Condoms get thinner as intimacy health expands its scope

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Condoms get thinner as intimacy health expands its scope

By Michael Johnsen - 04/19/2018
It’s about striking a balance when it comes to marketing and merchandising within the intimacy health space. Suppliers in the space have cautioned retailers against sexual health promotion efforts that can be viewed as lascivious, lest they become off-putting to one of the key demographics walking the OTC aisles, namely mom.

As the category and the shelf expand to include more than just condoms, and sales rise — revenues generated by personal lubricants totaled $225.6 million for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 28, according to IRI, while sales of other such intimacy-oriented products as condoms and devices totaled $399.3 million — retail pharmacies and mass outlets have become clinical health-and-wellness destinations whose in-store experience and offerings must recognize the category’s expanded purview and build trust with shoppers.

Key examples of intimacy health solutions previously relegated to neon-lit storefronts that are finding an appropriate space in mass outlets are personal massagers. A growing mainstream appeal for these products has seen a corresponding sales effect — sexual enhancement devices, including personal massagers, saw $28.7 million in sales across total U.S. multi-outlets for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 28, according to IRI — a 3.4% increase from the previous period. Suppliers said this growth is due in part to their approach.

“[LELO is] frequently found in Cosmopolitan, GQ, Men’s Health and Huffington Post, and this kind of PR and marketing reflects market acceptance,” said Zabrina Law, marketing manager at San Jose, Calif.-based LELO, which makes a line of personal massagers. “We have a long-standing trust relationship with our customers, with calls to action that are followed with aligned and expected customer behavior.”

While LELO considers itself a luxury brand, such category mainstays as LifeStyles, Church & Dwight and Reckitt-Benckiser have entered the category with moderately priced offerings that span the need spectrum. Trojan’s Vibrations line includes both a selection of massagers and vibrating rings. LifeStyles sells the a:muse line of personal massagers and vibrating rings, as does RB’s Durex brand through the Durex Play line, which includes the Delight Vibrating Bullet and the Ring of Bliss vibrating ring.

Even as the reach of intimacy health expands, companies continue to innovate on the perennially trafficked condom category, which is seeing thin options constitute a large and growing segment.

“Thin and soft is very important to the consumer,” Yu Tadano, a sales manager at Okamoto USA, said. In addition to its Beyond Seven brand, Okamoto is offering its 0.04 line, which the company said is about half as thin as comparable condoms and constructed from a high-tech latex called Sheerlon.

LifeStyles likewise is capitalizing on the trend toward new, thinner condoms. “We continue to address [the thin] segment with Skyn and LifeStyles, exemplified most recently with the launch of LifeStyles Zero, now the thinnest condom on the market,” Jeyan Heper, LifeStyles CEO, said.

While thin is in, consumers also are looking for more natural ingredients within the intimacy health category.

For example, Okamoto offers its 0.04 condoms with an aloe lubricant option as another point of differentiation. The natural aloe extract is specially designed to deliver maximum comfort and the smoothest feeling possible, the company said.

Other companies capitalizing on the natural trend include Good Clean Love, whose officials said marketing toward the trend has driven results. “Natural is the reason our brand is up in triple digits,” Wendy Strgar, CEO of the Eugene, Ore.-based personal lubricant manufacturer, said. “That transition is happening. [Organic] represents some interesting white space. On most of the shelves, we’re the only organic brand.”

In such an inherently personal category, the key to growing sales, according to LELO’s Law, is to create a retail experience that earns and feeds trust with consumers. LifeStyles’ Heper suggested retailers offer a product selection that offers start-to-finish offerings that go beyond contraceptives.

“Merchandisers should consider ways to expand brand interactions from a sole focus on protection solutions to an expanded ‘conversation’ that encompasses the sensual relationship from start to finish, highlighting ways to enhance pleasure and intimacy and showcasing better education on how to live a healthy sexual lifestyle.” Heper said.

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