“[Brands are] looking to the incontinence market and more specifically, the areas of overlap between the use of products for menstruation and light bladder leakage. The incidence of light bladder leakage is growing among pre-menopausal women (obesity is a contributor),” says Jamie Rosenberg, global personal care analyst at global market research provider Mintel.
Procter & Gamble’s Always brand has been linking feminine care with light incontinence since the 2014 launch of Always Discreet, a line of light incontinence products.
“P&G’s Always Discreet is the most visible effort to grow a single brand across both of these needs and CVS recently launched a private label product under the Confidence brand that addresses menses and urine a single product,” Rosenberg adds. “Targeting life stage events like pregnancy and menopause is a fairly recent growth strategy. Pregnancy is often a woman’s first experience with bladder leakage. While this is usually temporary, targeting this group (baby registries, etc.) with products for bladder leakage can build loyalty across different life stages.”
Brands are also trying to gain new consumers with new marketing for increased emotional involvement, according to Rosenberg. An example of this is when Kimberly-Clark opened the Period Shop in 2015, a menstruation-related pop-up shop, which it linked to beauty and more indulgent spa services with manicures and more indulgent experiences with massages, he explains. “One way of jumpstarting a sluggish, highly-commoditized category like feminine care is to link to services and other categories that are considered more than just everyday essentials,” he says.
A more recent example he cites is from an organic niche tampon brand called OneSqin, which has bundled sanitary protection with skincare products. “Because there are menstruation-related skin changes, these can be considered complementary categories. It also shows another way that femcare can be associated with higher-involvement beauty products. Brands are using everything from chocolate to yoga (emphasizes both comfort and protection) to achieve this,” he explains.
Other brands, he adds, are bundling femcare products with condoms “to make their portfolios relevant during the entire month.”
Many newer startup companies are focusing on this strategy. LOLA, which offers 100% cotton tampons, pads and liners through an online subscription, also offers a line of “Cramp Care” which includes an essential oil blend and a daily supplement to relieve the pain that comes from menstrual cramps, as well as a line of sexual health products designed for women, which includes condoms, personal lubricant and cleansing wipes.
Meanwhile, The Honey Pot, which started off with a line of plant-based feminine washes, also recently expanded its line-up to include herbal sanitary pads, pantyliners and wipes.
“We were the first company in mass market to do feminine washes, wipes and pads on the shelf at the same time,” claims Bea Feliu-Espada, founder/CEO, The Honey Pot. “Typically companies in the feminine hygiene category pick a lane—either they’ll just do menstrual products or they’ll do body care products like washes and wipes.”
Later this year, the company plans to launch tampons made with 100% non-GMO cotton.
Feliu-Espada started the company back in 2012. “I was dealing with a recurrent bacterial vaginosis (BV) infection for eight months that had me wondering if I would ever get off the roller coaster ride of doctor’s visits, antibiotics and lots of wishing and hoping the infection would go away,” she says. “None of it was working for me. One night, I had a dream that changed everything. My ancestor presented [me] with a list of ingredients that I needed to heal myself. I made the recipe and it worked. I had to share this gift with the world. That’s how The Honey Pot Company began.”
Feliu-Espada and her team worked for two years before the Honey Pot products were available to the public in February 2014. Honey Pot’s first product was an external feminine wash that helps maintain a pH balance, while also keeping the area clean and free from overgrowth of candida and bacteria that cause yeast infections and bacteria vaginosis. The brand’s feminine wipes are made with sustainable rain forest alliance rayon and essential oils, and work perfectly with the washes in maintaining pH balance throughout the day. The wipes are fragrance-free and are made with essential oils that heal, protect and cleanse the natural way. Meanwhile, Honey Pot sanitary napkins combine natural plant essential oils with super absorbent technology to create a pad that prevents itchiness, alleviates cramps and menstrual discomforts, eliminate odors and is refreshingly cool.
The most immediate way that the Honey Pot differentiates itself among other brands is by creating a system of products that women need for daily and monthly health, Feliu-Espada says. “Most of our competitors out there are getting into the arena of wipes, but I think that’s really safe,” she says. “Honey Pot’s not necessarily trying to err on the safe side—we’re very confident in our formulations, we’re very confident about and aware of the things that women need or that would benefit their lives on the daily and on the monthly, and we want to make the types of products for women that are beautiful and that have really great ingredients that are clean and effective.”
According to data from Mintel, the percentage of all global pad/tampon/liner launches making organic cotton claims jumped from 4.3% in 2016 to 9.4% in 2018.
“Individually, natural/organic femcare brands have little market power, but collectively, this is where we’re seeing the growth and this is the genre of products that has the greatest potential to disrupt mainstream brands,” says Mintel’s Rosenberg.
One important indicator, he says, is that historically online only brands like Cora and L.—which both market organic cotton femcare products—are joining better-established brands like Seventh Generation and Organyc on the shelves of mass merchandisers. “This improved distribution will increase exposure and has the potential to rapidly grow these brands,” he notes.
Corman, the manufacturer of Organyc, has long been in the natural feminine care space. The Milan, Italy-based company introduced the first range of 100% cotton feminine care pads in 1992, where they were available in pharmacies in Italy. The company had a long-established expertise in the manufacturing of products for wound care that contain cotton, with a 70-year history in cotton craftsmanship across a range of product categories including feminine care, adult care and baby care.
The introduction of Corman’s Organyc brand of feminine care products with 100% certified organic cotton inside and outside was established in 2009. “Corman was the first company to launch a full organic cotton range of feminine care products,” says Paola Stevan, marketing manager, Corman Italy. “We subsequently discovered that nearly 67% of women self describe themselves as having skin sensitivity issues - many when wearing traditional feminine care pads. When exposed to a concept for a line of feminine care products made from 100% organic cotton, the vast majority of women said they were definitely interested because they felt the product offered them a major benefit.”
Being in the organic femcare market is paying off. According to figures cited by Corman, organic and natural cotton products are driving growth in all the markets in which they choose to compete. In the U.S. specifically, feminine care products revenue is flat and units declined 1.6% the past 24 weeks. The two biggest, which represent about 70% of the market, are down 2% and 4% in units, according to the company. “Retailers are looking for growth drivers,” Stevan says. “In the case of Organyc, the third largest drug chain tested Organyc in 490 stores and they found that 90% of sales of Organyc brand feminine care products were incremental to their category driven by attracting new users to the category and by existing customers buying more.”
Based on this, she says the chain expanded the brand nationally and added a 100% cotton private label line of their own.
“We aren’t a niche brand, we have made natural mainstream,” Stevan exclaims.
Organyc’s products include a range of organic cotton pads, liners and tampons, as well as intimate hygiene wipes, baby wipes, nursing pads, and more. A recent introduction from the brand is 100% certified organic cotton tampons with an innovative compact applicator made with more than 95% sugarcane (bioplastic). This innovative applicator is key for all those countries where tampons are the product form preferred by most women, such as the U.S., Stevan explains. “Consumers want a choice to traditional plastic applicator and cardboard applicator tampons. With our bio-based tampons consumers can choose something better for them and the environment without any loss in protection or performance,” she adds.
Procter & Gamble recently entered the natural femcare market in the U.S. with the launch of Always Pure and Clean pads and Tampax Pure and Clean tampons, which are made with simple ingredients and are free of chlorine bleaching and dyes.
Svetlana Uduslivaia, head of Home & Tech Americas at Euromonitor International, says the focus in feminine hygiene products appears to be shifting towards more healthy product positions with stronger messaging, especially when it comes to tampons. “Today it seems to be more pronounced, with even the mainstream brands also heading in that direction.”
Some of the mainstream brands exploring this healthier trend are making claims that their products are free of particular ingredients, she adds. “With large brands like Always, there are economies of scale, there are opportunities for them to position themselves at a more competitively priced level than niche brands marketing natural and organic products—that’s the major way for manufacturers to essentially attract new consumers,” Uduslivaia explains.
When it comes to developing markets, in markets that are more evolved like China, Euromonitor’s global surveys have found that there is a very significant preference on the Chinese consumer side for products with more natural positioning—especially considering a number of publicly voiced concerns over the quality and ingredients found in feminine care products in the country. “China is a good market to tap into when it comes to products like this, but as far as other developing markets, natural and organic is not necessarily the main development because in markets with low incomes, the emphasis is more on products that combine affordability and good quality.”
The Latest Launches
Not only has P&G entered the “natural” products space, but just last month it launched its first menstrual cup. According to P&G, the Tampax Cup is a menstrual cup designed to deliver both comfort and protection without compromises. Tampax tapped into 80+ years of period protection expertise, research with hundreds of women, and knowledge from experts like a practicing OBGYN to create the menstrual cup.
While menstrual cups have existed for decades, P&G says that more women are considering cups as part of their period routines, yet many still feel like current options don’t meet their protection and comfort needs. The Tampax Cup is designed with a SoftCurve shape that stays in place while reducing pressure on the bladder; its width and length were chosen based on scientific data of vaginal canal length; it is made of reusable 100% medical grade silicone without dyes, perfumes, BPA or latex and offers up to 12 hours of protection.
According to Mintel’s entire survey population, a net of 5% of women have used some kind of reusable sanitary protection product like a menstrual cup or period underwear. More specifically, 3% of respondents have used cups, 2% period underwear and 2% reusable pads. “Yet this grows to 14% of women aged 25-34, which is three times the rate of the general population,” Rosenberg points out. “Some menstrual cups are gaining brick and mortar distribution and a couple are focused on point of market entry, targeting teenaged girls.”
On the new products side, multinational company Essity, formerly SCA, has also expanded its range of femcare products. In France, the company launched non-applicator ultra slim tampons that are easier to insert and remove, in attractive single packs, which are loved by women, according to Pilar Diaz Gonzalez, global brand director Feminine Care, Essity.
In the Towels segment, which globally remains women’s preferred product solution, Essity strengthened its offering by launching the “GoodNight Extra Large” ultrathin towel, providing extra protection for a good night’s sleep. It has also upgraded its day ultrathin towels with a new softer and breathable topsheet for a fresh feeling.
Gonzalez says the company has also continued expanding its presence in the fast-growing daily intimate care segment in more countries. In Malaysia, it most recently launched a ‘daily intimate V-Care range’ with washes, liners and wipes under the brand Libresse, following the success of its daily intimate V-Care products in Latin America under the brands Saba and Nosotras.
Femcare for a Cause
Another trend among brands in femcare is linking to cause marketing campaigns, Mintel’s Rosenberg says.
“This has evolved from eliminating stigma associated with menstruation, especially in countries where period shaming is still rampant, to focusing on access to sanitary products as a right,” he says. “California, for example, now requires low-income schools to provide free products and nine states do not tax these products.”
For its part, Kimberly-Clark’s U by Kotex brand is addressing the need for access to period products by becoming a founding sponsor of Alliance for Period Supplies, which raises national awareness of period poverty and supports the development and expansion of period supply programs in communities throughout the U.S. The organization is comprised of Allied Programs that collect, warehouse and distribute menstrual/period supplies in local communities.
According to a 2018 U by Kotex survey conducted with YouGov, one in four women struggled to purchase period products within the past year due to lack of income. One in five low-income women report missing work, school or similar events due to lack of access to period supplies. These instances were linked to reported feelings of embarrassment, disappointment and depression, according to the survey.
As part of this initiative, U by Kotex has launched the With U, She Can program.
“U by Kotex is launching the With U, She Can program because we believe that a woman’s period should never stand in the way of her progress. Period,” says Jaja Lang, brand director for U by Kotex. “The reality is that for millions of women a period is doing just that.”
Joanne Samuel Goldblum, chief executive officer of Alliance for Period Supplies, adds: “Through the support of the With U, She Can program, we will work together to shed light on the consequences that the lack of access to period products can have on the lives of individuals, and inspire others to take steps to address period poverty in their communities. Because of the multi-year commitment from U by Kotex, the Alliance for Period Supplies and our allied programs will be able to serve thousands of individuals who currently face challenges in accessing the period products they need.”
U by Kotex has provided the Alliance for Period Supplies with an initial donation of two million products this year and is committed to similar donations each year for the next three years of its founding sponsorship. Throughout the year, select retail partners will also team up with U by Kotex to increase that initial commitment, linking purchases of U by Kotex products to an additional donation to reach even more individuals in need.
In May, in honor of Menstrual Hygiene Day, P&G’s Always brand donated an additional one million period products to confront period poverty across the U.S. as part of their long-standing donation program. Through an ongoing partnership with Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the country, Always aims to provide greater access to period supplies for girls and women in need.
Menstrual Hygiene Day took place on May 28 and is a global initiative, launched by P&G’s partner WASH United in 2014, which aims to raise awareness around the challenges women and girls face during their menstrual cycles. The initiative also strives to educate on the role menstrual hygiene management plays in enabling women and girls to thrive.
For decades Always has partnered with over 65 organizations, including Feeding America, across more than 50 countries to help serve girls in-need around the world. In the past 10 years alone, the brand has donated more than 80 million pads to girls who need them most.
“Lack of access to period products is a problem not just in developing countries, but also here in the U.S.,” says Jennifer Davis, vice president, North America Feminine Care and Global Tampax, Procter & Gamble. “This donation is just part of our ongoing mission and commitment to help empower girls and women everywhere with access to the products they need to manage their periods so they can focus on reaching their full potential.”
With millions of low-income women in the U.S. forced to choose between buying menstrual products for themselves or other essentials for their families, LOLA launched LOLA Gives Back in 2015, in order to raise awareness of menstrual equality and access issues. According to LOLA, these items are among the most requested at homeless shelters, yet are least often donated. Through LOLA Gives Back, the brand works with nonprofit distribution partners to donate feminine care products to low-income, underserved women and girls across the U.S.
Another strategy among some U.S. and European brands is the launch of projects to promote entrepreneurial ventures in emerging economy hygiene markets, Rosenberg says. “These programs involve start-ups that use local materials and labor to make sanitary products for underserved consumers.”
Helping women live healthier lives is at the core of The Honey Pot’s mission. In 2016, the company aligned its business with AfriPads, an international nonprofit organization that focuses on school-age girls in Uganda.
AfriPads helps curb the issue of the lack of adequate feminine hygiene products two-fold. First, AfriPads created a solution to the issue of Ugandan girls using rags, newspaper, toilet tissue and leaves during their menstrual cycle. Using these items causes shame, discomfort, infection and embarrassment, and disposable pads are too expensive for many Ugandans. AfriPads developed cloth-based reusable pads that can be washed and reused monthly allowing Ugandan girls to never have to skip school because of their period again. Second, AfriPads are empowering the women of Uganda by teaching them how to manufacture the AfriPads menstrual kits in their own villages. The women earn a profit constructing the pads and selling them in their local villages and towns.
As part of its efforts, The Honey Pot will also donate a portion of its proceeds to the AfriPads foundation.