Get real: Women’s health supplements target formerly taboo issues

Nutritional Outlook, Volume 25, Issue 8

As women become more open about their daily wellness struggles, they’re looking for supplements and brands to address the sometimes uncomfortable aspects of womanhood head on.

Though knowing the size of the women’s health supplement market is helpful ($55.4 billion globally in 2021, according to Grand View Research1), perhaps what matters more is that interest is through the roof—as is the opportunity for supplement brands and formulators. According to data from Spoonshot, which tracks trends in terms of media references by both businesses and individuals, there is significant opportunity in the market when it comes to addressing women’s health issues.

“Consumer interest has been consistently higher than business interest since 2016,” says Suraksha Rajagopal, head of research and strategy at Spoonshot, which indicates considerable white space in the market. That said, the business community is catching on: business interest in women’s health grew 50.3% in the 12 months leading up to July 2022, and it’s projected to grow by a further 54% in the coming 12 months. “This is an indication that we can expect the market for women’s health products to see significant growth in the coming years,” Rajagopal adds.

This growth is much needed, as Spoonshot finds that only 0.1% of products across categories are tailored to women’s needs; the health supplements category is slightly better than average, with 2.1% of launches calling out women’s health needs.

Supplements for the Life Stages

“Women are now at the forefront of the wellness movement, and what we are demanding in 2022 is profoundly different from two years ago,” says Angie Tebbe co-founder and CEO of Rae Wellness (Minneapolis). “This is driven by several factors, including an increased focus on mental and emotional health, and a return to fundamentals like sleep, movement, stress management, and digestion.” Getting back to basics means that demand is rising in a few different categories, especially as women understand that a holistic approach is the best one for overall health. At Rae Wellness, such categories on the rise include digestion, stress, sex, hormones, skin, and supplements geared towards whole-body health. At contract research organization Vedic Lifesciences (Mumbai), categories in the spotlight include fatigue, weight management, skincare, menstrual support, and bone health (especially for postmenopausal women).

One way brands are helping to bring focus to this broad range of demands is by tailoring supplements to the various phases of a woman’s life. Pharmavite is one example, offering the Nature Made brand (for women in their childbearing years, pregnancy, lactation, and over 50), Uqora (for a proactive approach to urinary tract health), and Equelle (non-prescription, non-hormonal supplements for menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, mood imbalances, and poor sleep).

“Each stage of a woman’s life—from the childbearing years to the menopause transition and beyond—is an important milestone filed with both exciting and challenging changes to her body and heath,” says Pharmavite Vice President of Science and Technology Susan Mitmesser, PhD. “Each stage poses unique health concerns—from filling in any nutrient gaps during the childbearing years to managing menopause symptoms later in life—and the right supplements can help support women’s health and wellness through each stage.”

Spoonshot analysis of women’s health supplements confirms this preference for products designed with the phases of life in mind. Emerging ingredients include, first, black cohosh extract, known as a menopause-friendly supplement that can help with hot flashes and night sweats. Spoonshot also identifies fenugreek seeds, which are promoted for digestive and colon health as well as lactation and postnatal support. Finally, wild yam root is also on the radar as another menopause-related supplement ingredient that can also be used for menstrual issues.

Speaking Up

It’s important for brands to do their due diligence when developing and presenting products for women during times of delicate life changes. “The packaging, labels, names, and formulations have to speak to the consumer,” says Jessica Sepel, clinical nutritionist and founder of JSHealth Vitamins (Sydney, Australia). But it doesn’t end there. “These days, I believe the consumer is looking for more than a product,” says Sepel. “They want to feel connected to a brand and also feel part of a community.”

At GNC (Pittsburgh, PA), this means communication is key, especially when it comes to topics once under wraps. “Topics that were once considered taboo like periods, menopause, infertility, and sexuality are discussed more freely,” says registered dietitian and Senior Director of Technical Product and Content Design Rachel Kreider. “A strong communication mechanism is important to allow women to connect and understand the benefit of a brand or product.”

Transitional times for women—like pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause—are indeed prime opportunities for brands to make an honest connection with consumers, says Mitmesser, as they search for assistance and support. “Supplement companies can reach these unique audiences and attain loyal customers by providing additional education and a sense of community that empowers and supports them to achieve their health and wellness goals,” she adds. One educational service offered at Pharmavite falls under its Equelle brand; it’s a Menopause Symptom Tracker, which helps patients manage their symptoms and provides an avenue to openly discuss concerns with their healthcare provider. Additionally, Uqora subscribers receive newsletters and access to resources that similarly provide a sense of community to those searching for support and information.

The Future Is Female

According to Spoonshot research, the women’s heath supplement space is currently dominated by products for gut and urinary health, and menopause support. “However, a look at the online conversations on women’s health indicates a much wider range of issues of concern for women,” says Rajagopal, “ranging from general wellness and mental health to beauty and skincare.” As such, the future of women’s health could benefit from innovation in ingredients and condition-specific formulations.

Similarly, most products available are in the form of capsules, tablets, and gummies, says Spoonshot; here, too, there is room for innovation. At Famenity Co. (Uiwang, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea), softgels and coated tablets make more sense for women’s health supplements, since they can minimize the potential odor and taste of medicinal plant extracts. “In addition, although the unit price is relatively expensive, it is appealing for portability and convenience” to offer pouches and stick packs instead of bulk packaging like a bottle, says pharmacist and CEO Jiwon Lee.

Most importantly, however, is that the women’s heath market going forward will benefit from increased communication and less shame surrounding natural changes and experiences. “As women are redefining their personal definition of wellness, it is leading to a great ‘un-tabooing’ of many, varied aspects of their health,” says Tebbe. “The wellness industry is getting real about sex, stress, hormones, and other previously stigmatized categories. New categories are being developed in ways that support both the bodies and minds of women, creating support for holistic day-to-day needs. This provides tremendous runway for companies to address their needs through personalized solutions.”

Reference

  1. Grand View Research report. “Women’s Health and Beauty Supplements Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Product, By Application, By Age Group, By Consumer Group, By Sales Channel, By Region, and Segment Forecasts, 2022-2030.”