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Retailers are selling prevention by the ounce to take advantage of a rapidly growing sun care category. Exposure to education spurred by increased rates of skin cancer has led consumers to buy more sun care products and manufacturers to offer inventive solutions, supermarket executives and other experts told SN. There are many more cases of skin cancer than there have been in the past, Sue Vodika,

Retailers are selling prevention by the ounce to take advantage of a rapidly growing sun care category.

Exposure to education spurred by increased rates of skin cancer has led consumers to buy more sun care products and manufacturers to offer inventive solutions, supermarket executives and other experts told SN.

“There are many more cases of skin cancer than there have been in the past,” Sue Vodika, HBC buyer and category manager for Bashas', Chandler, Ariz., said. “Many manufacturers are coming out with products that have an SPF in the 50s this year, and that is leading growth in the category.”

In what can only be seen as a healthy response to skin cancer-related research and education, sun care category sales have risen 12.5% to $514.6 million in the last 52 weeks ending Dec. 31, 2006, for supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandise outlets, excluding Wal-Mart Stores, according to figures from Information Resources Inc., Chicago.

“People know there is a danger with exposing themselves to the sun, and this has made sun care a growth category,” said Mary McMillen, director of consumer affairs at Buehler Food Markets, Wooster, Ohio.

More than one million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, according to the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation, Alexandria, Va. The foundation provides community outreach, prevention information, and a number of other educational initiatives for consumers.

Similarly, the Shade Foundation of America, Scottsdale, Ariz., which was founded by Shonda Schilling, melanoma survivor and wife of major league baseball player Curt Schilling, is dedicated to prevention education. Shade has found that the incidence of melanoma more than tripled among Caucasians worldwide between 1980 and 2003. “Skin cancer rates have risen dramatically since 1980 and affect all skin types regardless of ethnicity or skin color,” Shade spokeswoman Daphne Coulter said.

Increased incidents of melanoma, the most severe form of skin cancer, are attributable to several factors, including the rising popularity of tanning and the “tanned look,” causing consumers to take vacations to areas with intense sun rays and to use tanning beds year-round, and the thinning of the earth's ozone layer in certain parts of the world, with skin cancer rates highest now in New Zealand and Australia, according to the Shade Foundation.

Baby Boomers and parents of young children are most aware today of the need for sunscreen, said Bob Corcuera, HBC category manager for Penn Traffic Co., Syracuse, N.Y. “Baby Boomers use sunscreen daily much of the time, especially if they are active and outdoors doing activities like skiing or hiking.”

Penn Traffic keeps a limited amount of sun care stock-keeping units available in the winter season, and is sure to have sun products out in plenty of time for summer, Corcuera said. “I believe in speed-to-shelf, meaning I get it out there very early every season.”

By “very early,” Corcuera means Feb. 4. “By getting early sales out there for spring-breakers and people going down south in February, I plant the seed in my customers' minds that they know where to get sun care,” he said.

People are most concerned about their hands and face in the winter, McMillen said. “We keep some sun care products available in the winter, because people use them whenever they go outside, for skiing, snowboarding and shoveling the walk.”

In addition to making sunscreen available in the winter months, manufacturers are adding sunblock components to a variety of products made for everyday use. “The future of sun care is that it's going to come in almost all your products,” said Rachael McFarland, cosmetics research analyst, Mintel International, Chicago. “It won't just be in products like moisturizer and body lotion, it's going to be in cleansers and foundation and makeup products.”

While many daily cosmetic and moisturizing products already offer an SPF of 15, some daily moisturizers have increased their SFP to 30 or more, said Katherine Bowers, M.D., president of the Massachusetts Academy of Dermatology, Norwell, Mass.


Ultraviolet-A, or UVA, are long-wave ultraviolet rays that penetrate more deeply into the skin and are thought to cause wrinkles. Ultraviolet-B, or UVB, are short-wave ultraviolet rays and are the main cause of sunburn. Both are thought to be responsible for melanoma.

A new type of sunscreen compound was approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Rockville, Md., in July 2006. The compound, available from L'Oréal, New York, has been available in Europe and Canada for years and offers much better protection in the UVA range than what is currently available, Bowers said.

The compound, Mexoryl SX, is sold under the name Anthelios SX from La Roche-Posay. “Most sunscreens do a good job of protecting against burning UVB rays, but new attention is now being focused on UVA rays, which are also a cause of skin cancer and sun damage,” Bowers said.

Neutrogena also offers UVA protection with its Helioplex SPF 55, Bowers said. The company stabilized the compound avobenzone, keeping it from breaking down easily when exposed to the sun, and therefore making it better at shielding skin from UVA rays.

Protective ability has become an important asset as more individuals become aware of the risks involved with extensive exposure to the sun, said Jim Wisner, president, Wisner Marketing Group, Libertyville, Ill. “Products have become less cosmetic and more therapeutic or preventative, and that is why people are buying them.”

One brand, recommended to Bashas' by the Shade Foundation, Blue Lizard from Crown Laboratories, Johnson City, Tenn., is, “doing exceptional,” Vodika said. All of Blue Lizard's sunscreen products are packaged in a “Smart Bottle” that changes colors when it is exposed to UV light. “The product has a heavy base, to stay on and really protect. It is also very expensive relative to other products, running about $10 per 5-ounce bottle.”

However, Bashas' leaders for growth last year were Banana Boat and Coppertone, Vodika said. “Banana Boat sold a lot of the continuous-spray-application products, while Water Babies SPF 50 was the biggest seller for Coppertone. Water Babies has been around a very long time, so it has a very loyal customer base with mothers.”

National numbers from IRI show Coppertone, from Schering-Plough HealthCare Products, Berkeley Heights, N.J., coming in at No. 1 last year with a 12% dollar sales increase to $55.1 million. Banana Boat, from Sun Pharmaceuticals Corp., Dover, Del., came in second with a 24.7% sales increase to $52 million.

The newest product for kids at Scolari's Food and Drug Co., Sparks, Nev., is Ocean Potion from Sun & Skin Care, Cocoa, Fla., according to Nick Baraincan, director of nonfoods. “A few other companies tried Ocean Potion last year, so we are trying it this year, and it seems to be doing really well.”

Sun care education has a huge impact on parents and children, driving some of the sales of children's products, Baraincan said. “Kids realize that if you don't use sun block you are shortening the life of your skin, and many brands have a full array of kids' products to answer that.”
Additional reporting: Dan Alaimo

Spreading Awareness

While sun care products continue to be recognized as vital to the everyday needs of consumers, retailers and their customers can benefit from a little well-placed information.

“The more education the better,” said Katherine Bowers, M.D., president of the Massachusetts Academy of Dermatology, Norwell, Mass.

Retailers could take a few simple steps, such as advertising consumer-friendly websites or putting sunscreens with an SPF under 15 on lower shelves, she said.

Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., provides free information for customers through a rack located at its pharmacies, spokeswoman Maria Brous told SN.

“In July we cross-promote with our pharmacy department to raise awareness for Skin Cancer Awareness Month,” she said.

Penn Traffic Co., Syracuse, N.Y., has had sun safety pamphlets from Coppertone that are a part of the Coppertone fixtures the company displays, “so it's free and take-away,” said Bob Corcuera, HBC category manager.

The supermarket also features sun care-specific items in its “Fresh Ideas” newsletter during the peak months of May and June, Corcuera said.

Providing education is important, Corcuera said. “Even though there are a lot of products available with high SPFs, customers can forget that those products need to be applied multiple times during the course of the day.”

The sunscreen SPF rating is calculated by comparing the amount of time needed to produce a sunburn on sunscreen-protected skin to the amount of time needed to cause a sunburn on unprotected skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, Washington.

Bashas', Chandler, Ariz., promotes the basics of sun care by cross-promoting sunscreen with other summer goods, as well as by doing a protective lip balm giveaway, Sue Vodika, HBC buyer and category manager for Bashas', told SN.

Bashas' also affiliates with the Shade Foundation of America, Scottsdale. Ariz., which provides community education and outreach, by carrying sun care items that are recommended by the foundation, including Blue Lizard Sunscreen from Crown Laboratories, Johnson City, Tenn., and Radicool swimwear and play clothes for children, from Radicool Australia, Clayton Victoria, Australia.
— W.T.