Targeting women’s needs and physiology is aided by ingredient suppliers’ response to research.
With busy lives and trying to balance the demands of family, work or school—and coping with media pressure to look and eat a certain way—it can be difficult for any woman to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle.
“Compared to men, women tend to be more self-aware of their bodies and any issues that arise, specifically female-related concerns,” said Sandra Gillot, CEO of Santiago de Chile-based Benexia. “And still, many women (as wives and mothers) tend to do the majority of the regular shopping for home and family. This encompasses supplements and natural remedies. Further, women tend to self-educate via the internet, which now includes numerous blogs.”
James Hyde, vice president and general manager of Utah-based Balchem Human Nutrition and Pharma, added that health care costs and associated concerns are frequently in the media, along with boundless information about the benefits of a healthy approach to living. “Today, women in every age group have an increased awareness of the benefits of supplementation throughout life’s stages, from pregnancy and lactation to bone and heart health.
“Women are astute consumers willing to invest the time and energy to research and compare options,” Hyde agreed. “They demand that brands provide relevant and clear information to help them feel good about the product choices they make. With increasing concerns about chemical and synthetic ingredients, they prefer simple and natural approaches to nutrition and health support. Women today are becoming increasingly skeptical about products and companies, and demand clarity and transparency from brands.”
The future of the women’s health category should remain robust. Hyde noted that the number of women aged 65 and older is projected to increase by 35 percent over the next decade. Currently, there are approximately 74 million Baby Boomers from 52 to 71 years old in the U.S., with the number of female Boomers estimated to be over 38 million. “It is important for brands and companies to target products, branding and promotions to this powerful group,” he said.
Megan DeStefano, DuPont probiotics global product marketing leader in Madison, WI, said that from a probiotics perspective, many brands have women’s health products, and the company is seeing more clinical research being done is this area. “At DuPont, we have a clinically documented probiotic offering that helps maintain vaginal health. It’s a blend of our La-14 and HN001 strains,” she explained.
In the longer term, DeStefano predicted that the industry will see much more personalized nutrition—consumers basing nutrition on their specific microbiome or genome. “We view women’s health and other positioning by demographic or consumer need as one important step in that journey to personalized nutrition. So I see the category evolving from general women’s health, to more and more specific women’s health needs, to products that are personalized for specific people or groups.”
According to Gillot, chia oil has benefits for women in childbearing years. “Mothers-to-be and new mothers today are very health conscious, as they ensure they remain fit and eat healthy during pregnancy,” she said. “The millions of active, healthy women who are pregnant or breastfeeding want to pass high nutrient values to their infants.”
She noted a study published in Nutrients has shown that women who consume Benexia chia oil, one of the highest plant sources of omega-3 EFAs, alpha linolenic acid (ALA), transferred high levels of DHA to their infants during breast-feeding. It is the first published study of its type involving pregnant and lactating women, Gillot said. The authors measured the transfer of fatty acids (ALA, DHA EPA) to the fetus (blood phospholipids) and breast milk in women who supplemented with chia oil during pregnancy and lactation. The authors explained that through a series of enzymatic reactions of elongation and desaturation, which occurs mainly in the liver, ALA is ﬁrst transformed into EPA, then to DHA. The values of ALA/EPA /DHA suggest a higher bioconversion of the omega-3 precursor ALA from consumption of chia oil, and that it could be a valuable addition to the diets of pregnant and lactating women.
As for later in life, according to California-based Gencor, women are seeking help with sexual desire and menopause. The company’s primary women’s health ingredient is a standardized fenugreek extract called Libifem that is targeted to help support healthy female sexual desire, promote healthy sexual activity, sexual arousal in women and help reduce normal symptoms of menopause (such as hot flushes and night sweats). It has recently been self-affirmed as GRAS (generally recognized as safe).
Libifem has been shown effective in two clinical studies conducted on healthy women in Australia. The first study evaluated and showed its effectiveness in supporting female sexual desire, hormone levels and metabolism in women between the ages of 20 and 49. The second study was on women between 40 and 65 years of age who were experiencing normal menopausal symptoms, and showed that Libifem was effective in reducing these symptoms. In both studies, Libifem was found to be safe and well tolerated.
In addition, Hyde pointed out, the large population of Baby Boomer women is increasing demand for healthy aging solutions, and many in this group are seeking natural support for brain, heart, joint and sleep health.
“Younger women are also looking to preserve health and remain active. This group is looking for products that provide balanced nutrition and support strength, weight and reproductive health,” he said, adding that women in all categories and age groups are looking for increased energy and comfort, as well as support for skin and digestive health.”
Trends in Women’s Health Products
Women are looking for good, wholesome nutrition through both foods and supplementation, and continue to turn to proven supplements like vitamins and minerals to help fill nutritional gaps, and provide health support.
“Women seek out the most usable and beneficial forms of nutrients and supplements for themselves and their families,” Hyde noted. “They are increasingly savvy about the varying forms of these nutrients, and want to ensure that the supplements they take are most effectively utilized by the body. Albion’s minerals chelated with amino acids have shown greater bioavailability and utilization in humans. Less irritation has been indicated in human studies from ingesting its minerals as metal amino acid chelates.”
Hyde pointed out that calcium, magnesium and iron in the form of Ferrochel (ferrous bisglycinate) are Albion’s most significant ingredients used in supplements that address women’s health concerns. These have been proven to provide optimal support in key areas, including:
• Calcium: Bone support, pregnancy-induced hypertension
• Magnesium: Muscle support (including the heart), bone health, improved cognition, weight loss, energy regeneration
• Ferrochel (Iron): Anemia, prenatal support, immune function
There are also many products focused on different forms of vaginal or urinary tract health, DeStefano noted, but there are also products positioning around general health and wellness or digestive and immune support specific for women.
At Gencor, President Jith Veeravalli said the company is finding that consumers are increasingly looking for healthier lifestyles and to obtain their nutritional needs from healthy foods, rather than from pills. Those supplements that primarily contain natural, botanical ingredients are better aligned with this desire, as they can be perceived as more like food. “The awareness is also growing that women’s needs have not been properly addressed in terms of research and development that is conducted on products,” Veeravalli said. “Products that have been tested primarily on men are often rebranded and marketed to women, without much attention to the differences in physiology. These may not work well for women and may even have adverse effects. Women are looking for products that that work optimally for them, so supplements that have actually been developed and tested specifically for women, and are verified as such, are in increasing demand.”
Regarding chia, In the previously mentioned Nutrients study, 40 healthy pregnant women (22–35 years old) were randomly separated into two groups: a control group with normal feeding and a chia group, which received 16 mL chia oil daily from the third trimester of pregnancy until the ﬁrst six months of nursing. The fatty acid proﬁle of erythrocyte phospholipids, measured at six months of pregnancy, at time of delivery and at six months of nursing, and the fatty acid proﬁle of the milk collected during the ﬁrst six months of nursing were assessed by gas chromatography.
The results showed that the mothers in the chia group, compared to those in the control group, showed three characteristics:
1. Significant increase in levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids in breast milk, specifically alpha-linolenic acid ALA (60 percent) and docosahexaenoic acid DHA (50 percent).
2. Increases in amounts of ALA (76 percent), and EPA (57 percent) in the red blood cells of pregnant women.
3. The women reported good tolerance of the chia oil, because it did not give a “fishy” taste or produce reflux.
From a probiotics perspective, DeStefano said DuPont expects to see more combination products with probiotics blending with more traditional women’s health ingredients.
“From consumer research we sponsored with Gallup, we know for probiotics, claims are the most important part of the packaging. With consumers purchasing based on claims, manufacturers are and will continue to look for ingredients that have strong scientific substantiation,” DeStefano added. “At DuPont we are very focused on high-quality science to support our ingredients, and our customers appreciate that focus and expertise we provide.”
Hyde noted that manufacturers are particularly interested in provable science behind the ingredients they include in formulations so they can better explain to consumers what makes their product safer and more effective. “In this regard, Albion is well positioned to provide this proof as evidenced by our extensive portfolio of patents and clinical research on Albion minerals.”
The Marketing Challenges
There are many different forms of minerals available, Hyde said. “At Albion, we continuously work to educate the market about the myriad of powerful benefits of ‘basic’ minerals like magnesium, zinc and iron, and to emphasize the importance of selecting mineral forms that are most bioavailable and effective.”
When it comes to chia oil, or any seed oil for that matter, Gillot noted that rancidity from oxidation poses a challenge because any food containing that oil (or the oil itself as a culinary oil) will have a shorter shelf or ‘use’ life than a counterpart without oil. “This is very inconvenient for the modern consumer who tend to buy in bulk and store for later consumption. More pantries now contain convenience-packaged foods than ever before. And many of them contain oils.”
To address this issue, Benexia has developed XIA PURE Ox Blocker technology and label that guarantees longer shelf life of the product, stable delivery of its nutraceutical properties, and maintenance of its good taste and smell. This proprietary technology uses processes and formulation with natural ingredients, bringing an excellent oxidative stability to the product, while preserving its high-ORAC level of antioxidants (962 umol/TE/100 g), present in the specially selected chia seeds.
“The technology allows us to obtain a pure chia oil, with its full natural antioxidant levels, without risk of rancidity, a high fatty acid (ALA) stability, a great taste and exceptional nutrition,” Gillot explained. “Ultimately, consumers will appreciate the value of being able to store their convenience foods for a longer duration, which will also reduce their time spent in the supermarket aisles, by buying in multiples, an increasing tendency.”
Addressing Women’s Requirements
Women of all ages are taking charge of their own health, and also wield the greatest spending power for food and supplement purchases. In fact, women drive 70 percent to 80 percent of all consumer purchases, Hyde said. “Women do their research, and put in effort to find the best value. They want to feel good about the choices they make. Today’s female consumer demands personalized, targeted solutions and requires high levels of engagement from brands.” NIE
DuPont Nutrition & Health and Happy Family Brands Partner on Pre/Postnatal Probiotic
DuPont Nutrition and New York-based Health and Happy Family Brands collaborated on the development of Happy Mama Prenatal Probiotic Supplement, an innovative product in the burgeoning category of infant nutritional supplements. The supplement is specifically formulated for expectant mothers and their infants with DuPont’s clinically tested probiotic, HOWARU Protect EarlyLife premium ingredient range, which contains the probiotic strain L. rhamnosus HN001. The supplement was the result of six years of clinical research and demonstrated significant reductions in cumulative prevalence of eczema and allergic sensitization.
“We are targeting our probiotics product line and innovation along the same lines as Happy Family with a customized approach,” said Ole Danielsen, DuPont global marketing director, dietary supplements. “We understand people have varying nutritional needs at different stages of their life. Our probiotics have a clear individual benefit with scientific support for a specific target group. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.” With this same idea in mind, Happy Mama is the first probiotic product to address both the prenatal and postnatal needs of the mother and infant. A long-term double blind randomized placebo controlled clinical study of the L. rhamnosus HN001 strain supplemented women from 35 weeks gestation until six months after giving birth and infants from birth to two years of age. The study showed a 44 percent reduction in cumulative prevalence of eczema during the first six years of an infant’s life. The study also showed a significant reduction in cumulative prevalence of allergic sensitization.
Happy Family took a holistic approach with the Happy Mama product, recognizing a mother’s important role in the developing gut microbiota of the infant. Part of this was understanding the first 1,000 days are a vital window that lasts from pregnancy to age two. During this time, the food and nutrition consumed by both mom and baby will forever define baby’s wellness blueprint.
“We’re proud to partner with DuPont Nutrition & Health to achieve our goal of becoming the first organic baby food company to expand into the prenatal category and offer a probiotic specifically formulated to support moms-to-be and their growing babies,” said John Tansey, vice president of operations, Happy Family Brands. “DuPont’s vast experience in the category and their long-term dedication to the importance of probiotics and gastrointestinal health made them the perfect fit for this launch.”
For More Information:
Balchem Human Nutrition and Pharma, (801) 773-4631
DuPont, (800) 255-6837
Gencor, (949) 502-5760