The rising wave of tech-infused innovation within women’s health has illustrated femtech’s potential to unearth and tackle often neglected health problems with greater depth, precision and cost-efficiency. Leveraging femtech, particularly in the realm of health tracking, screening and symptom-led therapeutics, can bring businesses further growth opportunities in women’s health across the physical-nutritional-mental spectrum to the breadth of their entire lifecycle.
Euromonitor International has identified three key growth frontiers in femtech, which can offer businesses across consumer-facing sectors fresh growth prospects in terms of product formulation, brand positioning and partnerships.
Menstrual cycle tracking informs cycle-fitting solutions across sectors
With menstruation being a prime biomarker unique to more than half of the global population’s bulk of lifetime, cycle tracking - which encompasses menstruation, the follicular, ovulation and luteal phases - has been a key focus of femtech developments.
By gaining a more holistic understanding of a metric of women’s menstrual experience, from regularity to duration, flow, mood, energy and pain, menstrual tracking helps unveil types of insights that are difficult to achieve any other way, such as women’s fertility, hormone fluctuation and perimenopause. Such insights, combined with industry-specific knowledge, can help businesses further tailor products and services to address women’s needs from fertility to skin care, pain management, nutrition, and mental health.
In 2023, 47% of women globally seek products and services uniquely tailored to them
Source: Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey fielded in January and February 2023
In 2021, beauty giant L’Oréal collaborated with period-tracking app Clue to inform development of more personalised and higher quality skin care routines for women of all ages, considering their menstrual cycles from puberty to menopause, and unique skin issues linked to hormonal cycles.
More recently, having learned that identifying the right timing to conceive is a key pregnancy challenge for women, Japanese personal care multinational Unicharm announced it will release a fertility liner to help define timing suitable for conceiving by detecting substances in vaginal discharge. The new product, to be released in November 2023, can be used alongside its menstrual management app Sofy, which can notify consumers of the best day to start using the fertility liner based on their menstrual cycle and offer tailored pregnancy advice.
Biomarker-based health testing fast-tracks diagnosis and precision care
The principle behind at-home biomarker-based health testing is to help consumers flag potential health problems early and shorten the journey to diagnosis and treatment without breaking the bank.
Almost one in every two women uses health devices to pre-empt health issues, and nearly two in five use such devices to treat an issue at its first sign
Source: Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Health and Nutrition Survey fielded in January and February 2023
Vaginal microbiome testing, in particular, is gaining attention, given its ability to uncover presence of harmful microbes that can cause recurrent vaginal infections or disrupt pregnancy.
Having observed that women are often anxious about visiting a medical professional in relation to their vaginal health and a tampon can collect a more comprehensive vaginal sample than a swab, Valentina Milanova - the founder of British start-up Daye known for its CBD-coated, period pain-fighting tampon - introduced a tampon-based at-home vaginal microbiome screening kit in 2022. This allows women to self-test for vaginal infections and microbiome disorders.
Early-stage research focused on mapping vaginal microbiome on a chip to help develop drug treatments, combined with heightened investments in skin microbiome research by such giants as Beiersdorf and L’Oréal to inform ingredient and formulation, will likely further stoke momentum in vaginal microbiome testing and discovery of novel biomarkers for women’s health screening and diagnosis.
Nonetheless, high-level clinical studies to determine the accuracy of health risk assessments and the potential for unintended consequences such as overdiagnosis are crucial for building long-term credentials.
Menotech, a rising niche where symptom-led holistic life stage care model thrives
With new menopause economy cutting through multiple dimensions of women’s health and consumers developing a heightened interest in approaching health more holistically, businesses have increasingly adopted a symptom-led regimen approach, incorporating menotech to fill need gaps particularly around tracking, therapeutics and virtual care.
In 2022, US-based menopausal brand Phenology - backed by Hologram Sciences, the personalised nutrition arm of DSM - launched the first at-home hormonal saliva-based testing kit that helps predict the onset of perimenopause, powered by femtech company Inne Minilab. The launch was accompanied by an on-demand coaching app, targeted skin care and relief topicals, and a gummy-based supplement regimen to guide through menopause-related physical, emotional and mental symptoms.
Having carved out a menopausal care niche by launching a direct-to-consumer platform Issviva in 2022, Essity has pursued a collaborative path to build out its symptom-targeting product selection, including intimate hygiene goods, dietary supplements and therapeutic devices such as a vaginal rejuvenation device using red-light LEDs and gentle heat, supported by a partnership with femtech start-up Joylux, as well as smart pelvic floor trainer EMY featuring app-based personalised exercises in collaboration with femtech start-ups Planet Mutu and Fizimed.
Future Outlook: Maximising femtech insights for holistic customer engagement
For businesses serving women across need states, harnessing insights generated by femtech can help better align with customers’ physiological and mental needs across life transitions and occasions, and thus strengthen efficacy, relevance and credibility in product formulation and positioning.
However, when deciding how femtech can add the most value, businesses must consider factors such as uneven digital access and technology literacy, data security as well as health inequality, as evidenced in gender- and ethnic-based disparities in healthcare investment, clinical trials and health outcomes.
Learn more about women’s health in our report, Transforming Women’s Health: Empowering Women Through the Life Cycle. For further insight and related content, see articles Unveiling Future Opportunities in Microbiome-Infused Personal Care and Rethinking Femcare Amid Holistic Wellness Movement.