FEMININE FOODS

As the Quaker Oats Co. prepares for the national launch of its new Nutrition for Women brand, other companies are also getting involved in what some say could be a big marketing trend: foods and beverages formulated just for women.Nutrition for Women, an instant hot cereal in test market since late last year and slated to roll out nationally in August, is packed with good-for-women ingredients: calcium

As the Quaker Oats Co. prepares for the national launch of its new Nutrition for Women brand, other companies are also getting involved in what some say could be a big marketing trend: foods and beverages formulated just for women.

Nutrition for Women, an instant hot cereal in test market since late last year and slated to roll out nationally in August, is packed with good-for-women ingredients: calcium and vitamins A and D for bone health; iron and B vitamins for energy; folic acid and vitamin A for strength in the child-bearing years; soy protein for hormonal balance; and soluble fiber, other B vitamins and vitamin E for heart health.

"Women appreciate something that's just for them and tailored to meet their health needs," said Anna Rider, marketing manager, hot cereals, Quaker Oats, Chicago.

Nutrition for Women is one of several new foods, beverages and health products being marketed as a convenient way for women to manage gender-specific conditions like premenstrual syndrome and menopause, and even to help prevent diseases like osteoporosis and breast cancer.

"Women today are more likely to take control of their future health than previous generations," Rider said.

While the women's food market is currently small, it's positioned well for growth, according to market research firm Mintel International, Chicago. Last year, 29 new women's health foods were launched in the United States, up from 10 introductions in 1999. And in the first three months of 2001, 12 new products entered the market, according to Mintel.

Among some of the new items are a low-fat cereal from Minneapolis-based General Mills, Harmony, which provides calcium, antioxidants, iron, folic acid and soy; and from Stonyfield Farm, Londonderry, N.H., YoSelf, an organic yogurt that features inulin, a natural dietary fiber that increases calcium absorption.

Balance Bar, owned by Kraft Foods, is readying for the launch of Oasis, a nutrition bar for women that provides 8 grams of soy protein, 100% of the daily requirement for vitamin C, and 22 vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium and folic acid. Oasis will be introduced to the trade this month and will hit retail shelves in September in six sweet flavors: Strawberry Cheesecake, Chocolate Celebration, Chocolate Peanut Crisp, White Chocolate Raspberry, Oatmeal Raisin and Lemon Twist.

"A growing number of American women are voicing an interest in their overall health," said Beth Gilmartin, brand manager, Balance Bar. "Women want a convenient source of nutrition to help them maintain their good health and well-being."

The women's food trend took off in late 1999, when Mead Johnson Nutritionals, Evansville, Ind., launched Viactiv soft calcium chews, a dietary supplement that tastes like candy, according to Lynn Dornblaser, editorial director of Mintel's Global New Products Database. In marketing materials, Mead points out that calcium helps build strong bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Mead has since expanded the Viactiv line to include fruit smoothies, spritzers, crispy bars and, just last year, Hearty Energy Bars, which are loaded with B vitamins, folic acid and zinc.

Luna, a nutrition bar for women, also made an impression. Clif Bar, the Berkeley, Calif.-based manufacturer of Luna, markets Luna in 10 flavors, including two new citrus varieties: Key Lime Pie and Orange Bliss. Each bar features ingredients including rolled oats, soy protein, calcium, folic acid, B-vitamins, iron and antioxidants.

Manufacturers are even addressing once-taboo subjects like PMS and menopause directly on product packaging. Los Angeles-based Natural Vitality boldly offers Menopausitive, a ready-to-drink nutritional supplement that contains more than 100 milligrams of soy isoflavones, 24 herbs, and 29 vitamins and minerals. And just two months ago, GlaxoSmithKline extended its popular TUMS brand with the introduction of TUMS Calcium for Life PMS and TUMS Calcium for Life Bone Health dietary supplements.

"There's an increased openness on the part of manufacturers in talking about women's health issues," Dornblaser said.

The trend is also evident outside the United States. In Chile, for instance, Nestle offers Mom, a powdered milk for pregnant and breast-feeding mothers; and in Canada, Yoplait USA markets Caresse + Calcium, which is a yogurt with added calcium.

A deeper look into other markets hints at what may come in the United States. In Columbia, there's Leche Alpina Mama Milk, a whole milk enriched with 12 vitamins, six minerals and dietary fiber; and in Australia, there's Healthwise for Women 40+, a line of breakfast cereals that contains calcium, phytoestrogens, zinc, antioxidants, vitamin B6 and fiber.

The time is right for these products for a number of reasons, including new research that has demonstrated the potential health benefits of certain ingredients. Soy, for instance, has been shown to relieve menopause symptoms and even to ward off breast cancer. And fiber has been proven to help women reduce the risk of heart disease.

At the same time, the millions of female Baby Boomers are entering a stage in their lives when they are taking their health more seriously.

The Woman's Pantry

Targeting the roughly 74 million American women who are over the age of 35, Nutrition for Women was developed to meet the needs of busy females who want products formulated just for their health needs.

Pointing to a study that showed that about 50% of women over age 20 fail to meet the recommended dietary allowances for six essential nutrients -- calcium, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamins A and E and iron -- Quaker described Nutrition for Women as a convenient form of health maintenance.

Quaker is supporting the launch with a "significant and dedicated" marketing program that includes television, print and Internet ads, along with sampling and other events. It is also relying heavily on viral marketing, using tactics that promote word-of-mouth endorsements. Local and national public relations events will be included in that effort. "Women are more likely to talk about new products and recommend them to family and friends, so we'll be doing a lot of PR events targeted at women," said Rider.

While Rider declined to comment on whether other products will debut under the brand, she said Quaker is "always evaluating opportunities."

In Perfect Harmony

Marketing executives at other companies also won't say whether their new women-oriented brands will include more products, except to say they're being received well by female consumers.

"This new product is an easy solution for millions of women who want to find a simple way to nourish and nurture their bodies," said Megan Nightingale, assistant marketing manager for Harmony.

One serving of low-fat Harmony cereal -- a combination of toasted wheat and rice flakes, corn flakes and vanilla almond oat clusters -- offers calcium, antioxidants, iron, folic acid and soy, according to General Mills.

Marketing the product has been a learning experience for General Mills. The company has found that it should market to women simply as women -- and not segment them according to certain roles, such as mothers or working professionals.

General Mills also discovered the importance of using relationship marketing with female consumers. To do that, it's relying heavily on focused sampling events at women's expositions and conventions.

And under a grassroots marketing initiative, General Mills created the Harmony Wisdom Wall, an interactive exhibit that toured several U.S. cities. At each stop, women were invited to write insightful messages and post them to the Wall, which was then donated to the Women's Museum in Dallas last month.

"The Wisdom Wall is something you wouldn't expect from a cereal company," said Nightingale.

Got Calcium?

Along with programs like the Wisdom Wall, marketers are adding value to their women's brands in other ways, including self-help programs and even contributions to women's organizations. For instance, with each purchase of TUMS Calcium for Life, GlaxoSmithKline is donating 5 cents to the Society for Women's Health Research, Washington.

Raleigh, N.C.-based GlaxoSmithKline also created a special Web site, www.tumscalciumforlife, which includes a PMS self-management program. Women who enroll in the program are offered a personalized home page; weekly e-mails containing hints and tips for establishing a management routine; personal records to track symptoms and dosage; and the latest news in women's health.

GlaxoSmithKline said it created TUMS Calcium for Life in response to scientific evidence that shows the calcium carbonate in TUMS can help reduce the effects of PMS and strengthen bones.

Helping Yoself

While wording on the packaging for Calcium for Life PMS, as well as Nutrition for Women, Harmony, Oasis and many other products in the category, clearly indicates that the product is for women, Stonyfield Farm has taken a different approach for YoSelf. The company considered using "for women" on the package, but decided against it because it didn't want to exclude other consumer groups.

The decision was made in response to the success Stonyfield Farm had with YoBaby, a 4-ounce yogurt designed for babies, that proved surprisingly popular with adult men and women because of its creamy taste and small snack-size package.

"We know women will be drawn to YoSelf, but we didn't want to exclude men or kids," said Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Farm president and chief executive officer.

Along with being a good source of calcium, YoSelf features inulin, a natural dietary fiber that is said to increase calcium absorption and promote good health.