An indication that things are quickly changing in sexual health is that Plan B One-Step, from Israel-based Teva Women?s Health, is finally available over the counter ? presumably with no strings attached to a $50 emergency-contraceptive (EC) purchase.
Only a decade ago, who would have thought EC products would be sold on supermarket shelves? With the midterm elections occurring this month, there?s renewed chatter about birth control pills going OTC. Essentially, levonorgestrel (progestin) in EC products is also used in the formulation of many birth control pills.
Approval of EC on the shelf is just one sign that change is afoot in the family-planning aisles of leading retailers.
Family-planning products (male and female contraceptives, ovulation and pregnancy kits, personal lubricants, and sexual devices) sold at food, drug and mass market retailers is a $1.2 billion business, according to the latest sales figures for the year ending Sept. 7, 2014, reports Chicago-based researcher IRI.
What?s seen on the shelf these days are products that go beyond contraception and protection to deliver sensations, pleasure, enjoyment and fun. To sum it up: better sex.
?The big change in sexual wellness is the category has moved from selling on fear to selling on fun,? says Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director at Fairport, N.Y.-based Datamonitor. ?Back in the days when AIDS was the big news in public health, sexual wellness meant condoms and protection from contracting AIDS or [other] sexually transmitted diseases.?
A 2014 Datamonitor consumer survey question validates Vierhile?s point. When asked about sexually transmitted disease, only 5 percent of U.S. consumers of both genders said they were ?extremely concerned? and 13 percent said they were ?very concerned,? while some 50 percent of consumers said they were ?not at all concerned.?
Researcher Kline & Co., based in Parsippany, N.J., is looking at a possible new study to examine the crossover of sexual health products from luxury boudoirs to mainstream retailers.
?The condom section used to be small and discreet,? notes Laura Mahecha, Kline?s industry manager healthcare and I&I. ?You are now seeing a larger mix of products such as male enhancement supplements and condoms, personal lubricants, and vibrators.?
Carol Carrozza, VP sales and marketing, North America at Iselin, N.J.-based Ansell Healthcare, the American division of an Australian manufacturer of condoms and sexual wellness products, attributes the changes taking place on the retail shelf partly to population shifts.
?As the demographics of North America change and age, the young adults ? Millennials ? coming of age have very different expectations and purchase behaviors than previous generations,? she explains. ?This will necessarily change the way the sexual wellness category will position itself in both its look and its product offering.?
Carrozza notes: ?Millennials are more willing to experiment and try new products that enhance their lives, so the sexual wellness product portfolio will expand [at mass-market retailers] to include innovative products that complement relationships and intimate experiences.?
New products out this year illustrate how leading manufacturers are pushing the boundaries of sexual wellness.
Leading the pack, with more than a 70 percent market share in the U.S. condom market, is Ewing, N.J.-based Church & Dwight?s Trojan brand. Trojan has beefed up its Ecstasy line with Double Ecstasy, featuring ?intensified? lubricants designed for both sexual partners. Additionally, Trojan Magnum is out with a spiral ribbed design that aims to heighten stimulation.
Additionally, the Trojan Vibrations line has Multi-Trill, a three-in-one vibrating bullet marketed for ?mind and body pleasure,? as the brand puts it. Meanwhile, Trojan?s Crazy Sexy Feel personal lubricant line, introduced last year, has been extended with Simple Pleasure, containing no additives, and Arouses & Releases, formulated as a motion-activated intensifier.
In other news, Church & Dwight has secured a licensing agreement with U.K.-based Futura Medical to market its new CSD500, an erectogenic product with a Viagra-like gel ?to help healthy men maintain a firmer and bigger erection during intercourse? while wearing the condom. According to reports, the item is currently available in the Netherlands under the Blue Diamond brand.
Durex Goes Digital
Durex, acquired by U.K.-based Reckitt Benckiser in 2010, has the leading share of the global condom market, about 30 percent. This year, the company bought the K-Y brand of sexual lubricants from New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson. A company representative told Bloomberg News that it?s too early to say how K-Y will be marketed along with the Durex products, which include Massage and Play lubricants.
Durex now goes to market with a half-dozen condom types offering ?extra stimulation, larger size for more comfort, [and the ability to] feel more,? as well as longer-lasting and flavored varieties. It also produces a line of adult toys and vibrators under the Durex Play label.
In 2013, the company crossed over into a totally different product category with Fundawear, vibrating underwear activated by a phone app, for long-distance digital touch. While the prototype product isn?t on the market yet, it created ? pardon the pun ? a great deal of buzz, generating more than 8 million YouTube views and tons of free publicity.
Ansell Fights STIs
Ansell, second in the condom market globally, continues to build on its Lifestyles Skyn nonlatex brand with Elite, which is said to be softer and stretchier than the original product, due to a breakthrough in formulating polyisoprene. The result is a ?it feels like nothing?s there? experience, according to the company
Ansell also plans to launch a textured latex product, Lifestyles Viper. Its texture, which mimics that of snakeskin, uses the same defined technology for creating a tactical sensation along the entire length of the condom. ?It?s fun and provides additional stimulation,? says Carrozza.
The company is also expected to launch this year in Australia Lifestyles Dual Protect, a condom coated with VivaGel lubricant that helps reduce the risk of viruses that cause STIs. Ansell?s agreement with fellow Down Under business Starpharma gives it the marketing rights to VivaGel in countries outside of Japan, where the product is licensed to another supplier.
As retailers embrace the growing demand for innovative products, many have changed the aisle banner from ?Family Planning? to ?Intimate Products,? notes Carrozza. ?Both product packaging and point-of-sale signage must now convey, in a discreet yet meaningful way, the product?s benefit and usage, with education around age and user segments.?
Grocery chains with limited space have expanded their offering as well, she says, ?but they don?t carry nearly the breadth or the depth of the sexual wellness portfolio that would bring consumers to their stores.?
Adds Carrozza: ?Our research indicates that women in particular seek these products in their regular shopping outlets ? they don?t want to make separate trips to boutiques, nor do they necessarily buy online those products that may require touch and feel and the ?let me see it first? experience. We expect this product portfolio to grow in grocery as retailers see the category grow, and the retail top line and margins support their growth plans.?
?Both product packaging and point-of-sale signage must now convey, in a discreet yet meaningful way, the product?s benefit and usage, with education around age and user segments.?
?Carol Carrozza, Ansell Healthcare