Natural Foods Merchandiser

Megamarkets, Nuances And Emerging Segments

Led by the blockbuster success of General Nutrition Centers' Mega Man and Ultra Women's customized nutritional supplements/vita-packs a few years ago, marketers now offer dozens of food products, pills, powders and potions designed specifically to either improve or prevent deterioration of women's health, as well as respond to performance and lifestyle issues. Retailers are also recommending, organizing and advertising women's products and services. From simply customizing megamarkets like cholesterol control, weight loss and upset stomach for women, to finding creative product use strategies, the women's market is a veritable gold mine of opportunity. The following are some megaideas for marketers to watch and work on.

Weighing In
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that half of all women are overweight and one-quarter obese, the demand for cutting-edge weight-control products and services has never been greater. And as baby-boomer women turn 50—a pivotal time for weight gain—the market will grow even larger. Gallup/Multi-Sponsor Surveys of Princeton, N.J., projects that the number of overweight women will increase 12 percent by 2005 and that those trying to lose weight for health reasons will jump an additional 8.3 million to a total of 92.7 million. The number of more traditional appearance-driven weight-loss dieters will increase 5.8 million to 68 million. U.S. weight-loss sales have already hit $46 billion, and thermogenic diet pills nearly doubled in mass-market sales last year, according to Information Resources Inc. in Chicago.

Food is no exception either. Almost three-quarters of primary grocery shoppers confess their purchases were "at least a little influenced" by weight, reports the Food Marketing Institute in Washington, D.C. Atlanta's Calorie Control Council confirms that nearly nine in 10 women used low-fat foods and 85 percent used low-calorie products last year; one-third said they increased their use. A survey by Food Processing magazine of the top 400 U.S. food executives showed that reduced-calorie foods ranked fourth and low-fat products ninth as the most important growth categories.

According to a new study by the Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD Group, "Dieting in America: The Skinny on Women, Health and Diet," nearly two-thirds of all meal preparers want to lose 20 pounds or more (figure 1). However, the percentage of women who say they are "dieting"—although still high—has slipped during the past decade from 34 percent in 1990 to 29 percent in 2000. It's not that fewer women are watching their diets, but rather that they are not putting the label "dieter" on themselves. Retailers should heed this news. NPD has found that almost half of all women are actively monitoring their diet, and weight concerns are a key part. NPD has identified three market subsegments. In contrast to the 51 percent of "apathetic eaters," 13 percent have been classified as "healthy dieters"; 16 percent as "radical dieters;" and 20 percent as a new "balanced women" segment, who won't say they're on a diet, but have a particularly healthy style of eating. While the basic components of these segments' dieters are similar, their specific food choices are very different, giving marketers a large, motivated market to pursue.

The Feminine Side
With women taking more responsibility for their own health than ever, it's not surprising that foods, supplements and green pharmaceuticals that offer more natural solutions to women's health concerns will continue to be in great demand. With 47 million women currently peri-menopausal or menopausal, the concept of providing natural phytoestrogens and other ingredients to relive menopausal symptoms will continue to be of interest to mainstream consumers (figure 2). SloanTrends believes that the menopause market will continue to be strong and sustainable. By 2015, an estimated 50 percent of the population will be peri-, post- or menopausal. Given that 75 percent experience at least one menopausal symptom, alternatives such as soy, flaxseed, black cohosh and others have tremendous market potential. According to the American Menopause Foundation in New York, 75 percent of peri- and menopausal women experience hot flashes, 71 percent, changed sex interest; 60 percent, vaginal dryness; 50 percent, bone loss; 40 percent, incontinence; 39 percent, yeast infections; 26 percent, depression and 16 percent, insomnia.

Among younger women, pre- and perinatal vitamins and nutritional supplements are popular and represent another growth segment. According to the Hartman Group in Bellevue, Wash., prenatal supplements sales were up 58 percent. Similarly, natural solutions for PMS is another growing category. According to Gallup/Multi-Sponsor Surveys, the incidence of PMS will increase by 4 percent between 2000 and 2010, and menstrual cramps by 3 percent. Currently, 18 percent of women suffer from menstrual cramps or PMS.

Inner Beauty
With one baby boomer turning 50 every seven seconds, it's no wonder that women have put cosmeceuticals and antiaging on the top of their product wish list. In fact, the Cleveland-based Freedonia Group predicts that the cosmeceutical market will grow from $3.0 billion in 2000 to $3.8 billion in 2005, with nutrient, botanical and phytochemically enhanced products taking an ever-increasing share. Three out of four women think it is important to look younger than their peers, and nearly 50 million women believe that their facial wrinkles have as much an imact on their appearance as their buttocks and breasts, according to the American College of Plastic Surgeons.

While alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids, antioxidants, vitamins and even Co-Q10 dominate the mass skin care market, look for products that promote the concept of "inner beauty." In a recent Gallup survey for Roche Vitamins, 68 percent of women said they believed hair, skin and nail health could be enhanced through diet; 53 percent, sunscreen use; 32 percent, vitamin supplements; and 13 percent, herbal supplements. Nearly one-third agreed strongly and 47 percent somewhat that vitamins were good for the skin. From natural fruit toners and tanning to pills for nails, hair and skin, cosmeceuticals are likely to provide a unique and expanding market for nutritional ingredients manufacturers and enhance the bottom line for food retailers as well.

To Watch And Work On
A number of other new concepts and product approaches best suited for women's products are in the works:

  • Night repair supplements: Designed to replenish the body during sleep—similar to a cosmetic night cream.
  • A.m./p.m dosing: A way to improve bioavailability for difficult-to-absorb (calcium) or water-soluble nutrients (B vitamins) that are not stored in the body by providing a smaller but more absorbable dose twice a day or more.
  • Teen-directed: A number of major market-research firms indicate a growing interest in supplementation among teens; energy and beauty top the list of what teens want.
  • Menopause symptom prevention: There is substantial evidence to suggest that if women start taking soy, isoflavones and other products early in life, they may be able to ward off menopausal symptoms later.
  • Cycles and varied doses: Keeping women's reproductive cycle in mind, watch for products based on the monthly cycle and designed to accommodate the body's varied demands, such as iron during menstruation.

Series Part I: Women's Health Market: Potential and Direction
Series Part II: Women's Health Market: Attitudes and Behaviors
Series Part III: Women's Health Market: Concerns and Conditions

A. Elizabeth Sloan, Ph.D., is president, Sloan Trends & Solutions Inc. in Escondido, Calif. Reach her at [email protected] or 760.741.9611.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 2/p. 16, 18

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