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Expanding the sexual wellness set

The sexual revolution — at least at mass retail stores — is exploding. Now, the question is whether the increased emphasis on store shelves will lead to more volume from this complex category.

A look at the sexual wellness sets at many retail outlets would find a healthy selection of family planning products and an ever-expanding variety of sexual intimacy products. While the focus is still on health and wellness, manufacturers have said that innovation — alongside a move toward comfort and pleasure — should help push sales higher.

According to IRI, a Chicago-based research firm, for the 52 weeks ended July 15, total U.S. multi-outlet sales of male contraceptives totaled nearly $353.7 million, a decrease of 2.8% compared with the same period the previous year. Unit sales at just over 40 million decreased 3.25%.

“Sales have been relatively stagnant,” said Jared Maraio, senior director of brand strategy at Boston-based Global Protection. “Breakout products are taking share from other products and not bringing new people to the category.”

The solution, he said, is innovation, and Global Protection recently launched several products designed to encourage people to use condoms and lubricant. One new product, Ultra Feel, is in a 2-in-1 with a super thin condom that features a micro-roll base and an integrated separate pouch containing 2 ml of water-based lubricant.

“There is only so much lubricant you can get inside the condom, so you can decide how much lubricant you want to be using,” Maraio said. “Very few people use lubricant with condoms even though the FDA recommends it, so this will improve comfort.”

Lubricant sales in particular are a bright spot in the sexual wellness aisle. According to IRI, multi-outlet sales of personal lubricants totaled more than $13.05 million, up 4.29% compared with the same period the previous year. Global Protection’s Silk is a lubricant that contains no gluten, parabens or glycerin oil, and is pH-balanced for women’s bodies to prevent yeast infections.

The innovations, Maraio said, are a response to consumer feedback about comfort and other concerns. Because improved lubricants can help increase comfort, the innovation can encourage more condom use, which has overall pub-
lic health implications.

“Only 26% of consumers are using lubricant with condoms, so there is a big educational opportunity,” Maraio said. “These are the types of conversations we are having with retailers — how to encourage and grow the category rather than trade share from one hot product to another.”

One way innovation is growing the category is by bringing specialty retail consumers into the food, drug and mass category, according to Mike Woolard, CEO of Valencia, Calif.-based United Consortium. “What we saw was the lubricant category was down 2% in mainstream retailers, but up 7% globally, so something was amiss in mainstream,” he said. “We believe it’s lack of innovation and choice.”

The company recently launched Muse, a brand of flavored lubricants that Woolard said will help drive traffic back into category. The three flavors — crème brûlée, mint chocolate and salted caramel — are designed to spice up the evening, or for a special occasion, he said. “That is an advantage we have over the current manufacturers,” Woolard said. “Why would you use a water-based lubricant when you can use a flavored water-based lubricant?”

Also new are single-use trial-size packets that Woolard said can be ideal for travel, so people do not have to pack a bottle of Muse lubricant. To help retailers drive sales, the brand offers floor displays and shelf displays. “We designed displays that catch your eye,” Woolard said. “Until now, retailers had the opposite approach, not to bring attention to the space.”

A changing audience
As the sexual wellness assortment changed, the messaging around the category has changed, too. Trojan Brand Condoms, a brand of Ewing, N.J.-based Church & Dwight, has launched a campaign reintroducing Trojan Man. The company said the character, which was introduced more than 20 years ago, is an advocate for safe and pleasurable sexual exploration. On TV and social media, Trojan Man offers witty, sex-positive advice and a variety of Trojan condoms, as well as encourages people “to explore with confidence.”

The campaign reflects one way the category is adapting to a shifting audience.
“The culture around sex and relationships is changing,” said Stephanie Berez, Trojan’s brand director. “People are having less sex; they’re finding new forms of intimacy and waiting longer, yet they are also being riskier in their actions. Today’s landscape is more confusing and challenging than ever, resulting in endless questions and the search for answers.”

Berez said that condoms are facing headwinds with the growing number of options to manage sexual well-being, including pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, and long-acting reversible contraception, or LARC. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PrEP is a way for people to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. Also according to the CDC, LARC options as IUDs or implants have seen an increase. The key to messaging around these trends has been highlighting protection against sexually transmitted infections.

“As a category, we need to continue adapting to the changing landscape and educate young people on the importance and benefits of using condoms,” Berez said. “Trojan wants to continue to remind people that condoms are still the only method of preventing both STIs and unintended pregnancy.”

Manufacturers also are targeting an older demographic, especially women who are entering perimenopause. The onset of perimenopause is typically age 40, and such symptoms as mood changes, adult acne and vaginal dryness are due to hormone flux and eventual decline.

“There are over 85 million women in North America who are perimenopausal and menopausal,” said Chia Chia Sun, founder of Damiva in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. “The first millennials will enter perimenopause in three years as the eldest millennial women are 37 [years old] in 2018.”

The company manufactures labial and vaginal moisturizers, and recently introduced two breast products. Mary by Damiva is a probiotic nipple cream for optimal breastfeeding, and Dolly by Damiva is a breast balancing cream for breast tenderness due to menstruation, perimenopause and menopause.

Consumers are looking for products that are efficacious, high quality and natural. “Chemical toxins are much more hormonally disruptive as women enter menopause,” Sun said. Also, women are seeking products that are innovative because of their unique needs, affordable because women will require these products often over time, transparent due to the selectivity and sophistication of the older woman, and multigenerational because millennial mothers who are having children at an older age also now are entering perimenopause.

Going organic
As with the larger consumer packaging goods space, ingredients are the subject of increased focus from consumers in the sexual wellness category. “Consumers are starting to understand organic in a big way,” said Wendy Strgar, CEO and founder of Good Clean Love in Eugene, Ore. “Organic lubricant is our most popular product.”

The company offers Good Clean Love Almost Naked Organic Personal Lubricant made with aloe vera and infused with lemon and vanilla, and is designed f
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