MiMC is a company that offers mineral cosmetics made only from natural ingredients, and they’ve teamed up with Fermenstation Co., Ltd. to develop a new product — “Protect Mist (Rice)”, a disinfectant spray for masks and handkerchiefs.
Founded in 2007, MiMC, is a pioneering clean beauty brand in Japan that manufactures and sells cosmetics made from only carefully selected natural ingredients — that include minerals, plants, and fruits — and completely forgoes the use of chemically synthesized components.
Kotobuki Kitajima is both the CEO of MIMC Co., Ltd. and a developer of the MiMC brand, with her scientific credentials including a master’s degree from Tohoku University.
MiMC’s makeup items reduce the burden on the skin as they’re easy to remove just with soap and they feature vivid coloring and quality texturing. This has led them to be adopted not only by natural and organic-oriented consumers but also by many hair and makeup artists as well as models. The brand’s popularity has mainly spread by word-of-mouth, and since its inception, it has seen steadily increasing sales and profits. Especially since 2017, when the popularity of clean beauty began expanding on a global level, the business has been growing by over 140% every year.
Trying their hand at premium ethanol
With the spread of COVID-19 causing an increased demand for alcohol-based disinfectants, the company thought to try their hand at creating a clean beauty-based hand sanitizer instilled with the power of nature — such as the concept of MiMC. Thus, they approached Fermenstation Co., Ltd., a maker of premium organic ethanol.
Explains Kitajima, “We found out that Fermenstation is a driving force behind regional recycling projects that avoid the production of waste, and this included work in extracting ethanol from organic rice grown in dormant rice fields and using the fermented residue from that extraction as animal feed as well as the raw ingredients for cosmetics. We thought that we’d love to use that in our MiMC products.”
However, they realized it wasn’t easy to create products made purely from premium ethanol, since it would affect the retail price. Kitajima proposed to Fermenstation CEO Lina Sakai for the company to act not only as a supplier of ethanol but also to manufacture the product itself. This led to Fermenstation’s first business opportunity as an OEM.
During the product development phase, both Kitajima and Sakai were unable to visit Fermenstation’s factory in Iwate Prefecture in person due to Covid-19, making the planning and production process 100% remote via Zoom meetings with factory staff. Though even under these challenging circumstances, they’ve still managed to conduct repeated prototyping to complete “Protect Mist (Rice)”, a spray product with a faint scent of its raw ingredient — organic rice.
Fermenstation decided to use this product as an opportunity to not only sell premium ethanol as a cosmetics ingredient but to also expand out into an OEM/ODM business that utilizes premium ethanol. With inquiries coming in from companies wanting to develop products with clean beauty ingredients, Fermenstation is currently working on multiple new projects including the production of a mask spray made from regional ingredients.
MiMC — the Japanese Drunk Elephant?
MiMC is a brand that originated from the founder’s own personal dissatisfactions, underwent repeated experiments to find a formula that truly matches people’s skin, and gradually found its audience after launching. This draws similarities with the success story of the US brand Drunk Elephant.
During her time spent conducting chemical experiments as a researcher-in-training, Kitajima found herself with symptoms of atopic dermatitis. Her skin became dry to the extent that she was reluctant to be seen by others. From this experience came the desire to create cosmetics that can be used confidently on any type of skin and that can restore skin’s original glow through the power of nature. After a stint at a naturalist cosmetics company in Japan, she moved to the US in 2001. With America being the home of the organic movement, she was able to enrich her knowledge in marketing for natural organic cosmetics and advanced beauty treatments, and at the same time, she began developing mineral cosmetics.
Her blog, written in Japanese, which conveyed the latest info about the organic and natural markets in the US and that she started in 2005, became popular. Feeling it was a sign that her articles on cosmetics were receiving particular attention, Kitajima established her company in 2007 and made preparations to launch a cosmetics brand.
Then in May of the same year, she released as a pre-launch a powder-based sunscreen made from 100% minerals (a world first), and despite only announcing it on her blog, the product sold out instantly. This assured her of the potential of the mineral cosmetics market, and so Kitajima announced the mineral makeup brand MiMC in September and began selling a comprehensive range of 130 SKUs worth of products, ranging from base makeup to point makeup and predominantly featuring foundations.
In 2009, when MiMC’s products had found their way into more stores in Japan, the company’s headquarters and production base were moved from the US to Kitajima’s home country. This was also down to her desire to expand globally as a high-quality made-in-Japan clean beauty brand.
At the time, however, the concept of clean beauty was yet to gain traction in Japan, making it particularly difficult to find OEM companies that would take on the manufacturing work. Now in 2020, there’s more understanding about clean beauty among Japanese OEM companies. Nevertheless, for cultivating new ingredients, MiMC still has to work to collect the latest info by utilizing Kitajima’s network inside and outside of Japan and verify the quality and safety themselves when procuring ingredients from various places around the world. MiMC is using many different ingredients for the first time ahead of other Japanese beauty companies. When one also considers her initiatives to enlighten the Japanese clean beauty market in the areas of ingredient procurement and manufacturing systems creation, it can be seen that Kitajima is a visionary in her field.
Text: Ching Li Tor
Original text (Japanese): Lina Ono