Companies Are Developing More and More Products

More than 1,000 new foods and drinks targeting women have hit the global market in the past four years. Nicknamed chick foods, these products include such things as the Luna Bar, Tab Energy drink, General Mills Harmony cereal, and Woman’s Bread. Retail sales of women’s food and beverages in 2004 were more than $4.5 billion, and sales are projected to reach $7.7 billion by 2009. Is the chick food market a lasting, lucrative one, or just a fad?

Women are usually the primary buyers of products such as foods and household items-more than $6 trillion a year, according to Time magazine. When more women began working outside the home in the 1970s, marketing efforts to reach them began in earnest. Nowadays, companies are trying to appeal to women less as the “do it all” consumer and more as someone with a strong self-image-self-assured, confident, and secure. “It has to be subtle, showing a woman in a position of power where she is respected,” said Lisa Finn, the editor of the newsletter, Marketing to Women. Condescending to women, such as coloring a product pink, for example, may not go over well.

Designed to deal with health issues unique to women, such as PMS, pregnancy, lactation and menopause, or relating to aging, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer. Functional foods designed for women started to make the scene as early as the 1980s. The 1980s also saw a surge in new products with nutritional additives geared toward women, but they are expected to sell even better in the future as awareness of women’s health issues continues to grow.

The Luna bar may have been the first obvious product marketed directly to women. Introduced in 1999, Luna bars are 100 percent natural and “contribute to women’s nutrition” with ingredients such as green tea extract, nuts, and seeds. It is also fortified with folic acid, soy protein, and calcium-essential nutrients for a woman’s daily nutritional needs. It was created to assist women to obtain more of the nutrients lacking in their current diets.

Other products marketed to boost women’s diets include Women’s Bread and Zoe Foods cereals. The founders were looking for foods that could replace hormone replacement therapy and help to alleviate menopausal discomforts such as hot flashes. Zoe Foods’ Flax and Soy Clusters, for example, is a granola cereal with flaxseed and soy, providing phytoestrogens, fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Soy was found to have protective properties against heart disease, as well as breast and uterine cancers. Calcium is necessary to protect against osteoporosis. Higher calcium diets were also found to ease PMS symptoms. The requirement for calcium increases by about one third during pregnancy, and the requirements for lactation can be up to two thirds. Folic acid requirements also increase during pregnancy.

Because of the unique dietary requirements for pregnant women, marketing to those women may be a lucrative sidebar to the women’s food market. According to the Whole Foods Market website, 78 percent of women having their first child are likely to change the types of foods they eat, and 63 percent of women who have given birth previously are likely to change the types of foods they eat. Vincent Foods is marketing a line of nutrition bars for women trying to get pregnant, are pregnant, or are breast feeding. The bar contains DHA and is called Oh Mama! Another company, Al Othman Production and Processing Company in Saudi Arabia, markets fortified milk for pregnant women, with folic acid and other nutrients “essential for the healthy growth of the fetus.” There are pregnancy teas, such as Raspberry Leaf Tea, to strengthen and prepare the uterus for pregnancy and delivery.

Men are rarely targeted for new food products, and virtually none of their products address health concerns, according to a Prepared Foods report published in 2004. There is, of course, the “Hungry Man” line of frozen dinners from Swanson’s, which are high in fat and sodium. There are multivitamins (such as One-A-Day Men’s Health Formula) targeted to men, however, which claim to “support a healthy prostate and a healthy heart”.

Considering the rates of osteoporosis in the U.S., calcium fortification would be a good idea for any male-oriented products. Osteoporosis is widely acknowledged as a condition affecting females, but the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) reports 12 million men at risk, with men over 50 suffering from osteoporosis more than from prostate cancer. In total, 28 million women and 5 million men suffer from osteoporosis, suggesting a market for bone health for men as well. With the severe lack of products promoting any aspect of men’s health, food manufacturers may wish to consider targeting the health-deprived male.

Is there a future market for women’s foods? Bloggers are not so convinced that there is a market for these products. Some note the prices are too high. Others claim it is all hype. Still, food manufactures seem willing to gamble on women’s food products.

Consider that Datamonitor noted 240 new products geared toward women were launched in 2005, compared to 71 in 2004, 93 in 2003, and 174 in 2002. Some advertisers have balked at targeting a product “for women,” as they would rather have the consumer decide who it is for. Others, such as Quaker Oats (Nutrition for Women oatmeal) are unafraid to market directly to women.

The recent fascination with health and wellness may drive this market to further success, if marketers are careful about how they present their products to women.