16 new markets but also serving as an expert resource. The retailer provides assistance in securing international press, designing in-store displays and launching new products.
“They help guide you through a lot of things, that partnership is super valuable to us,” said Baldwin. Previously, Sephora helped the brand grow its presence in Asia, starting in 2017. The brand is in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
China’s ever-evolving post-Covid landscape has made entering the country more of a long term goal, said Ann Chung, managing director and global head of consumer for Blackstone Growth.
“We are a big brand, but we still have fairly limited resources. We have to think about where our resources are best applied today,” said Chung.
While the brand has become a leader in the US, expanding means competing with a different group of brands, including a number of leading Asian brands like Neogen, Sun Essence and Etude, in a new sales environment. Supergoop is targeting regions where sun care education is already widespread. It’s also zeroing its efforts on its most engaged consumer, the traditional beauty shopper, who often spread the word about the brand on their own.
“Rather than trying to find men, moms, the peripheral beauty person [or] outdoors people, we’re now focused on our most receptive audiences,” said Chung. “A couple of years ago, we would have thought that [was] everybody, everywhere.”
Growing the ‘Goop
As sunscreen brands lean more into skin care and skin care brands embrace SPF, Supergoop has to work even harder to stand out, even at home.
Its growth plan centres on continuing to build out its assortment to keep pace with competitors, including consumer favourites like Tula, Saie, Tatcha, all of which have launched SPF in the past three years, and younger SPF brands like nostalgic Vacation and the elevated Soleil Toujours.
This year Supergoop upped its SKU count to over 40, introducing new moisturisers, gels and eyeshadows, up from 30 in 2020. The brand also will build off the success of its best sellers. This month it launched more shades of its Glow Screen, a glittery tinted sunscreen, including “Dawn,” a pearly-pink tone and “Sunset,” a deep bronze. With its Unseen Sunscreen, it launched a mineral setting powder and a version for the body.
The breadth of its SPF range will remain a big differentiator for the brand, as many others are unlikely to expand so deeply in the category, said Beauty Independent editor Claire McCormack.
Supergoop views talking about sun care and its products as paramount, particularly as there’s also more people talking about daily sunscreen use today, from dermatologists on TikTok to celebrities and influencers.
“Sunscreen wasn’t cool like it is now … [everyone] is beating that drum of ‘Wear SPF everyday.’ It’s almost like the times have caught up with [Supergoop]” McCormack said.
The brand did its first digital marketing campaign in 2018, launched Instagram and an influencer marketing segment in around the same time and followed Gen-Z to TikTok in 2020. Supergoop continues to up its advertising spend year-over-year, said Baldwin, as growing awareness will be key in its next stage of growth.
“This is a brand that speaks to a wide variety of people and audiences. Our ambition is to be the authority in SPF protection,” said Chung.