New VC-Backed Brand Minu Is Out To Show Mineral Sunscreen Doesn’t Have To Involve Compromises

The sun care space is confusing. Adam Guggenheim and Christine Koppinger are on a mission to diminish that confusion with Minu, their new brand centered on premium mineral sunscreen designed to be part of consumers’ daily skincare and makeup routines.

“There’s too much noise, there’s too much controversy,” says Guggenheim. “While chemical sunscreens are never going to go away, and there’s always going to be need for them, the opportunity is to avoid all that and make it a non-factor. You don’t want to have somebody having to worry about reading the back of the label and thinking, ‘Do I have a good one? Do I have a bad one?’ We just skip the entire problem and go all mineral, which is universally embraced not just in the United States, but around the world.”

Launching exclusively in retail at Credo, Minu is starting with a single product priced at $58 for a 50-ml. size: Brightening Sunscreen Minerals Broad-Spectrum SPF 30 Gel-Cream. In another move to cut down confusion, the tinted product is formulated to be worn by people with skin types and tones that span the spectrum. It features what Minu calls Mineral Superblend, a proprietary mix of minerals with plant extracts, vitamins and peptides, including zinc, titanium dioxide and vitamins B3, B5 and E.

Launching exclusively in retail at Credo, Minu is starting with a single product priced at $58 for a 50-ml. size: Brightening Sunscreen Minerals Broad-Spectrum SPF 30 Gel-Cream.

“Our superpower is not that we’re an influencer. We don’t have a celebrity behind us, but we do have rockstar technology,” says Guggenheim. “We’ve been working on this core technology that will go across our products for up to five years to different degrees. It took multiple years to create Mineral Superblend to get exceptional sun care to meet luxurious skincare. That’s a very clear idea, but incredibly hard to do.”

To enter Credo, the clean beauty retailer that carries sunscreens from Le Prunier, RMS, Kinfield, True Botanicals, Kosas in-house brand Eleven by Venus Williams and more, Minu had to hurdle a high bar. Melanoma survivor Annie Jackson, CEO and co-founder at Credo, says, “Many brands position themselves as ‘not leaving a white cast’ or ‘absorbing quickly,’ and it just isn’t the case. It’s why we carry very few brands of sunscreen at Credo. Mineral SPF brands have to not just meet, but exceed customers’ expectations on formula, and Minu really delivered here with their Mineral Superblend technology. It feels like a moisturizer and that’s important if you are using the correct amount of product as an SPF.”

Guggenheim and Koppinger know the sunscreen market inside and out. Guggenheim spent about 17 years at Johnson & Johnson, where he led global strategy, innovation and communication for Neutrogena before becoming global director of brand at Proactiv under its former owner Nestle. Koppinger met Guggenheim at Nestle. She was a global digital innovation marketing manager at the company after a stint as associate manager for Accenture Open Innovation/Ventures.

To complement their consumer packaged goods backgrounds, Guggenheim and Koppinger tapped dermatologist Meghan Dickman to help inform Minu’s formulas. Laura Singleton is the brand’s formulator and head of product. A pacesetter in the sun care segment for decades, she’s been involved in multimillion-dollar projects for Johnson & Johnson, Gillette and Nivea and was instrumental in producing Johnson & Johnson’s dry-touch ultra sheer and wet skin technologies.

“We don’t have a celebrity behind us, but we do have rockstar technology.”

When Guggenheim and Koppinger began developing Minu, a name derived from “minerals in the nude,” they raised what Guggenheim describes as a “significant” amount of funding from friends and family. Subsequently, they participated in venture capital firm XRC Ventures’ accelerator, a program that doles out $100,000 to $300,000 to members of its cohorts, and received investment from VC firm Selva Ventures, backer of Crown Affair, OneSkin, Kinship and Cake. Minu didn’t share how much it’s raised. Last year, Selva Ventures told Beauty Independent it would be writing $1 million to $2 million checks.

In evaluating brands for XRC Ventures’ accelerator, Andrew Ross, senior advisor and venture partner at the firm, says, “We look for amazing products, fantastic founders and a fast-growing and substantial market opportunity. Minu’s breakthrough mineral-based formula is outstanding and is a platform for a new generation of prestige, high-quality, sensorial mineral-based skincare that goes beyond outdated definitions of ‘clean.’ In addition to being kind people, Adam and Christine bring a unique combination of industry expertise and entrepreneurial drive, and it has been an absolute pleasure to be part of their journey so far.”

XRC Ventures and Selva Ventures are among a group of investment firms that have been closely tracking the sunscreen category of late to identify brands that could follow in the footsteps of the likes of Coola and Supergoop, brands that were acquired by SC Johnson and Blackstone, respectively, to reach considerable volume. The firm Aria Growth Partners recently poured around $10 million into sun care brand Ultra Violette. Investors jumping into the sun care segment are betting it will accelerate as regular sunscreen wear extends from skincare aficionados to the broader consumer population and its seasonality decreases.

“For a number of reasons, most people don’t wear sunscreen daily despite it being the best way to prevent skin cancer, sunburns, hyperpigmentation and other signs of aging,” says Madeline Kaplan, principal at Selva Ventures. “With decades of deep industry expertise, Minu has created the product we’ve been searching for and a beautiful brand that stands for simplicity, excellence and inclusivity. We are thrilled to be partnering with Minu and for people to get their hands on this truly special product.”

Minu co-founders Christine Koppinger and Adam Guggenheim

Minu is kicking off in omnichannel distribution. Along with Credo, it will be selling on its own website and experimenting with social commerce, specifically TikTok Shop. For its retail and influencer strategies, Minu is interested in partnering with tastemakers that can lend the brand credibility. Guggenheim says, “The idea is to stay very focused when it comes to direct-to-consumer and very limited retail partnerships because every place you show up is a reflection of your brand value.”

Minu hired Shaz Madani Studio to assist it with its minimalist, gender-neutral, earthy and sophisticated packaging. The brand’s boxes have a rock-like texture to hint at minerals, and its airless pump bottles are constructed from 80%-plus post-consumer recycled materials. Even their spring is plastic to facilitate curbside recycling.

From a merchandise perspective, for the majority of its first year on the market, Minu will concentrate on Brightening Sunscreen Minerals. It declined to divulge a sales projection for the year. Facial sun care products aimed at women to 25 to 44 years old are expected to continue to be at the heart of its assortment in the future, although it anticipates releasing skincare products without ultraviolet filters as well.

“Near term, obviously it’s important to sell through inventory both for us and also importantly for Credo and to understand the consumer and make sure that their repeat purchase rate is strong,” says Koppinger. “We’re pretty confident that we’ll have strong repeat due to what we’ve put into the product and the feedback already on it.”