Feminine Hygiene

Feminine Mystique

April 10, 2012


Eye On The National Brands

Private label feminine hygiene products are gaining ground in the category, but national brands haven’t given up their majority hold just yet.

“Now that the economy seems to be improving,” says Robert Lippucci, product marketing manager for Cleveland-based Hospeco, “the national brands are fighting back with aggressive price deals, promotions, new products and accelerated marketing campaigns.”

Ultra thin and winged products remain steady in national brand popularity. Many products as of late are looking at boosting their eye-appeal like U by Kotex, which used its packaging to appeal to a younger demographic, marketing itself in “limited edition designer colors.”

“Where this has been done in fashion, paint and other mediums, this is the first time it has been done in feminine hygiene,” notes Bill Lutz, vice president of sales and marketing, for Premier Care Industries, Hauppauge, N.Y. Also making inroads into the category, Lutz says, is the new pH-balanced RepHresh tampon, which lowers a woman’s pH level, as her pH increases during her monthly cycle.

National brands have also taken a direct approach to feminine hygiene, as exemplified by the advertising campaigns hitting the airwaves and pages of consumer glossies. As a 2010 Mintel report states, “Kotex makes a bold move to shift the way feminine products are presented and positioned and makes fun of its own advertising. The Always brand takes a utilitarian approach, and offers to help women make informed decisions, while Tampax has made a serious attempt to appeal to young women by portraying those who use the Tampax brand as bold, hip, feminine, and savvy.”

Look to national brands to continue creating a new voice for feminine hygiene products through packaging and advertising in order to gain back some of the sales national brands lost during the economic slump.


The slumping economy of the past few years has caused consumers to reign in their spending when it comes to just about every facet of their financial lives. Daily treats like an extra latte and major purchases like a new car are given an equal amount of thought as consumers learn a new way of living and thinking about money—and how much they’re willing to fork over for goods.

Leaner times have meant a more robust period for private label products, and as people get back to work, get back on their feet and get back to spending, they’re not necessarily running back to the beloved national brands they bought before. This rings true across many of the consumer packaged goods categories, including feminine hygiene products. And private label gaining more shares has forced the national brands to take action.

“Feminine hygiene products are an extremely personal decision for the consumer as they have learned from a very young age what works for them,” says Bill Lutz, vice president of sales and marketing, for Hauppauge, N.Y.-based Premier Care Industries.

Notes a 2010 report on the category from Mintel International Group Ltd., Chicago,

“Sales of branded sanitary protection and feminine hygiene products have certainly suffered slightly because of the weak economy, as private label brands have been the beneficiary. Respondents aged 25-34 report a significantly higher likelihood to trade to less expensive brands.”

But as the economy starts—and continues—to rebound, Lutz notes, he’s seen “increased promotional activity by the national brands to hold on and try and maintain their market shares as consumers tried private label.”

And try they have. According to Chicago-based SymphonyIRI Group, in the 52 weeks ending Jan. 22, 2012, feminine hygiene products roped in $1.5 billion in sales, a 1.7 percent increase over the same time a year ago. Private label holds 6.7 percent share of the category, and posted more than $187 million for the same time period. Breaking the category down into the two major category sectors—tampons and sanitary napkins or liners—private label grew its sales by 2.2 and 9 percent respectively. The growth may be small, but when it comes to which products consumers pluck from the shelf, any growth is good growth.

Private label feminine hygiene products have garnered their incremental growth not by staying static, but by keeping product lines fresh and innovative. Premier Care, for example, incorporated improved absorption technology into its standard portfolio of products, Lutz notes. First Quality Consumer Products out of Great Neck, N.Y., launched a dri-lock maxi pad with odor guard protection, notes a company spokesperson, along with an overnight maxi pad for extra heavy flow.
Cleveland, Ohio-based Hospeco also rolled out a new line of heavy use/overnight pads, which, notes Robert Lippucci, product marketing manager for the company, has reach beyond its obvious target consumer.

“This product seems to fulfill a dual purpose as incontinence products are at a lower unit price point for the consumer, as compared to bladder control pads,” Lippucci says.

Once consumers try a private label product, they’re more likely to become a repeat customer. But getting that first try is essential, and for private label feminine hygiene products, marketing has been key in increasing their sales.

The common strategy behind the marketing for the private label feminine hygiene category boils down to a page from the national brands’ playbook: Catch the consumers’ eye and you’ll catch their dollars.

“Packaging is your silent salesperson,” Lippucci says. “A catchy yet clean look with good graphics and just enough information are key.”

“Dare to be different,” says First Quality’s spokesperson. “There are a lot of brands and products in the feminine care aisle, and retailers need to fight through that noise” by using bold, contemporary packaging to catch a woman’s attention and make products stand out. “Retailers need to realize they have a small window to make a first impression with their consumer,” the company’s spokesperson adds. “Plain packaging doesn’t cut it these days.”

But packaging isn’t the only way retailers need to market their private label products if they want to grab more of consumers’ dollars. Display location and merchandising that goes beyond traditional methods are also important, says Lippucci.

“Proximity to the similar brand product and promotional end caps are two ways to help the product be noticed and stand out. Free standing displays will help get the consumer interested,” he notes.

Going forward, retailers of private label feminine hygiene products need to stay on a steady path if they want their products to see sustained growth. One challenge the category faces, notes the Mintel report, is the changing consumer demographic.

“Demand for products in the largest segments (sanitary pads/napkins/pantiliners/shields and tampons) has waned, largely due to an aging population not needing these products,” the report states.

Innovation in the products will boost sales, but it’s not the only way to increase business. Continued innovation in marketing is also key.

“Combine internal and external sanitary protection,” suggests First Quality’s spokesperson as a way to drive dollar sales. “Seventy percent of women use both tampons and external products during their cycle, and thinking of creative ways to promote their tampons and pantiliners can really show that the retailer understands how women shop for feminine care.”

Understanding what customers want in protection and feel of a product, and making that product appealing means happy customers and continued growth.

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