This was the key message from a panel discussion on women’s health through the lifespan at the Future Food Tech event in London (Sept 28-29).
Melissa Snover, founder of the 3D-printed personalised gummy company Nourished, explained that their direct consumer contact has enabled unique insights into the women’s health category, observing changes and trends on an hourly basis.
She explained: “What we’ve seen in the last two years is a growing momentum and desire to educate oneself on nutrition to support all times in a women’s life relating to hormonal changes.
“This is not only causing a huge amount of big businesses to get involved, but it’s creating a strong community amongst women which was missing before. This can only lead to more positive developments,” she added.
Snover said that interest in hormonal balance now extended across all age groups, from teenagers with acne to menopausal women.
“Also, in pregnant women they are now looking for multiple stages of support. So not just prenatal, but first and second trimester, and postnatal. This is something that was not available before, and still isn’t really now.”
She drew attention to the menopause category, highlighting that it was finally receiving the attention it deserves following a large amount of new product launches and customers reaching out for more information.
Alexandra Boelrijk, global R&D director for ProActive Health at ingredient supplier Kerry, agreed that the category and the scientific research are growing significantly, with three main areas including fertility, reproductive health, and menopause.
“We’ve seen that over the last couple of years our customers are increasingly looking to provide their consumers with women’s health solutions.
“And for example, with menopause, this isn’t a small niche thing. In 2024, it’s been calculated that one billion women will go through menopause worldwide,” she added, highlighting the significance of this category.
A need for personalisation
Snover explained that consumers want products that are convenient, effective, and enjoyable, adding: “If you enjoy it and it tastes good, then you are much more likely to stick to it,experience the benefits and solve the problem.”
Adding to this point, Boelrijk drew attention to the importance of innovation and valid science for the category, stressing: “We need to make sure that it’s not just a normal product with a big ribbon around it, because it should be really effective for women.
“New clinical RCTs still need to be done in women, and in different life stages and for different needs,” she asserted, noting that incorporating trackers and microbiome analyses into this would create the large datasets required.
Snover agreed that measuring hormonal changes over time across different women, lifestyles, and habits, would advance the science.
“The different periods of life for women are quite personal. Some have problems in their teens with menstruation, whilst others have more problems during menopause. So a much more personalised approach with personalised data, advice and solutions would much more effective,” she said, regarding the significant variation in hormonal symptoms between women.
She added that further variations in dietary patterns result in highly variable outcomes following nutraceutical intakes, resulting in significant complexities which require this personalised approach.
Snover also discussed the large amounts of science backing specific ingredients yet pointed out the lack of data associating these to a specific need.
Boelrijk stressed the importance of product claims communicating to health care professionals as well as to consumers: “We should try to aim communication at the health care professionals, as they can be our champions and investors in this space. They understand the science so it’s much easier to communicate the benefits to them and once they are convinced, this will help to lead the way to the consumer.”
Snover noted the increasing incorporation of technology in the health space to measure clinical outcomes.
“This is really positive because it allows the consumer to keep track of their progress and almost ‘gamifies’ healthiness. Anything that can be done to make it more enjoyable and rewarding that will make people do it more and with more adherence is beneficial,” she added.
On the other hand, she highlighted that technology providing insights based on small amounts of information can provide recommendations which may be later disproven, resulting in consumer distrust in the category.