Feminine Hygiene Gets a Lift From Emerging Markets

By Oksana Malynovska, Euromonitor International | November 10, 2010

Latin America provides double-digit gain to sanitary protection category

The global sanitary protection market reached $22 billion in 2009 on the back of 6% value growth, with a marked split in fortunes between developed and emerging markets.
At a regional level, Latin America stands out in terms of value growth, registering a 14% gain in 2009. As
a general distinction, levels of value growth are lower in developed regions, with Western Europe and Australasia both registering less than 1%, while emerging markets all posted value growth of 7% or more.

There is no doubt that the economic downturn had a more negative influence on developed markets, although the shift in geographic importance for the feminine hygiene market is primarily due to longer-term demographic changes. As a whole, mature markets also have slowing birth rates and aging populations, meaning fewer younger consumers are entering the category as older consumers leave, eroding the consumer base and impacting value growth.

Demographics Shape the Future

While the ongoing effects of the global economic crisis will impact short-term value growth across all regions, the shift in regional importance, primarily as a result of demographics, will continue as a long-term trend. Negative average annual growth is predicted for North America and Australasia through 2014, while the Asia-Pacific region, already the largest globally at almost $9 billion, will continue to grow at a faster rate, driven by China in particular. The region is predicted to have a 6% CAGR through 2014, by which time it will account for 45% of the global feminine hygiene market. In addition, by 2014, Latin America will overtake North America to become the third largest sanitary protection market by region.

Strength within Asia

Procter & Gamble currently leads the global sanitary protection market with a 27% share based on sales of its Always, Tampax and Whisper brands. Johnson & Johnson and Kimberly-Clark follow in second and third place with 12% and 9%, respectively. In keeping with the increased importance of the Asia-Pacific region, manufacturers local to the region are gaining in strength. Of the top 10 global players, the three manufacturers based in Asia-Pacific—Unicharm, Hengan and Kao Corp.— all increased their market share with Hengan doing so by the largest amount on the basis of its rapid expansion in China.

Meanwhile, of the top 10 manufacturers based in the West, only Johnson & Johnson managed to increase its share, largely by gaining ground with its Sempre Livre brand in Latin America and its acquisition of French brand Vania in Western Europe in early 2009. Every other Western-based manufacturer now holds a lower percentage of the market than last year. If the major global players of the West are to halt this slide in share, it is imperative that they further commit to emerging markets—Asia-Pacific and Latin America in particular.

To date, Procter & Gamble has appeared the most proactive in this regard. In March 2010, the manufacturer launched Naturella sanitary pads in China and upgraded the comfort of the product. In October 2009 the company rolled out a major campaign for its Whisper brand in Singapore, aiming to tackle some of the stigma and embarrassment that still surrounds sanitary protection products in the Asian market. The campaign depicts menstruation as a natural part of being a woman, rather than an infliction to be endured and rarely spoken about.

Kotex’s Bold Marketing Move          

Perhaps the biggest activity in sanitary protection during 2010 has come from Kimberly-Clark, with the launch of its U by Kotex range. The range, which was launched first in Australia and then in the U.S., includes tampons, pads and pantyliners, and stands apart because of its fresh approach to marketing.

Advertisements for the line, which are targeted to those ages 14-24, openly poke fun at stereotypical sanitary care advertisements, including old advertisements for the Kotex brand, in an effort to ditch the euphemisms traditionally associated with sanitary care brand positioning. Instead, the brand wants to take a no-nonsense, factual approach, ridding the category of any stigma. Although the impact of Kotex’s new tack has yet to be felt, this would seem like the right approach to engage a new generation of younger consumers. While Kotex’s break with tradition is a positive move and may well point toward a new era of marketing for sanitary care, like all other major players, the manufacturer must also focus more effort on emerging markets or risk losing out.

Napkins Continue to Dominate

Napkins continue to account for the vast majority of the sanitary protection market, commanding 71% of the category globally and totaling $16 billion in sales. At 7%, napkins also registered the highest value growth of all sanitary protection products. Ultra-thin towels with wings were responsible for driving the segment’s growth, and this trend is set to continue.

During the next five years, the segment is expected to grow 4% annually, which represents the highest average annual value growth and it is emerging markets that will be behind this performance as well as be the driving force behind growth of the entire sanitary protection category. Napkins will contribute 84% of the category’s absolute growth to 2014. In many emerging markets—Asia-Pacific and the Middle East in particular—cultural and religious barriers as well as social pressures mean napkins are the only acceptable sanitary protection option.
Given that in these regions sanitary napkins are also experiencing product innovation, with ultra-thin napkins with wings becoming more popular and cheaper than alternatives, it is unlikely that consumers will adopt any type of sanitary protection other than napkins any time soon. In light of this, manufacturers would be wasting their resources focusing their investment on any other segment, meaning the sale of napkins in emerging markets will be key to global category growth for the foreseeable future, reinforcing the shift in regional importance in the sanitary protection market.

Pantyliner Demand Grows

Pantyliners continue to perform well and registered 6% global growth in 2009 to reach $3 billion. What’s more, this strong growth is predicted to continue, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, with forecast average annual growth of 7% through 2014 as more emerging market consumers become aware of the product and rising income levels of female consumers mean the products become more affordable and daily usage is a more likely proposition.

Recent innovation in the segment has continued to focus on producing pantyliners tailored to fit various types of underwear. Most recently, Procter & Gamble launched Always Simply Fits Flexistyle Liners in the U.K., a liner with flexible sides that fold three ways to fit the shape of most styles of underwear. To ensure value growth continues in the segment, manufacturers must focus on conveying to the consumer why everyday protection is of benefit and continuing to drive awareness in emerging markets. This, in combination with rising incomes opening up the product to an even larger consumer group, should ensure good value growth for the foreseeable future.

Tampon Sales Slow

Tampons are the smallest feminine hygiene segment, standing at $3 billion and registering 1% value growth in 2009, the lowest in the category. The segment is predicted to show negative average annual growth at global level over the forecast period, with the only positive value growth predicted in emerging markets, although even this is at low levels and from a small base. The product suffers from a lack of uptake in key emerging
markets such as China, and a lack of any real product innovation in developed markets. What little there has been of late has
focused on packaging, and as a result it is difficult to see
tampons returning to significant levels of global growth in the foreseeable future.

Healthcare Has Potential

Looking further ahead in terms of innovation, the wider healthcare trend has prompted some smaller manufacturers in developed markets, including RepHresh, Pureste and Ellen AB, to launch sanitary products that are pH neutral, sterilized or probiotic. Whether this type of product claiming extra health care properties catches on with consumers remains to be seen, but it certainly taps into a current trend that is driving growth across many FMCG categories. If adopted by major manufacturers and moved into the mainstream, innovations such as this would certainly have the potential to add value to the category in mature Western markets.

About the Author
Oksana Malynovska is global research manager at Euromonitor International. More info: press@euromonitorintl.com.