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In addition to developing and promoting more sexual health products for women, it will be incredibly important going forward that brands and ingredient suppliers commit to the highest quality standards.
Once known for its adulterated products and significant risks, the sexual health supplement market is on the rebound. In fact, it’s expected to grow by $801.29 million from 2022 to 2026, representing a CAGR of 10.41%.1 One the one hand, says Mariko Hill, global innovation manager at Gencor (Austin, TX), this growth can be attributed to the mainstreaming of notions like libido and sexual health; on the other, consumer awareness of supplements’ ability to naturally address libido, sexual desire, and hormonal issues is also on the upswing.
“Brands are making sexual health supplements trendy—or ‘sexier’—by good marketing and the delivery of clinical evidence regarding the ingredients in the formula,” says Hill. In turn, consumers are willing to spend more money in the category. “Consumers want to buy from a brand they trust with clinically validated ingredients,” says Elise Kaiser, vice president of sales, North America, at Ixoreal Biomed (Los Angeles, CA).
Perhaps most significantly, market growth can largely be attributed to the widening of the consumer audience. According to Carlos Rodriguez, communication manager at Pharmactive Biotech Products SLU (Madrid, Spain), there is a shift in who’s using the products; once reserved for men, women are now getting in on the action, seeking out products for sexual performance, appetite, and pleasure.
“Male sexual performance has definitely traditionally been the driving force behind why consumers gravitate towards most of these supplements,” agrees Ixoreal’s Kaiser. “However, even sexual health supplements for women are now gaining traction.”
Holistic Ingredients for Men and Women
Sexual health is not a new category. What is new is what consumers demand of their sexual health products. Instead of a silver bullet, today’s consumers seek a holistic approach that addresses sexual health in a nourishing way and also takes into account lifestyle habits and other factors that can impact sexual health.
To that end, HP Ingredients’ (Bradenton, FL) new sexual health ingredient for women, Nu-Femme—a combination of 400 mg of Labisia pumila extract plus 100 mg of the company’s flagship LJ100 Eurycoma longifolia, or tongkat ali, ingredient—is designed for perimenopausal and menopausal women and shows promise via its first published study in 2020. Researchers recruited 119 women aged 41 to 55 to take part in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which 60 consumed 500 mg of Nu-Femme and 59 took a placebo for 24 weeks. The Nu-Femme group showed a significant increase in vitality at week 12 and week 24, whereas a significant improvement in vitality scores was only observed at week 24 for the placebo group.2 Plus, Nu-Femme showed an increase of 21% in vitality index scores, whereas the increase in the placebo group was only 14% at the end of week 24.
Underscoring the need for a holistic approach, HP Ingredients put LJ100 to another sex health test in 2021. Researchers randomized 45 middle-aged men with androgen deficiency into four groups: placebo only, supplement only, training plus placebo, and training plus supplement. After six months, sexual satisfaction scores increased significantly for those taking the supplement (29%); however, sexual satisfaction increased by 35% for those that supplemented and also integrated training into their routines.3
“It appears that, from conversations with our customers, they are looking to provide a more holistic type of approach, not just something that promotes ‘hard and fast’ [results], but a product that provides a more nourishing effect, promoting hormonal balance with a nutritional edge,” says Annie Eng, CEO of HP Ingredients.
Also meeting this trend is Testofen, an ingredient for men from Gencor, which was the subject of five clinical studies supporting its benefits for sexual desire and vitality, muscle mass, and testosterone levels. “Supplementing diets with products containing Testofen and incorporating regular resistance exercise can help men maintain healthy levels of free testosterone that are already within normal range—which, in turn, supports multiple bodily functions4,” explains Maggie McNamara, marketing director at Gencor.
Adaptogens Remain Relevant
As it turns out, the original holistic sex health ingredients, adaptogens, are still going strong—with some health-boosting advances.
At Sempera Organics (Morgan Hill, CA), Cordyceps militaris is offered as a standalone powder standardized to 20% beta-glucans, offering similar biomolecular properties as sexual health mainstay Cordyceps sinensis, without any of the taxonomic controversy. “Cordyceps contains high amounts of adenosine, which is the precursor to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the universal energy currency powering cellular work,” says Nirmal Nair, CEO and founder of Sempera Organics. “Sexual health aside, C. militaris presents a huge range of biological activities including anti-inflammation, immune stimulation, enhanced physical performance and endurance, promotion of restful sleep, and improvement of depression, all of which promote sexual health indirectly to some degree.”
KSM-66 Ashwagandha from Ixoreal Biomed may not be a new ingredient, but it was the subject of a new 2022 study finding that eight weeks of supplementation can impact sexual function and quality of life, as well as serum testosterone and prolactin levels.5 On the heels of these findings, researchers conducted a second randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on women for sexual wellness, finding that the ingredient can statistically improve arousal, orgasm, desire, and satisfaction after eight weeks of supplementation.6
“Women overall tend to respond better to preventative and long-term care,” says Kaiser. “There is ample white space for focusing on women. The female sexual health category has typically underperformed and is still an underserved category.”
In addition to developing and promoting more sexual health products for women, it will be incredibly important going forward that brands and ingredient suppliers commit to the highest quality standards, as the market has fallen prey to adulterations in the past, says Pharmactive’s Rodriguez.
The future will also see varied delivery formats like gummies, chews, and functional foods explode in this category, with Ixoreal’s Kaiser noting that opportunities exist for bars and ready-to-drink beverages for sexual health. As Gencor’s Hill points out, these are already gaining traction abroad: Wellbeing Nutrition (India) launched a melt-in-the-mouth strip featuring Gencor’s Testofen fenugreek ingredient, and Angfa (Japan) recently placed a ready-to-drink beverage with the same ingredient in supermarkets.
As the holistic trend grows, so too will the category’s demand for ingredients that address underlying risk factors for developing sexual health problems. “Examples such as stress, poor circulation, and sleep issues are all underlying reasons a person would have sexual health problems,” says McNamara. “Adding ingredients to support these areas of challenge would greatly improve the efficacy of a product.”
Finally, the holistic trend will also continue to benefit the growth of the market overall, especially as both women and men view sexual health as part of overall wellness. “I think we will see more openness, less hype, and more of a focus on the wellness angle, to appeal to a wider audience,” says Eng. “We see that the ‘racy’ approach has a limited appeal and is often considered dubious.”