Retailers, suppliers reimagine women's health

The key to recapturing in-store sales of women’s healthcare products is understanding the physical and emotional impact of the past year on consumers, according to players in the women’s health category.

One of the takeaways from the ups and downs of this past year is that caring for one’s mind and body needs to be a priority. The pandemic has, in a strange way, given previously time-pressed consumers permission to practice self-love and self-care. Women have been most sensitive to this messaging, and many have taken to re-examining their current product choices while being open to the idea of adding new ones into the mix.

Immune health, brain support, aging, pregnancy, stress, nutrition and vaginal health are among the areas women said they most want to focus on. Beauty from within is another emerging trend as women look for protection against stress and free radicals through such antioxidants as resveratrol, curcumin, turmeric and vitamins C and E. Given this, the number of nutritional products featuring skin health benefits is on the rise as more consumers realize diet and lifestyle combined with nutritional supplements offer them the possibility of a stronger outcome.

a pair of headphones

Today’s health-savvy consumers are looking for products that can help maximize both their physical and mental health, plus offer an improved and more enjoyable experience. Companies are eagerly responding by creating products that seamlessly fit into consumer’s day-to-day routines, whether it be through innovative ingredients, packaging, delivery forms or product features.

Another lesson the pandemic taught us this past year is that business as usual is no longer an option. Consumers had a year to reinvent how they purchased their healthcare essentials and their comfort in buying these items online has never been higher. That said, brick-and-mortar retailers are discovering there is still ample opportunity to grow sales in the women’s healthcare category by leveraging trends and new product innovation

Less is More
Feminine hygiene, one of the largest components of the women’s health category, has seen a significant amount of innovation as of late. As a result, the $21.6 billion global feminine hygiene category is expected to see a CAGR of 6.7% between 2021 to 2026, according to Mordor Intelligence.

Leading manufacturers in the feminine hygiene products market, including Procter & Gamble, SCA, Edgewell Personal Care and Kimberly-Clark, are expanding the depth and breadth of their product range to appeal to a wider consumer base and keep customers loyal.

As more companies center their efforts around eco-friendly products, experts predict the trend toward greener feminine hygiene products will gain further momentum in the coming years.

Amy Krajewski, research and development director at Procter & Gamble, said the decision for her company to enter the organic space was made out of both opportunity and necessity. As head of R&D, Krajewski spent years studying the existing product options and, after speaking with thousands of women, identified an unmet need in the menstrual category, a natural fem-hy product that exceeded efficacy expectations.

a woman holding a sign

“When we set out to create Tampax Pure and Always Pure line of products, we did so with the belief that women should not have to settle when it comes to period protection just because she wanted an organic option,” Krajewski said. “It was important to us that users could feel good about the ingredients and at the same time trust that our product works.”

Even though some may see menstrual care as an over-SKU’d category, Lauren Wang said many women, herself included, still struggled to find the right product. Using her needs as the backdrop, Wang founded The Flex Company, based in Venice, Calif., and designed a menstrual cup to give women more options. “Women have a love-hate relationship with their periods, something they spend 25% of their lives dealing with,” Wang said. “It seemed like the time was right to offer women a product that allows them to live their lives without constantly being reminded they are on their period.”

Incontinence products are undergoing a transformation of sorts, too. Once associated with geriatric populations, bladder leak issues affect women in a wide range of ages, and yet regardless of age, so often many are ashamed to address it. Lauren Kren, senior brand manager of Appleton, Wis.-based Kimberly-Clark’s Depend brand, said there are more than 65 million Americans experiencing some type of bladder leakage, but many are not using the correct products to help manage the issue because of the shame and embarrassment surrounding incontinence.

“Depend Silhouette was a true game-changer in allowing consumers to experience Advanced Shapewear Technology for the smoothest and softest fabric from the brand to date,” Kren said. “Kimberly-Clark and the Depend brand are committed to making the process of managing incontinence stress-free by breaking category stigmas and providing people with innovative underwear-like products that allow them to live active, fulfilling lives.”


Play to the Audience
Dietary supplements focused on women’s health are evolving, with much of the innovation coming from products that focus on specific health benefits rather than formulas with broad-based ingredients that promote general health.

To further drive interest and excitement in many of these companies that produce evergreen nutritional supplements, they have been focusing their efforts on developing innovative delivery forms. Chuck Tacl, vice president of sales at Mason Vitamins in Miami Lakes, Fla., said while capsules and tablets are still the most popular delivery methods, gummies have quickly become a popular option. “Some women struggle with taking larger sized capsules and tablets, or get an upset stomach using traditional delivery methods,” Tacl said. “Gummies address both of those concerns as they are easy and convenient to take while the quick absorption makes it gentler on one’s stomach.”

Mason offers an extensive array of women-specific supplements, including those targeting menopause, pregnancy, healthy hair, skin and nails, leg circulation, urinary tract, and daily multivitamin formulas. The company also makes several prenatal vitamins and recently launched a sugar-free gummy version of one of its most popular formulas. As Tacl explained, traditional prenatal vitamins often come in a very large tablet form, which meant mothers-to-be often had to break the tablet in half to swallow. “We decided to address this issue and focus on offering gummies with little to no sugar at all in the formulations. For a childbearing mom, sugar-free, clean ingredients are priorities,” he said.

True, gummies are garnering much of the attention, but some up-and-coming delivery forms such as effervescent stick powders are poised to change the category in the coming months. “Our sachet stick powder was created with a ‘get-out-and-go’ mindset. Consumers simply pour it into any beverage, stir and enjoy great flavor full of nutrients,” Tacl said.