Honesty, authenticity key to success in exploding women’s health market

Opportunities abound for natural and organic brands, retailers and investors to change women’s lives, panelists say at Expo West. Get the details.

Robyn Lawrence, Senior Editor, Nutrition Business Journal, Senior Editor, Nutrition Business Journal

April 10, 2024

3 Min Read
Honesty, authenticity key to success in exploding women’s health market

Still nascent but growing exponentially, the women’s health market presents tremendous opportunities for brands, retailers, suppliers and investors—and there’s still plenty of work to be done, four pioneers in the field said during the “Opportunities in Women’s Health” panel at Natural Products Expo West 2024.

Menopause, no longer the taboo subject that it was even five years ago, is getting a lot of attention as more vocal Gen Xers enter into the life stage. Julie Gordon White, who created MenoWell Menopause Bars as a solution to the symptoms she was experiencing as she went through menopause, pointed out that between 1.5 billion and 2 billion women will be going through menopause by 2030.

“It’s a huge market, and we control all the money,” said White, whose company was funded by a female-run venture capital firm. She advised female founders to be selective about the investors they approach. “I wasn’t going to go to a young guy in a hoodie to ask for money. The test was, if you were going to be shocked if I were going to say anything about the V-word, you were not for me.”

Sherry Frey, vice president of total wellness at NielsenIQ, said the firm’s team of neuroscientists has found that “women actually love to be upfront about being sexual beings,” so brands need to be authentic in addressing that. “It’s an exciting time,” she said. “We’re seeing historically taboo topics come front and center, and more and more brands are talking about them on package.”

Related:The Natural List – Trends and opportunities in women’s health

Even so, Frey added, many brands are hesitant to take their marketing in that direction. Often when she presents to companies, she will be asked to delete any mention of vaginal health in her slide deck. “Even though consumers are saying they want it, as an industry sometimes we’re a little awkward and uncomfortable about doing what they’re asking.”

From left, Julie Gordon White, creator of MenoWell Menopause Bars; Karen Hecht, scientific affairs manager at AstaReal; Sherry Frey, vice president of total wellness at NielsenIQ; and Rachel Jones, SVP of product innovation and science officer at GNC discuss the opportunities available in the women’s health category at Natural Products Expo West 2024. Credit: Bryan Beasley Photography

Karen Hecht, scientific affairs manager at AstaReal, told the audience many women have learned to mistrust the traditional health care industry because it has historically ignored their issues. Brands need to show women they’re listening to and responding to their needs in a proactive manner. “Women are looking for lifestyle solutions that will be long-term and connect with multiple goals,” she said.

Hecht said research on women’s health has been lacking but is finally starting to catch up. Rachel Jones, senior vice president of product innovation and science officer at GNC, urged everyone in the audience to be a cause in the matter of making sure more research is conducted on women’s health and developing products that meet their needs. “There are so many women out there that we have the privilege of changing their lives through what we do,” she said.

Related:Supplement brands ignore women at their own peril

Frey said women are gravitating toward women-owned brands and urged those brands to “be loud and proud in terms of calling that out on pack.”

It’s all about authenticity, White added. “We have a high bar for snipping out things that are just sort of made up for us or pinkwashed,” she said. “If you’re a woman-owned brand, get certified as a woman-owned brand so you can show up when women search for that—and they do. It’s one more way we can demonstrate we’re building things for ourselves, our friends and our daughters.”

About the Author(s)

Robyn Lawrence, Senior Editor, Nutrition Business Journal

Senior Editor, Nutrition Business Journal

The author of four books, Robyn Lawrence has written in the natural lifestyle, food and wellness space since she helped launch Natural Home magazine in 1999. She was Natural Home’s editor-in-chief for 11 years and has been an editor for several national magazines, including Mother Earth News and Herb Companion. As senior editor for NBJ, she writes articles and contributes to report content.  

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