Couple's sunblock sells in many sectors

Last updated 05:00 18/02/2013
HEALTH CONSCIOUS: Hawke’s Bay couple Olly and Martha Van Arts with their Skinnies sunblock.

HEALTH CONSCIOUS: Hawke’s Bay couple Olly and Martha Van Arts with their Skinnies sunblock.

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Olly Van Arts was fed up with endlessly lathering on "white greasy" sunblock to protect him from the harsh Hawke's Bay sun.

So he talked to his wife, Martha, about launching their own sunblock.

They turned to Google to find their ideal sunblock: a non-greasy New Zealand-made gel with no preservatives that wouldn't sweat off.

The search engine led them to two Wellington scientists who had created such a product, but were yet to get it on to the shop shelf.

After signing on the manufacturers, the "tongue in cheek" brand Skinnies was born.

The product was launched during the 2011 summer, which turned out to be the cloudiest New Zealand summer in a long time, Mrs Van Arts said.

But that didn't slow their stride. "We went from a zero base, to online sales in the thousands and more than 300 retailers selling Skinnies," Mr Van Arts said.

Most of their online sales are domestic but orders are flowing in from Australia, and even Britain and the United States.

Mr Van Arts believes the "quirky" brand has been the secret to their success.

"It's such an interesting packaged product and tube that it works in the beauty sector, in the surf and snow sector, in fashion, high street stores, pharmacy stores and rural and trade stores."

However their main goal was to keep people safe in the sunshine.

Skinnies is certified to the Australia and New Zealand sunscreen standard, with a new batch being tested to meet a higher standard which comes into effect in 2015.

The company works on the philosophy that "a little goes a long way".

Mrs Van Arts said their product went six times as far as conventional sunscreen. Skinnies contained no water so a pea-sized blob covered the face, neck and ears.

The sunblock has no preservatives and the packaging they use is all recyclable.

They are investigating how to set up production and sales operations overseas. They are also considering expanding their range to include cosmetic and medical products.

The couple believe working from a smaller region has allowed them to keep costs down and being in a sunnier centre also boosts their brand.

"Because we're in sunny Hawke's Bay it does add more authenticity to the brand."

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