If supermarkets are to continue on as sources of all things wellness while maintaining one-stop-shop status, the most sensitive health categories are not to be neglected.
Manufacturers certainly don't think so, as product innovation persists in such categories as family planning, feminine hygiene and adult incontinence. Lubricants are featuring natural ingredients; both male and female contraceptives are increasingly being marketed to women; and feminine hygiene products are growing more specialized.
The delicate balance for supermarkets lies in providing a merchandising scheme that won't alienate the dominant customer segment: women. Starting in September 2005, with Princeton, N.J.-based Church & Dwight's launch of the Elexa line, sexual well-being products entered into the feminine hygiene aisle. In Elexa's case, the stylishly packaged condoms, cleansing cloths and vibrating rings are designed to be sold from this area, increasing the comfort level for female shoppers.
Retailers everywhere pulled an assortment of similar products into the aisle, including a line of massage oils by Durex, from SSL International, London, called Play, as well as a line by KY owner Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, N.J., with product extensions like KY Warming Liquid and KY Sensual Silk and Sensual Mist.
Portland, Ore.-based Seventh Generation, a maker of chlorine-free natural feminine products, started a promotional campaign to “break the cultural stereotypes of a ‘taboo’ women's health topic: periods.”
The campaign included a national tour as well as a website, www.tampontification.com, that invites women “to open the lines of communication regarding menstruation within the American culture and give women an open forum in which to feel at ease with the topic.”
In May 2007, Durex launched a multimedia marketing campaign to support its new Durex Play Vibrations ring, including national television and radio advertising spoofing traditional diamond jewelry advertisements, plus a website called www.proposethering.com.
Even with an overall openness permeating marketing, advertising and consumer attitudes, supermarkets are attempting to toe the line between providing whole-body health solutions and maintaining a family-friendly atmosphere.
“The logic of most grocery retailers is that anywhere from 70% to 80% of shoppers are female, so it makes sense to keep all of the personal care products together,” said Nick Barainca, director of nonfood, Scolari's Food and Drug Co., Sparks, Nev. “For instance, in most stores we carry family planning products near the feminine hygiene.”
Buehler's Food Markets, Wooster, Ohio, also carries personal care products such as family planning, feminine hygiene and adult incontinence grouped together in one aisle, spokeswoman Mary McMillen told SN.
“In terms of the innovation, we are increasingly seeing products marketed to women, like KY products designed to enhance experience, not just for a physical requirement,” said Lynn Dornblaser, director, Customer Solutions Group, Mintel International, Chicago, Ill.
At Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., in most stores personal care items are grouped together, including feminine hygiene and family planning. In addition to this, “we try to carve out a sexual health products section near our pharmacies, when space permits,” said spokeswoman Maria Brous.
Giving customers options is a smart strategy, industry sources said.
For instance, some people are still generally more comfortable buying incontinence products, contraceptives and other personal items in a pharmacy atmosphere, Barainca said. “In a grocery store area, people are afraid they might run into their neighbors. They want a place to get that stuff and get out and not be seen.”
According to figures from Information Resources Inc., Chicago, for the 52 weeks ending Jan. 27, 2008, dollar sales in the food channel for contraceptives totaled $67.4 million, showing an increase of 6.4% over the same period last year. Dollar sales for the food, drug and mass channels combined increased 22.8% to $352 million, leaving the food channel with a 20% share.
Feminine hygiene fared slightly better, with dollar sales for the food channel flat from last year but reaching $123.9 million. Dollar sales for the food, drug and mass channels combined increased 3.5% to $478.9 million. The food channel had a 26% share.
Adult incontinence dollar sales for the food channel were also flat from last year. However, at $225 million, dollar sales for the food, drug and mass channels combined were $634.5 million, a 3% increase over last year. The food channel had a 35% share.
“The consumer drivers are a combination of products being more advanced, increased advertising and Baby Boomers being more interested in their overall health and wellness,” Barainca said. “People want to feel natural and comfortable, and more products are trying to meet that need.”
Organic and natural preferences are driving personal care purchases at Buehler's stores, McMillen said.
Women, in particular, are becoming much more sophisticated concerning over-the-counter products, said Lisa Martinez, founder and executive director of the Women's Sexual Health Foundation, Cincinnati.
“They are having a better understanding about water-based lubricants vs. silicone; vaginal moisturizers such as Replens [Lil' Drug Store Products, Cedar Rapids, Iowa]; Pre-Seed lubricant [INGFertility, Valleyford, Wash.], which replenishes natural moisture while providing an optimal environment for sperm; and Zestra [Zestra Laboratories, Charleston, S.C.], which is a non-hormonal intimacy enhancer, and this is very appealing to women who can't or prefer not to use hormones, especially women who have had hormone-sensitive cancers,” Martinez said.
Women want product options, Martinez said. “Thus, supermarkets should make a large selection of various products available. A woman may want to purchase a lubricant and a vaginal moisturizer and intimacy enhancer such as Zestra. The Women's Sexual Health Foundation educates women on the differences of the various products, and supermarkets should do the same.”
Expanding health and beauty sections in many supermarkets provide excellent merchandising opportunities, said Tim Cleary, vice president of sales for Durex Consumer Products, Anderson, S.C. “Like any other category, a good assortment is also necessary. Sexual health is personal, and shoppers need to feel like their individual needs are addressed by the assortment, or they will look to other outlets. Condoms, lubricants and devices are all available in the other classes of trade, and supermarkets need to have these segments represented as well.”
One product type that Scolari's Barainca would like to carry is vibrating rings. “All of the manufacturers have gone to vibrating rings. However, we don't carry them yet, because we are family-oriented,” he said.
Manufacturers like Durex design packaging in a discreet way, “to provide interested consumers with the information they need without offending anyone,” Cleary said. “The emergence of the sexual well-being category presents an excellent opportunity for supermarkets to provide intimacy products to their core consumers. In order to maximize this opportunity, however, supermarkets need to compete effectively with the mass and drug classes of trade.”