Hawaiian Brand Kuleana Launches Sunscreen Against The Backdrop Of Its Home State’s Oxybenzone and Octinoxate Ban
Kuleana addresses environmentalism from several angles with its expansion into sun care.
An offshoot of renewable energy company Pacific Biodiesel, the year-old skincare brand’s sunscreen is launching shortly after its home state, Hawaii, leapt into the forefront of the debate around controversial sunscreen ingredients oxybenzone and octinoxate by instituting a ban on them going into effect in 2021 with the purpose of safeguarding coral reefs. Its UVA/UVB SPF 30 formula contains 15% zinc oxide designed to apply sheer that’s paired with sunflower and macadamia nut oils produced locally by Pacific Biodiesel.
“We are in a state that understands the environment is its economy, and we need to protect it,” says Joy Galatro, marketing director at Pacific Biodiesel and its beauty subsidiary Maiden Hawaii Naturals LLC. “We started working on the sunscreen over a year ago, and we knew that reef-safe sunscreen was in demand. People were talking about it around here. There’s absolutely an awareness of this type of product, and it’s great timing for us to be part of the halo of consumer awareness around reef-safe sunscreen.”
As shoppers and retailers search for alternatives to chemical sunscreens – it’s estimated 70% of the sunscreens on the market contain the ingredients that will be disallowed in Hawaii – Kuleana’s offering stands to gain ground. The brand has high hopes for it being a strong performer among its 10 stockkeeping units and already has been in negotiations with resorts to provide it in poolside bulk dispensers to guests seeking to maintain the exquisite ocean that drew them to Hawaii.
“Visitors coming here have always been told to wear sunscreen because the sun’s always shining here and they need it, but they often don’t realize the harmful ecological impacts of the ingredients,” says Galatro. “Education will be a huge piece of what we’re doing. Resort companies want to have a product that they can talk about. They can tell their guests why the state has banned certain sunscreen ingredients, and say, ‘Here’s a choice for you from a company based on Maui.’”
“We started working on the sunscreen over a year ago, and we knew that reef-safe sunscreen was in demand. People were talking about it around here. There’s absolutely an awareness of this type of product, and it’s great timing for us to be part of the halo of consumer awareness around reef-safe sunscreen.”
Even before its sunscreen, Kuleana had been striking distribution deals. It’s currently available at about 20 hotels, gift stores and tourism-related concepts in Hawaii, and current distribution partners may take on the sunscreen. Galatro notes the marine tour companies Extended Horizons and Trilogy rely on Pacific Biodiesel’s biofuel, and it makes sense for them to introduce Kuleana’s sunscreen to their customers so they can stave off sunburns as they explore the water. The Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort incorporates Kuleana’s sunflower oil in its massage back bar and recycles the sunflower oil it doesn’t use in massages.
Robert King founded Pacific Biodiesel, Hawaii’s only commercial producer of liquid biofuels, in 1995. The company was established to recycle cooking oil from restaurants that would otherwise be deposited in a land fill. It later moved into processing macadamia nut oil from macadamia nut waste products and has since extended into processing oil from sunflowers. Today, Pacific Biodiesel yields 5.5 million gallons of biodiesel annually and supports agri-tourism by giving tours of its Maui Sunflower Farm, where the sunflower oil in Kuleana’s products comes from.
“Education will be a huge piece of what we’re doing. Resort companies want to have a product that they can talk about. They can tell their guests why the state has banned certain sunscreen ingredients, and say, ‘Here’s a choice for you from a company based on Maui.’”
Maiden Hawaii Naturals was formed to broach the beauty industry. In addition to marketing Kuleana, it sells sunflower and macadamia nut oils to third-party beauty companies. “Macadamia nut oil as a cosmetic ingredient is really a rock star,” says Galatro. “It has incredible properties to nourish the skin without being greasy. It helps formulas stay emulsified, and it has a really high level of omega-7 palmitoleic acid.”
While showcasing ingredients cultivated in Hawaii, Maiden Hawaii Naturals set out to differentiate Kuleana from the Hawaiian brand crowds. Galatro mentions it avoids classic Hawaiian scents such as plumeria – the sunscreen is unscented – and fonts typically associated with Hawaiian merchandise. Watercolor graphics on the packaging hint at the oils in the products, and the brand name Kuleana breaks out of a box in the logo to signal that the parent company thinks outside the box. The word “kuleana” means a personal sense of responsibility in Hawaiian. A portion of the proceeds from sales of Kuleana’s $18, 3-oz. sunscreen will be dedicated to the Sierra Club of Hawaii.
Kuleana currently is responsible for a small percentage of Pacific Biodiesel’s overall business, but Galatro expresses optimism about its potential. So far, its anti-aging Rejuve line with a beauty oil and facial cleanser has been a bestseller. With the sunscreen in tow, Galatro foresees Kuleana having a broader retail reach than it does with premium skincare products priced from $15 to $75.
“There’s a wider universe of consumers for the sunscreen. The type of outlets that may have not wanted a higher-end beauty system may absolutely want a sunscreen product. We are really enthusiastic about getting it out into the marketplace,” she says. “We keep our eyes on other products out there to make sure we’re competitive, but we really see ours being different because it’s tied to the bigger story of sustainability.”