Girl (Un)Interrupted

The conversation around feminine care has expanded, leading to a more knowledgeable consumer base with informed demands.
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Feminine needshave not evolved much throughout time. The way they are dealt with, on the other hand, is a completely different story.

Women no longer have to settle for just “getting by.” Today, there are a wide range of products available designed to ensure that each woman’s unique set of needs is met and even exceeded. For today’s woman, convenience and quality are both non-negotiable when it comes to feminine care products. Beyond just providing basic protection, product attributes like comfort, or those designed with a specific use in mind like active or overnight, have taken on increased importance. 

As with anything, finding a product that works is most important to the feminine care consumer. “I think what women are mainly looking for is a product that works for them—one that is providing leak-free protection, security and convenience,” says Daniela Masaro, brand manager for Kitchener, Ont., Canada-based Diva International. “I think all women want to feel confident, and they want to know that their feminine hygiene is something they don’t have to worry about during the day.”

Industry observers say that as more women become comfortable sharing menstruation anecdotes and advice, both on their own personal social media pages and through the mass media, the topic’s once taboo nature has diminished. 

“Conversations about periods and feminine care are trending,” says Kanchan Patkar, general manager of the U by Kotex brand, made by Irving, Texas-based Kimberly Clark. “More than ever before, these hot topics can be seen in an abundance of media today. People are continuing to become more comfortable talking about periods.” 

Kimberly Clark’s U by Kotex brand is taking this idea a step further with its latest initiative, The Period Projects. The Period Projects was launched in partnership with real women to work on making periods easier for them to deal with. The first part of the project rolled out in May, called The Period Shop, a pop-up in New York that included a DJ, nail art stations, massages and a comedy night. “The Period Shop is proof that together we can change the way people think about, talk about and shop for periods,” Patkar adds. 

Other aspects of the initiative include a commercial campaign, website and social promotion. Some of the products from the pop-up will also be available online. Patkar says that to add to the conversation, other projects are in development and will be announced throughout the year. 

U by Kotex is also innovating within its product line, and there have been two items launched so far this year. U by Kotex Security Ultra Thin Overnight Pads is the brand’s most absorbent yet, according to company officials. It features a 40 percent wider back to help stop leaks, and is also available in Long, which has a Soft Touch cover and wing shape designed for a secure fit. 

Innovations like these are what women are looking for, so for the retailer, this means that having a variety on shelf so each woman can find her product of choice is important to consider when planning sets. Officials for Kimberly-Clark say that consumers are increasingly turning to the internet for product reviews and sometimes even to shop, so online availability is imperative for capitalizing on these purchases. 

Observers note that retailers must remember that feminine care purchases are typically planned in advance. “The DivaCup is not an impulse purchase,” Masaro says. “When women have researched this product and know they want to buy it, they are expecting the usual retailer they purchase their feminine hygiene products from to carry it. If they can’t find it there, they will leave and buy The DivaCup elsewhere.” 

Having a complete selection includes having a variation of natural and organic products prominently displayed as well. Though it is known that the feminine care category overall is declining due to slow population growth, there are some areas within the category that are seeing improvement. Thanks to access to better education, consumer interest in what feminine care products are made of has led to a surge in demand for more natural alternatives. 

“Continued consumer demand of a healthier lifestyle—from environmentally sound products and concern of pesticide usage, chemical allergies and intolerance to synthetics—are key consumer motivators in our category,” says Theresa White, senior executive officer of Natracare, based in Greeley, Colo. “Women are actively seeking out natural and organic alternatives, as well as free from feminine hygiene options.”

Natracare manufactures feminine care products that are free from the controversial ingredients found in most conventional feminine hygiene products, like plastics, polyacrylate superabsorbents, petroleum derivatives, synthetic ingredients, latex, perfumes and dyes. In accordance with increasing demand, Natracare recently added a new line of Ultra Extra sanitary pads and redesigned its NightTime pads to make them longer for better protection overnight. 

“Providing organic and natural feminine products gives retailers the opportunity to compete for sales by offering brands that attract a broader consumer base and capture a higher shopping basket value,” White says. 

The Diva Cup is another product benefiting from this demand, and in the past few years has seen growth in both sales and profits. Made from healthcare-grade silicone and free of chemicals, plastics and dyes, the Diva Cup offers women 12 hours of leak-free protection, company officials say. It is available in two variations: Model 1 is recommended for women and girls under the age of 30 who have not given birth, Model 2 is for women and girls who are either over 30 or who have given birth. Officials add that the product is money saving as it is reusable; the company recommends replacing it annually.

Observers only predict the demand for these healthier items will continue to expand. “With consumer commitment to wellness and the increasing concern for health, the trend for organic continues to grow and the free from categories will become more prominent consumer preferences,” adds White.

For those not only concerned about their own health but the health of the planet as well, eco-friendly menstrual products have become a growing trend. Kimberly-Clark participates in the GreenBlue Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s How2Recycle labeling program, which educates consumers on how to sustainably dispose of packaging waste with “Store Drop Off” labels on its packages.

Additionally, officials for the company say it is pursing various initiatives in order to reduce waste during the manufacturing process. Kimberly-Clark works to divert 80 percent of its manufacturing waste away from landfills to preserve natural resources. The Diva Cup excels in that realm as well, as it is reusable and significantly reduces the amount of product going into landfills. 

However, observers agree that above all is function. “If a product does not work, it does not matter how inexpensive or how environmentally friendly it is,” Masaro adds. “If it’s not working and meeting women’s needs and expectations, they simply are not going to use it.”    

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