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Focus on natural and innovative: New products reflect women’s desire for more options, less synthetics

Retailers have an opportunity to increase sales in the feminine care aisle by updating their sets with eco-friendly products, and highlighting the benefits so that shoppers can find the more innovative products easily.
Nora Caley

Even the feminine care aisle was affected by the pandemic. In the early days of COVID-19, women stocked up on tampons, pads and other sanitary protection products to avoid possible product shortages later. Then, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed in March 2020, included a provision that enabled women who had Flexible Spending Accounts or Health Savings Accounts to become eligible for reimbursement for feminine hygiene products.


Today, the feminine care category is one that consumers must shop routinely. It’s also one in which women expect much innovation. According to a September 2020 Mintel report, Feminine Hygiene and Sanitary Protection Products: Incl. Impact of COVID-19 US, many of the benefits that were once considered nice to have are now expected. “Environmentally friendly packaging/ingredients, use of natural/organic materials and ingredient transparency have become quality expectations,” the report noted. Eco-friendly practices are an expectation for nearly half of consumers, and comfort is also essential. 

The research firm estimated that U.S. retail sales of feminine hygiene and sanitary protection products increased by 3.5% in 2020, outpacing year-over-year category growth since 2015. Growth should continue over the next two to five years, driven by changing demographics and by manufacturers’ ability to innovate in the space. As the vaginal wellness category becomes more recognized by the industry, there will be opportunities for manufacturers and retailers to tailor products to women’s health milestones.

Staying Away From Synthetics
The preference for eco-friendly materials does not surprise Helen Robinson, co-founder of Organic Initiative, a New Zealand-based company with U.S. headquarters in Torrance, Calif. “The consumer is more and more savvy about what they are putting in the most sensitive part of their body,” she said. “That is incredibly important.” Oi makes 100% certified organic cotton tampons, pads and panty liners with no toxic chemicals, chlorine bleach, fragrances or pesticides. 

Social media plays a role in driving interest in and sales growth of the products. “The results that they see from using these are very apparent very quickly,” Robinson said. “Friends tell friends, families tell families about the impact.”

“The consumer is more and more savvy about what they are putting in the most sensitive part of their body.” — Helen Robinson, co-founder, Organic Initiative

Consumers, especially members of Generation Z, are interested in not only what feminine care products are made of but also that they are packaged in sustainable packaging and manufactured according to strict labor guidelines.

With sustainability in mind, Diva International partnered with TerraCycle to create the first menstrual cup recycling program in North America, with the DivaCup becoming North America’s first ever fully recyclable menstrual cup. “As we celebrate our 20th anniversary in April, we are so energized to bring forward more expansion to the period care category in 2022 and beyond,” said Carinne Chambers-Saini, founder and CEO of Diva.

Retailers have an opportunity to increase sales by updating their sets with eco-friendly products, and by highlighting these benefits so that shoppers can find the more innovative products easily. Otherwise consumers will simply buy online or, in another current trend, sign up for subscription-based purchases. “The problem with period products and bladder care products is they’re a grudge purchase,” Robinson said. “Consumers don’t want to buy these products. They buy them because they have to.” The company also makes Oi Maxi Plus Pads, made with organically grown cotton, for staying dry during bladder leakage.

[Read more: Flo’s O Positiv brand focuses on women’s health needs]

Innovation Sells
Also according to Mintel, women are seeking products that address multiple aspects of menstruation, such as pain, odor and other issues. The report noted that 43% of people who have their period and 50% of women aged 18 to 34 years old said it’s difficult to control symptoms of menstruation.

Genial Day Leak-Proof Period Panties
Genial Day Leak-Proof Period Panties

Women are also looking for efficacy, which in feminine care refers to absorption and comfort. One newer innovation is period panties, which are environmentally friendly because they are washable and reusable and can replace pads and tampons. Overland Park, Ill.-based Genial Day offers Leak-Proof Period Panties made with all natural, Oeko-TEX 100 certified fabrics such as cotton, bamboo and Tencel Modal. “We like working sustainably,” said Vilmante Markeviciene, founder and designer.

Genial Day

On the suggestion of gynecologists, the company chose 100% cotton for the inner crotch part of the item, closest to the body. Markeviciene noted that the panties can absorb the same amount as two to four tampons, or can be used as backup underwear with a tampon, pad or menstrual cup. Genial Panties feature patented crotch technology that enables the wearer using a pad with wings to tuck the wings in the crotch pockets to keep the pad stable and discreetly hide the wings. The brand recently added a Boy Shorts version of the panties, designed for teens.

Teens are an important demographic for the feminine care category. In 2020 Vagisil launched a teen-focused line, OMV! By Vagisil. The product line includes intimate and body wash, wipettes and anti-itch serum. The White Plains, N.Y.-based parent company Combe said that the line was meant to “celebrate and empower young women,” and to “help them feel comfortable and confident in their vaginal health.” The brand engaged with 2,500 teenage girls and their mothers to develop the gynecologist-tested product line. 

This year, Vagisil extended its Scentsitive Scents line of washes with Scentsitive Scents Rosé All Day Intimate Wash and Scentsitive Scents Spring Lilac Feminine Dry Wash. The washes are hypoallergenic and have no parabens or MIT preservatives. Also new are Peach Blossom Mini Wipes and Spring Lilac Mini Wipes, individually wrapped wipes that are hypoallergenic and pH balanced

Her by Alikay Naturals
Her by Alikay Naturals

Other new products come from Fort Myers, Fla.-based Alikay Naturals, which makes natural and organic cruelty-free products infused with pineapple and other natural ingredients. The company has four new items in the Her by Alikay Naturals line: Foaming Feminine Wash and Feminine Refreshing Spray, each in Sensitive Formula and Normal Formula. The brand said the products “empower women to make positive choices for their feminine care needs.” 

According to Persistence Market Research, the global feminine hygiene products market was estimated to total $21.5 billion in 2020, and is anticipated to attain a market valuation of $39 billion by the end of the decade, with a Compound annual growth rate of 6.1% through 2031. 

Demographics will play a role in the expected growth. Mintel, citing the U.S. Census Bureau, reported that in 2025 nearly 46 million women will be 25 to 44 years old in the United States, compared to 42 million aged 45 to 64 years old, so there will be a constant market of menstruating women in the future.

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