Optimal Wellness: Nutrition Strategies for Women’s Health

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The growing focus on women’s health, driven by personalised care and self-care trends, offers significant business opportunities. Breaking taboos around topics such as menstrual care and menopausal health is boosting consumer demand. While supplements have traditionally addressed women’s health due to their targeted and concentrated nature, there is a rising recognition of functional foods’ potential. This offers an opportunity to incorporate beneficial ingredients into everyday diets to complement a holistic approach to supporting women’s health.

Nutritional implications for women’s health across the life stages

Nutrition plays a crucial role in promoting overall wellbeing for women by addressing evolving needs across different life stages through the incorporation of specific nutrients and botanicals, which can offer support in both preventive and treatment contexts.Chart showing Ingredient and Nutrition Label Preferences Across Age Groups

Women overall prioritise clean labels and sugar avoidance showing very similar preferences across age groups, except for the 60+ group which exhibits distinct preferences, seeking to enrich their diet with additional nutrition as a priority.

More notably, among women aged 45-59 years —a demographic relevant for menopausal care—there is a general heightened interest in seeking out specific ingredients and nutrition labels. In addition, within this age group, there is a higher preference to address women’s health concerns through natural treatments, including supplements and traditional solutions. This contrasts with a waning interest in prescription medicine within this group since 2020. This indicates potential for functional nutrition. For instance, soy-based foods and phytoestrogenic botanicals such as black cohosh and red clover can help alleviate symptoms.Chart showing Treatment Approach in Women Aged 45-59

Other common nutrients and botanicals targeting women’s life stages include Siberian ginseng and ginger to support hormonal balance for menstrual care, and diets with folic acid, calcium, and omega-3s during pregnancy and postnatal care.

It should also be considered that hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause affect weight, an area of focus, while digestive health and metabolic syndrome are influenced by hormonal fluctuations and can benefit from prebiotics and probiotics. Notably, metabolic syndrome is currently a focal point as it profoundly shapes women’s wellbeing, exacerbating issues such as infertility, menopause symptoms, weight gain, skin problems, and blood sugar fluctuations. Gut health-related functional foods hold promise, as a balanced gut microbiome contributes to overall metabolic health.

In later stages, women are also more predisposed to conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, joint pain, and cognitive issues. A balanced diet with whole grains, lean proteins, and essential nutrients can help to manage them. Stress and anxiety, more prevalent in women due to hormonal factors, can also find support in antioxidants and omega-3s.

While this illustrates the complexity of nutrition’s impact on women’s health, exploring opportunities for more targeted functional foods would entail an intricate understanding of most prevalent health concerns across different areas of care and their respective alignment with existing nutritional preferences and potential gaps in underserved areas. More crucially, the goal is to ensure transparency in communicating benefits that resonate with these consumer groups, rather than overly labelling towards a woman’s specific life stage.

Chart showing menopause cycle

Current opportunities in maternal health, but is there potential beyond it?

Availability of functional foods is not consistent across different life stages. They have traditionally been directed towards maternal health, including pregnancy and postnatal care, primarily through dairy products (such as powder milk). This is due to the more established awareness regarding the unique nutritional needs during this life stage, with other areas being largely unexplored or under-researched from a medical standpoint.

In addition to maternal health, there are opportunities to adopt a holistic approach in targeting women beyond reproductive age, by addressing specific nutritional needs related to bone health, digestion, hormonal fluctuations, skin/hair health, and weight management, which are all common and most often interconnected concerns.

The forefront of functional foods targeting women is set by APAC; for instance, Chinese dairy giant Yili offers powder milks tailored to adult women. These include a range with high iron and calcium, low-fat milk and fortified with probiotics, and another range, featuring red ginseng extract, emphasising beauty and energy benefits. Furthermore, there is potential to incorporate botanicals and traditional herbs, widely acknowledged in traditional Chinese medicine or Ayurveda, catering for markets such as China and India.

This should resonate with the 37% of Chinese female consumers choosing natural or traditional remedies for women’s health issues, and 29% of Indian females seeking alternative medicines. In Europe, response rates stand at 27% and 12% for these respective options.

Source: Euromonitor International Health and Nutrition Survey, 2023

This means that the opportunity for targeted functional foods for specific life stages beyond maternal health needs careful evaluation in Western markets, where supplements are well-established for this purpose. The primary opportunity in the short to medium term is in emerging markets, where there may be a belief that everyday diets cannot meet nutritional needs, and traditional remedies are more deeply ingrained.

Category-wise, dairy products and alternatives, and snacks are ideal channels across regions, well-recognised for delivering functionality and benefiting from their convenience and versatility.

What is next? Digital platforms to enhance awareness and facilitate personalisation

In women’s health, technology can significantly raise awareness of the importance of optimal nutrition and the role of functional foods.

With 51% of females globally using phone apps for activity management and calorie counting for preventive purposes, technology can enable personalised nutrition recommendations via health data tracking, combined with educational content and community support

Source: Euromonitor International Health and Nutrition Survey, 2023

This approach can ensure a tailored and effective enhancement of women’s wellbeing by aligning nutrient choices with individual symptoms, menstrual cycles, daily routines, and lifecycle needs.

An illustrative example is Wild.AI, a platform that tracks, trains, guides nutrition, and aids recovery based on factors such as menstruation, birth control use, or perimenopause/menopause, serving as an all-in-one platform for women. Direct interaction with nutritionists on these kinds of platforms can further build trust and promote adoption of nutritional recommendations across life stages.

Beyond tech investments, there are key opportunities in recognising prevalent women’s health concerns across age groups and areas of care and aligning those with nutritional preferences to formulate functional foods. Simultaneously, understanding cultural nuances indicates particularly promising potential for targeted women’s health positioning in emerging markets such as China and India.

Learn more in our report, Transforming Women’s Health: Empowering Women Through the Life Cycle. For related content, see the article Women’s Health: Uncovering Growth Frontiers with femtech.

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