The Feminine Hygiene Market

By Karen McIntyre, Editor | November 16, 2012

Manufacturers reach out to younger consumers and emerging markets to drive growth.

As feminine hygiene manufacturers face market maturity in the developed world, they continue to unearth new market segments and marketing platforms that either hold onto existing consumers a little longer or lure new consumers at an early age, a strategy that can be extremely important in this brand loyal category.

Currently, this market is seeing low growth in areas like the U.S. and Western Europe, where penetration levels are high and populations are not increasing. In fact, experts say the aging population could be a blow for the feminine hygiene category as the number of women ages 15-49 declines about 1% by 2015.

“We can’t make women menstruate more but what we can do is get them to trade up with better products,” says Rebecca Dunphey, marketing manager of Kimberly-Clark’s Kotex brand.

To combat this high penetration level, at least in the developed world, a strategy for feminine hygiene manufacturers has been to introduce a series of new products aimed at a specific period in a women’s life, ranging from puberty to post menopause, and zeroing in on the specific needs of this period.

“Women’s needs continue to evolve,” says Mimmi Lagergren, corporate communications manager of SCA. “We continue to invest in research across the world to keep up to date with women’s needs, whether it’s the need for convenience or feeling fresh while on the go.”

According to data collected by Euromonitor, the total size of the global sanitary protection market, including pads, pantyliners, tampons and wipes, increased from $24.2 billion to $26.5 billion between 2010 and 2011. Within North America, the category remained flat at just under $3 billion while Western Europe showed some growth, up from $4.7 billion to $5 billion. Not surprisingly, sales grew considerably in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Latin America, and western companies continue to invest in these high growth regions. In developed regions, innovation has become necessary to cannibalize sales within the market.

The younger women
In early 2010 Kimberly-Clark reached out to younger consumers in the feminine hygiene category with the launch of U by Kotex, a new line featuring brighter graphics and more modern packaging to appeal to girls just entering the category.

Almost immediately, this brand grabbed market share away from K-C’s competition and has been considered an instrumental driver of innovation for the total brand.

In fact, in its first year in the North American market, this Kotex sub-brand achieved more than four points of marketshare, quickly becoming one of K-C’s fastest growing brands and helping drive consumer interest and growth in a relatively flat category. Most recently, the IRI Symphony Group named U by Kotex the No. 3 non-food pacesetter for 2011, generating approximately $75 million in first-year retail sales.

Now, K-C is building off of this success with the introduction of some new brands under the U by Kotex moniker. Launched in June, U by Kotex Sleek tampons and new U by Kotex CleanWear pads deliver great protection and performance through innovative designs, reinforcing the brand’s position as a game changer within the feminine care category, according to the company.

U by Kotex Sleek Tampons feature a first-of-its-kind “Perfect Touch Grip” applicator that is soft, smooth and slim to provide an easy hold for “just right” placement. The new U by Kotex CleanWear Pad features a revolutionary MemoryFlex core that keeps its shape and fits closely with a woman’s curves, improving flexibility. Both innovations provide women with exceptional protection and comfort and establish a new level of performance, according to the company.

“Protection is a fundamental need in the feminine care category, yet up to 50% of young women experience product leakage and just accept it,” says Claire Miller, marketing director, Kotex North America. “These innovative new products are easy for use, provide unique fit and deliver serious protection to help women feel confident and prepared.”

In consumer testing, product attributes and benefits described favorably by consumers included the grip, comfort and high quality applicator for the sleek tampon; and the core material, flexible shape and absorbency delivered in the CleanWear pad.

According to Claire Miller, marketing director for Kotex, the U by Kotex brand was first launched in Australia 10 years ago where it struck a similar chord with young women. Now, the company has versions of this line all over the world, where it is reversing a so-called “Sea of Sameness” within the feminine hygiene category that until 2010 had been dominated by products with similar hygienic and boring packaging.

“We were the first brand that shook up the category in North America,” Miller adds.
In May 2012, Procter & Gamble responded to the U by Kotex introduction with its own answer to the needs of young women. P&G’s new Radiant line combines several Always and Tampax products to help young girls “make their periods invisible.” The Radiant collection includes products from Always Tampax tampon and Always feminine pad lines and contains a complete offering of premium products to meet all of a woman’s feminine care needs. The collection features designer packaging and wrappers to compliment any girl’s unique style, making these products must-have accessories any time of the month, according to P&G marketing materials.

“The Radiant Collection was designed with girls’ unique style and feminine care needs in mind,” says Gaby Tartaret, Tampax marketing. “Combining a stylish new look with a full lineup of premium products women have grown to trust from Tampax and Always, the Radiant Collection stands out among competitive, feminine care brands.”

The line includes Tampax tampons, Always infinity pads and incredibly thin liners and Radiant Wipes-to-Go, which are all packaged with a stylish new look.

To help spread the Radiant message, P&G has partnered with PopSugar, a leading source on e
verything entertainment, style and living related, who will help find an ultimate collection of standout girls for the Radiant advertising campaign.

As it targets younger girls, P&G continues to focus on its existing customers within the feminine hygiene market, which it considers a very brand loyal category. Knowing it has its customers trust, P&G is committed to making sure its products deliver what they need.

Recent innovations include Duopacks within the Tampax Pearl and Tampax Compak Pearl brands, which meet the needs of women who prefer to have multiple absorbencies of tampons during their period. Duopacks contain the two most popular absorbencies—regular and super—in one package.

Meanwhile, in the Always feminine hygiene pad and liner line, P&G has introduced Odor-Lock technology to neutralize odors by transforming ammonia into undetectable vapors and masking urine odors by locking malodor detection with proprietary technology. This actually freshens the user by releasing a light, fresh scent when the liner is moistened.

Stockholm, Sweden-based SCA Hygiene continues to innovate in the feminine hygiene category
where it is present in more than 90 countries with brands including Bodyform, Libresse, Nosotras, Libra, Nana and Saba. “One important mission for SCA in feminine hygiene is to break the taboos around menstruation and to empower women through providing knowledge and sustainable products which make everyday life easier for them,” Lagergren says.

Procter & Gamble helps meet the needs of young
women with its new Radiant line, which combines
several Always and Tampax products.
Recent new product introductions have included a double liner product in Colombia, Australia and France, which is designed for on-the-go women who often forget to take liners with them. Having two liners allows them to freshen up and can drive the frequency of liner usage, Lagergren explains. In Malaysia, SCA has introduced a range of pads featuring fresh green tea scents and odor control to fight concerns of odor during menstruation.

“Women’s needs continue to evolve,” she says. “We continue to invest in research across the world to keep up to date with women’s needs, be that the need for increased convenience or to feel fresh wile on the go.”

These needs span the world regions. While preferred product formats change from country to country, these are often driven by cultural influences but the customer needs remain the same. SCA uses its global presence to enable it to learn from the differences between markets and transfer this knowledge between regions.

Extending the cycle
Meanwhile, within its Poise brand, Kimberly-Clark is bridging the gap between adult incontinence and feminine hygiene brands with its new five-product wellness line, which includes a roll-on cooling gel and body cooling towelettes, a personal lubricant, panty fresheners and a feminine wash.

According to K-C research, there are 50 million women across North America who are approaching or experiencing menopause, but until now there has been no suite of consumer products that helps them cope on a daily basis. The wellness products are a natural extension for the Poise brand, which millions of women already rely on for discrete protection from light bladder leakage.

In addition to filling an unmet need for women in this period of life, the product helps K-C retain some of its feminine hygiene customers beyond the end of their menstrual cycle.

“It is a big opportunity for us to offer products in this space,” says Dunphey. “There are 50 million women approaching this time in their lives and we want to be a resource from them as they approach it.”

Kimberly-Clark launched a five-product wellness line under the Poise brand
to bridge the gap between adult incontinence and feminine hygiene.
Like U by Kotex, this wellness line follows a strategy toward segmentation at K-C whereby the company strives to better understand its customers and what their needs are. “A lot of the work we have been doing is understanding all of the insights we have around our consumers—that is a consistent focus, segmenting our consumers and understanding them,” Dunphey adds.

Similar products were launched under the Poise brand in Chile and Colombia in 2009. The success of these products—as well as their role in increasing Poise’s profile in Latin America—is why K-C decided to group it within the adult incontinence market even though the products are very much about feminine hygiene.

“We believe in this space ad we are firmly committed to grow in it,” Dunphey adds. “Poise is a brand for everyone—even if I don’t have light bladder leakage there are many women my age who do.”

Like U by Kotex, Poise wellness is a result of K-C’s strategy of leveraging strong brands and innovation on a global basis to win in the marketplace. “Based on the initial success of the Poise Feminine Wellness line in Latin America, we anticipate these products will be well received by North American consumers and retail customers,” says Jay Gottlieb, vice president, North American adult and feminine care.

SCA’s Nana panty liners, which are available in
The launch of the new line will be supported by an integrated marketing program, “The 2nd Talk,” a whole new way to talk about menopause designed to help women approach this life stage with confidence.

“Women probably remember having a first talk that explained their changing bodies as they were approaching puberty,” says Dunphey. “Kimberly-Clark and the Poise brand want to encourage women to have the 2nd talk as they approach menopause, to begin and normalize the conversation about this life stage. By joining the conversation, women will gain more menopause knowledge, support and solutions."

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