Feminine Health on Fire

I started this newsletter to help trend-watching brand marketers and innovators learn about intriguing trends that may inspire new thinking on how you can grow your business. Each month, I’ll dive into 3 examples, and share my thoughts using this super-precise rating scale:

1) Spot On– An example of the trend I think is “sticky” and well executed

2) Missed the Mark – A well-intended, but poorly executed example of the trend

3) What the… An example I can’t quite relate to or don’t see gaining traction

Warning: if you can’t handle talk about women’s anatomy below the belt, stop reading. But I have faith in you.

Female Intimate Care, aka Femcare, aka Women’s Wellness, is having a moment.

If you don’t have ovaries or live under a rock, you may wonder, what’s this all about?

My answer: It’s only a market valued at nearly $30BB in 2020 and projected to grow +5% CAGR through 2030.

Let’s step back for a moment. As those that identify as female know well, for decades, this part of personal care was dominated by medicinal problem solvers or “shhhh…” brands to hide in your purse. Men of all ages were perennially mortified when asked to pick up tampons at the drugstore.

But that’s all changing. Fueled by the #selfcare boom during and post pandemic, a slew of upstart brands (arguably too many) have disrupted a very sleepy, un-innovative, and formerly taboo category.

As a Gen X female (the group most overlooked in marketing), I’ve been fascinated to see the this category emerge naturally out of the holistic wellness megatrend, and propelled by the shift toward more authentic direct and empowered brand messaging. I’m even a little envious of young women who will grow up with these conversations being no big deal. As a marketer, I admire (while admittedly still blushing in some cases) trailblazing brands like The Honey Pot Company , Womaness, and LOLA – mylola.com, who have established products and platforms offering #unfiltered messaging, free education and resources, and supportive communities to share and learn.

If you need physical proof of the rapid de-stigmatization of all things V, look no further than the expanding shelf space at your local Walmart or Target (playing catchup to Ulta and Sephora, who tend to look farther ahead and wisely got on this lady train first.) There’s also sizeable unmet needs (an innovator’s dream) especially in some segments. As explained by Jill Angelo, CEO of Gennev, an early mover in menopausal care with an integrated platform offering direct lines to physicians (now covered by Aetna insurance), “Primary care physicians receive little to no education about topics like menopause during their formal studies. Only 1 in 5 OBGYNs take the elective course on menopause.” There’s also data showing that almost 50% of 18- to 29-year-olds use their OBGYNs as their primary care doctor. So, “it’s the perfect storm for women being really underserved from a healthcare perspective at a critical time of their lives.”

Now that I’ve set the “down under” table, here go the three examples:

SPOT ON: Love Wellness  Good Girl Probiotics

There’s a lot I like about this brand, starting with the central focus on gut health, given the scale of the need: 60-70 Million Americans reportedly suffer from some gastrointestinal disorder. The hero item, Good Girl Probiotics, claims to “benefit your reproductive health organs, the gut, and the immune system,” with 8 strains of probiotics (vs other remedies that contain just 1) to support intimate health.” They also assert they’re the ONLY women’s brand linking the benefits of a healthy gut to hormonal, vaginal, and brain health. [side note: As a trend geek who’s been tracking the rise of the microbiome as the center of the human body’s universe, I was especially intrigued to learn while researching this article of the growing scientific evidence linking pH balance (critical to healthy bodily functions) to the vaginal microbiome…yes, that is a thing. IYDKNYK.]

Love Wellness’s presentation is also strong, from an appealing, brightly colored product line, to names like Healthy V Vitamin, Sparkle Fiber and Bye Bye Bloat, to their approachable online education. They clearly get their Gen Z target’s needs, and table stakes expectations for clean, non-toxic, non-irritating formulas, even gluten free! ‘Doctor developed’ provides added cred.

The brand’s probiotic focus also exemplifies a pattern I find fascinating–as the wellness mega-market matures, efficacious ingredients start to migrate from more familiar categories, like food, beverage and beauty, into new segments, and as consumers have already become familiar, they’re more likely to opt in.

MISSED THE MARK: My Girl Glad You Came Wipe

This one drew me in with the cheeky name, but lost me with the format.

My Girl initially positioned for digestive health, similar to Love Wellness. It claims to be formulated by a “world renowned microbiologist” with a line of “clinically-tested, powerful probiotics, bloat-banishing enzymes, and constipation-kicking herbs.”

Their clever, irreverent tone, used effectively by many brands in this space to broach the subject matter, works well to showcase a range of supplements and topicals like Better Belly System, Gut Goals, and You Go, Girl. Their online diagnostic quiz for targeted recos is also smart.

Where it falls apart for me is an unclear reason for being: adding two sexual health product extensions (this one, and the Panty Dropper sensation enhancing serum) to an already broad portfolio seems opportunistic and unnecessary. Plus, for sustainability-first Gen Z’s and Millennials, a two-step post-sex wipe system seems OFF, as does this description of the dry wipe for cleaning to “give the towel (or t-shirt, yuck!) a break” and the wet wipe for “restoration and soothing post-play.” Aside from the t-shirt reference I can’t unsee, why do I need TWO wipes with extra packaging? In a cluttered segment of sex toys and pleasure topicals, I say, stay in the Gut Love lane.

WHAT THE …:  Funk It Seed Cycling Kit  (see what I did there?)

A brief primer on the menstrual cycle (two were news to me, and I’ve been female for 5 decades): each month, women transition through four phases: Menstruation, Follicular, Ovulation & Luteal, during which large fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone can result in the dreaded PMS symptoms on which many sexist jokes have been built:  moodiness, cramps, cravings, sore breasts, and hormonal acne.

Enter Funk It, the Seed Cycling Brand.

Like me, you may wonder: WTF is Seed Cycling? Not, as it sounds, an early stage investment for some new e-bike, but a regimen of (edible) seeds to support hormonal balance and alleviate symptoms at different times of the month.

Now clearly, I wouldn’t be waxing on about this category if I didn’t believe in it’s powerful role for women of all ages to better understand and manage their cycles, fluctuations and symptoms.  And yet, I’m just not sure BULK SEEDS in a bright pink package with an questionable name (how do YOU interpret Funk in this context?!) makes the most compelling case as the solution.

I’m the first to join countless other women in my susceptibility to clever marketing and fun packaging (as in the above examples) of the need for yet ANOTHER supplement, cream, oil, or spray. But I’m hard pressed to buy a big ol’ bag of flax/pumpkin/ sunflower seeds I ALREADY buy at Trade Joes for about $7.00 as opposed to $35 before shipping.

My Take

I’ve hopefully painted a compelling picture of the validity and future potential of the feminine wellness market, which is expected to continue to expand in spite of economic challenges. One expert from Reckitt’s Intimate Wellness US Market, says growth will come from innovation, consumer education—many women say they know more about their bodies than they actually do—and retail shelf expansion for menopausal and hormonal care (last fun fact: 1 Billion women will reach menopause by 2025).

My favorite part of this #femcare movement is how it cracked open the conversation, putting the health of our nether-regions in the spotlight, much like Viagra did for male sexual health in the early 2000’s. Bravo to the empowering tone, solid product benefits, and most importantly, to the normalization of something very, very, normal.

Sources: Baird, Changing the Conversation on Women’s Wellbeing, 2022, New York Times: Gen Z Wants Feminine Care Brands to Just Say Vagina, 10/5/23, Cosmetics amp; toiletries, Dynamics and Trends in the Female Intimate Care and Wellness Market, 9/29/23, TrendHunter, Brand Websites

What Do You Think? Add a comment with any thoughts this sparked for you!  See you next month!

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