Speaking at the Biogredia Health & Nutrition Summit in Gstaad, Switzerland last week, Alex Glover, nutritional development lead at Holland & Barrett (H&B), drew attention to the fact that a lot of women are uncomfortable discussing menopause and its symptoms, leading to misinformation and a lack of support.
"It is a massively underserved community, and many women will be in that post-menopausal transition for such a significant portion of their lives," he said. "Our priority is to increase quality of life, which is why we put such a big focus on it as a business.”
Until recently, the majority of medical research and literature centered predominantly on male physiology, which led to the diagnosis and treatment of females based on male-centered research, and while improvements have been made in this area, little research is conducted in women of menopausal age.
"It’s quite shocking given its such a significant cohort," Glover added, "But I'm expecting that as menopause is becoming a consumer-led area of interest, the science will hopefully follow, and I expect and hope to see a lot more research specific on menopause in the next 5 to 10 years.”"
Different needs at different ages
We cannot just consider women as a homogenous group when talking about women’s health, Glover noted, adding that age, ethnicity, disability, education and financial situation, all diversify the category, making it imperative to cater to the nuances of women’s needs.
While there are many crossover categories, age in particular delineates key concerns for women, with younger generations looking for support with periods, fertility issues, miscarriage, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), urinary tract infections (UTIs), ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids.
As women reach age 35 and over, they’re looking for support with perimenopause, then menopause and eventually postmenopausal.
Yet there are so many symptoms of menopause, Glover explained, that offering a one-size-fits-all solution does not work.
Obstacles and solutions
Lack of trust is a real barrier as consumers often don’t believe that a supplement will have an impact on their menopause symptoms, Glover told NutraIngredients.
"We're very limited with what claims can be made on supplements in Europe from a legal perspective; it's often not the case that there isn't efficacy evidence, but we're very limited in how we can signpost customers towards a solution that might be good for them," he explained.
Therefore building trust is key for H&B, and the retailer achieves this predominantly through advertising and marketing campaigns.
"We're big on campaigns to educate customers around products, as well as that life stage in general and what they can do to support it," Glover said.
H&B’s campaigns ‘Me.No.Pause.’ in 2019 and ‘Every Menopause Matters’ in 2022 gave a voice to menopausal women without forcing a purchasable solution.
"It’s important for the consumers’ trust in brands to know that a company isn't just trying to sell products and can provide information on how symptoms can be managed without [products] as well," Glover added.
Preventative approaches to CVD
“Menopause is part of a natural cycle, but when you look at women's health in general, there are many aspects of the category that deserve attention,” Glover said.
For instance, women have a considerably increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), with it being the leading cause of death in post-menopausal women due to hormonal changes.
"As a progressive illness, it happens over several years, and preventative steps can be made to improve blood markers for example, but once CVD has taken hold it’s much harder to reverse," Glover explained. "This is the same for a lot of diseases, and a prevention over cure approach should be taken: pre-habilitation not rehabilitation."
Supplements such as coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), omega 3, grapeseed, turmeric and garlic are all included in H&B’s heart-health offering.
However, communicating about preventative care with consumers can be another obstacle when there aren’t signs or symptoms to indicate bodily changes.
The industry should work towards encouraging consumers to see heart health the way they currently view skin health, added Heather Jackson, co-founder of GenM, a menopause brand partnership company and H&B partner, who also presented at the conference.
"So many women are willing to consider anti-wrinkle creams before wrinkles appear but won’t consider supplements for heart health until it’s too late," she said. "There is a massive gap in what women need and what we’re being given."