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Women's health: A market with many yet untapped opportunities — Video

Video-Women's health: A market with many yet untapped opportunities — Video

This November, Vitafoods Insights explores the topic of women's health as part of our thematic month offerings.

The realisation of the industry potential of the women's health segment market is still evolving, opening many new market opportunities to the industry. To find out more, we spoke with Dr Julia Wiebe, managing Director, red otc & director at large, WIN, Dr Susan Kleiner, founder at High Performance Nutrition, and Dr David Foreman, president at The Herbal Pharmacist®.

This Vitafoods Insights video panel discussion brings together thought leaders to unpack and discuss the women’s health market, covering many aspects, from market trends and considerations to actionable insights regarding developing a product for female consumers. In addition, an interview with Julia Wiebe is below on some of the points discussed with the other panellists.

Why should the industry take female consumers more seriously in their strategies?

"The reason is simple: women are the primary consumers of nutraceuticals, and they are the decision makers for 70-80% of purchases, according to BCG. This affects food and supplements, but also cars and houses. Besides, today we have more women with a university degree than ever, being single longer and starting a family later. Once they have a family, women also are the gatekeepers for what is consumed in a family."

Considering all the physiological and metabolic differences, what is the opportunity for realism in the industry to communicate the benefits of their ingredients and products to female consumers?

"The good news is that marketers started to wake up and consider women's needs. However, we have a burden from the past in food and pharma. Traditionally, clinical studies have been performed in adult men, turning them into the standard and only reference when looking at efficacy and negative side-effects of products. But we know that metabolically and physically, men, women and children are quite different due to brain structure, hormone exposure and social factors, and an extrapolated dose based on body weight is just not ideal. It might also not be safe. In the best case, the product is not as efficient as in a man, and in the worst case, it causes adverse side effects. Research has shown that women have twice as many adverse side-effects than men, the side-effects stronger, as shown by Zucker et al."

Why has the industry institutionalised the male system and male data as the standard?

"Reason for the exclusive use of men in clinical studies in the past was probably convenience, a more homogenous group as no hormonal changes were expected, allowing for good statistical power with fewer individuals."

So, what are some of the considerations when developing a product targeting women consumers?

"Today, researchers are conscious of the need to include women early in scientific studies. It is not optional to include both men and women, and it's been a US lay since 1993, while in Europe, the product has to be studied by the population that will be using it later on. Some scientific journals do not accept studies with men only if there isn't a good reason for the limited design. However, progress is slow, and it is not easy to get women to participate, especially if the protocol is invasive. Here we should reconsider the way products are studied to be able to include both women and men. Although we have way more data than 20 years ago, we still do not have enough data yet to make real statements regarding the effect of many supplements on women.

“Female athletes have a bit of a pioneering role here, as they usually know their bodies better than the general population. A nutritional mistake might impact performance and recovery when taking nutraceuticals to improve health and performance."

What's an example of an area of interest that can benefit from involving more women in clinical trials?

"An excellent example of an area where we need to get women to participate in trials is depression and anxiety.

“As defined by the DSM-5, anxiety affects 1 out of 5 Americans. In contrast, worldwide, 264 Million people are affected, with growing numbers even in children, which is not surprising with the current situation of war and environmental disasters. The number of women is twice as high; however, products are studied primarily on men. At the same time, we know that the course of the disease and the reaction to treatment and recovery are different.

“It might help to involve more women in planning the trials and designing the products in companies and universities. And this brings us to another issue: in academia, we historically face a gender imbalance, as the pipeline is leaky, and from the many female students, many drop out due, for example, to incompatibilities with family and inflexible working models.

“Only a tiny percentage make it to the top and become a decision-maker. And this is not only an issue in the university but also in companies, where creativity and innovation are key for long-term survival. However, a study by Morgan Stanley shows "that, globally, diverse companies outperformed their less diverse companies by 3.1% per year over the past eight years", so gender parity is of enormous advantage for a company's success.

“So, it would be a colossal mistake for marketers to ignore the needs and interests of this big consumer group. On the contrary, it is a massive opportunity for companies to create a new type of personalised products if they start looking into the specific needs of the female consumer, be it in sports, stress, energy management or menopause, for performance at work or even for their children."

How realistic is personalisation segmentation when it comes to women's health?

"Personalisation is a growing trend. It is no surprise that women are looking for products that answer their specific needs. It makes no sense to use supplements studied only in men and designed with male metabolism and physiology in mind. For many years, the solution for female products was to shrink and pink them – meaning making the package smaller and changing it to fit within a female design. These times are over, and today's women are more educated and want scientifically studied products studied in women."


Dr Julia Wiebe

Dr Julia Wiebe
Managing director, red otc & director at large, Women In Nutraceuticals (WIN)

Julia Wiebe studied biology and agriculture engineering in Berlin. She holds a PhD degree in molecular biology from the Technische Universität Munich and an MBA from the International University Germany. After her Postdoc and a few years in clinical research with focus on diabetes and epigenetics, she decided to join the nutraceutical industry. For several years she was responsible for Research, Development and Innovation at the Spanish ingredient supplier Nektium Pharma, in her last postion as Chief Science Officer and Board Member. In January 2022 she joined red otc development GmbH, a Finzelberg company and member of the nature network, as Managing Director. Red otc is specialized on the development of innovative final product solutions for the OTC and supplement sector.

Dr Susan Kleiner

Dr Susan Kleiner
Founder at High Performance Nutrition

Dr. Susan M. Kleiner is a visionary pioneer in the field of nutrition, performance, health. She is revered as a practitioner, consultant, educator, and motivator speaking worldwide to coaches, athletes, and industry on these topics. She is the founder and owner of High Performance Nutrition, LLC, a consulting firm in Mercer Island, Washington, where she has consulted with many professional teams and team members, including the Seattle Storm, Seattle Reign, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Mariners, Seattle Thunderbirds, Seattle Supersonics, the Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Cavaliers, the Miami Heat, Olympians and elite athletes in countless sports. Dr. Sue is a sought-after consultant to businesses interested in applying evidence to product research and development, educational marketing, programming, legacy projects, and growth potential. She has authored eight books, including the bestseller The New Power Eating®, The Good Mood Diet®, and The POWERFOOD Nutrition Plan. Dr. Kleiner is a co-founder and fellow of the International Society of Sports Nutrition and a fellow of the American College of Nutrition, a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and The National Strength and Conditioning Association. Dr. Sue is passionate about her volunteer teaching with at Can Tho University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Vietnam. Dr. Kleiner is an avid adventurer and stays in a good mood by spending time in the great outdoors of the Pacific Northwest with her family and friends.

Dr David Foreman

Dr David Foreman
President, The Herbal Pharmacist

David Foreman is a registered pharmacist, author and media personality known to consumers internationally as "The Herbal Pharmacist." With a pharmacy and natural medicine background, Foreman teaches integrative medicine practices. He helps consumers achieve health and vitality through his four pillars of health: diet, exercise, spirituality and supplements. Foreman is a graduate of the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy, currently serves on the Organic & Natural Health Association's (O&N) scientific advisory board and is the author of "4 Pillars of Health: Heart Disease."

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