Brands and countries

Many absorbent hygiene manufacturers are hoping to succeed in expanding period care markets like India, Africa, and Latin America. Get an inside perspective from three regional experts to learn what is driving the expansion. Learn what brands like yours need to know to thrive in these emerging markets.

It’s no secret: Appreciable growth is expected for period care product sales over the next five years. A large portion of the increase is due to expansion within the world’s emerging markets such as India, Africa, and Latin America. We’ve spoken with three regional industry insiders about:
  • What is driving the increase
  • Challenges and opportunities
From those conversations, we’ve identified what absorbent hygiene producers looking to thrive in these expanding markets should know.

But first, a quick summary of the market. According to Euromonitor1, the period care segment was 309 billion globally in 2022. India accounted for 13.6 billion, Africa for 19.4 billion, and Latin America for 32.7 billion.

The overall market is expected to grow by 9% to 332 billion by 2027. A huge portion is due to India’s anticipated 72% increase over the same 5-year period. Euromonitor also estimates Africa and the Middle East up by 25%, with Latin America rising by 7%.
 

Primary factors driving period care market growth

Experts in these expanding regions point to several of the same drivers. Those most commonly mentioned are:
  • Economic development
  • Affordability
  • Improved education
  • Increased access and availability (especially via e-commerce)
Many companies are exploring these markets in order to benefit from the anticipated surge in period care sales. However, their success may depend on understanding the current challenges each market represents.
 

A closer look at menstrual health in India

According to Chirag Virani, co-founder of Sparkle Eco Innovations, access and cost are a huge part of the challenge in India. ‘The majority of the market is still highly price-sensitive,’ he says. Virani estimates that only 25% of the market’s potential users can currently obtain and afford products at this time.

‘There is a recent survey by UNICEF that around 23% of young menstruaters drop out of school because they have no access to sanitary pads,’ he explains.2 However, he adds, studies have also shown that when they are able to get products, 90% remain in school.

Fortunately, the industry is working to make period care products more available, whether through NGO partnerships, donations, or subsidised rates. As Chirag notes, ‘It’s not as much as we would like, but it’s a start.’

Another statistic he shared: It is estimated that in India, 70% of those who menstruate only learn about the cycle when they get their first period. This distressing fact is just one way the cultural taboo around menstruation manifests.

Stigma also reveals itself in shopping habits. ‘In rural areas, consumers are still highly likely to purchase the product from a physical store, so they don’t have to rely on someone looking at what is coming,’ says Chirag. Even then, he continues, the shopkeeper will put the articles in a black bag, so the item is not visible to others.

And the stigma is not exclusive to rural areas, Chirag points out. ‘We’ve had inquiries when [consumers] place an order online [and request the company] only deliver between [certain times], “so that my dad won’t be there to receive the product.”’ This [stigma] is what we need to break. It’s a natural process. It’s a product that you use like any other.’

Many governments and NGOs agree, and educational outreach can be seen across India. As their efforts continue, the benefits of good menstrual health and period care products will become more widely embraced. Each will contribute to the expected market increase over the next few years.

As to the products that India’s consumers are likely to choose, Chirag says, ‘Most of the people are currently using sanitary pads.’ He adds, ‘Tampons are not really popular at this point because anything that might be inserted into the body…has cultural limitations.’ However, new startups that offer menstrual cups (which are reusable and washable) are appearing, along with other product alternatives. ‘It’s a small niche, but growing,’ he notes.

Sustainable options are also becoming more popular, though this is largely centred around India’s cities where the younger generations have more disposable income. Some shoppers are eco-conscious, whilst others favour the natural materials, a way, as Chirag explains, to treat themselves better.

(Listen to the full conversation in Episodes 38 and 39 of ‘Attached to Hygiene’ .)
 

Driving factors in Africa’s period care market

According to Raymond Chimhandamba, expert on the African absorbent hygiene market, the continent’s period care market is expected to grow rapidly. Euromonitor estimates an increase of 25% from 2022 to 2027.3 One contributing factor: the continent’s population is among the youngest in the world. Only about 3.5% of its residents are over the age of 65.4

Much of Africa’s period care market growth is caused by economic development within the region, and in more ways than the obvious. To give an example: Urbanisation is happening at such an advanced pace that municipal services cannot keep up. ‘There can be gaps within a day when consumers do not have power, do not have water,’ the expert clarifies. ‘It automatically forces consumers to go for disposable products so you don’t have to worry about washing them.’

Currently, the cost of period care products remains higher than some can afford. This places a heavier financial burden on the half of the population who menstruate. ‘NGOs have been lobbying to get the cost of [period care] products reduced,’ Raymond says. As a result, several countries have removed surcharges on period products, making them more affordable.

Another way consumers avoid high product costs is Africa’s informal market, which focuses on resale of common products outside of controlled or taxed channels. As Raymond explains, ‘The informal retail sector is actually bigger in every African country than the formalised retail sector.’

Commodities often include familiar brand-name products offered in smaller quantities, which makes them more affordable with cash on hand. Consumers may buy in bulk when they get paid (often monthly) and then turn to the informal economy for a little extra product when funds run low. Certain brands now offer pads in singles and smaller packs for the same reason. Manufacturers are also known to have a formal depot for selling to shopkeepers near the informal markets. The products are then resold to the consumer.

As in India, the sanitary pad is Africa’s most commonly used period care product. The vast majority are maxi pads, which are more economical. However, the more expensive ultra-thin options are beginning to gain some market share.

At the same time, menstrual cups are growing in popularity. NGOs often promote them because they are washable and reusable. But there are other products offered as well. In an unusual marketing tactic, vendors have been seen promoting their tampons to women at the beach, where pads aren’t the best option.

One other fact for manufacturers to consider: The impact of disposable items, including single-use plastics, is a concern for many consumers throughout Africa. In fact, diaper pollution is considered a big problem in the region. As Raymond relates, it is ‘posing a lot of challenges for municipalities and urban drainage systems.’

Nations including Kenya and Tanzania have regulated how and where single-use plastics can be utilized. In May 2021, an EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) law in Kenya required brand owners to demonstrate plans to reduce the environmental impact of their products.5 Understanding and navigating these regulations will be a key factor as hygiene companies seek to meet the African market’s growing needs.

(Listen to the full conversation in Episodes 40 and 41 of ‘Attached to Hygiene’.)
 

Absorbent hygiene trends in Latin America

According to Bostik’s Mexico-based Augusto Quiroz, period care is expected to continue its growth through the next several years, especially in Central and South America. Factors include rising disposable income, better hygiene practices, and more women entering the workforce.

The use of internet and online shopping has had a profound impact in the last two years, the expert states. ‘Today, in almost every country in Latin America, people are going online for shopping, and hygiene is no exception,’ he says, calling it ‘a dramatic, positive change.’ He notes that most nations in Latin America can now enjoy the next-day and same-day delivery offered in the US and Canada.

Consolidation remains common in the region’s period care market, with major brands purchasing smaller ones. ‘It’s the new reality of doing business in Latin America,’ adds Augusto.

Even so, cost remains an important consideration for those selling in the region. Many consumers cannot afford to purchase products in quantity. Augusto explains that some brands have adopted more flexibility in producing lower counts in their bags, some as low as a single unit in a bag. As he points out, ‘Producers have to pay attention to those sectors of society and give them an opportunity to buy articles.’

A frequent topic amongst period care marketers in both Central and South America is the growing popularity of the menstrual cup. Reasons for choosing the item vary from user to user, but sustainability is a frequent motivation. Others consider the reusable product an investment, preferrable to making repeated purchases. As this trend skews toward younger (and hence more active) adults, it is likely that products that are more agile and dynamic would be well received.

And it’s not just the consumer driving changes. Several countries in Latin America have instituted regulations regarding single-use plastic bags, and brands are taking note. Augusto relates, ‘We have seen that our disposable [product suppliers] are putting extra attention on the content of those plastic bags. It’s a step towards sustainability, of course.’

Some are shifting to degradable bags; others are incorporating more recycled materials. Both factors can be selling points for consumers who are sustainability-minded. ‘Young people are thinking about how they impact the world by the products they buy,’ he says.

(Listen to the full conversation when in Episodes 35-37 of ‘Attached to Hygiene’ .)
 

Urban consumers share concerns with more mature markets

Metropolitan consumers in India, Africa, and Latin America have a great deal in common with their counterparts in North America, Europe, and other established markets. These shoppers tend to be more informed about hygiene products and have a broad selection available to them. Unlike less-sophisticated absorbent hygiene consumers who equate thickness with absorbency, they embrace the value of thinner products for comfort and discretion.

Another similarity is their awareness of issues around sustainability. The desire to use articles with more natural components can be popular, especially among younger generations, when their incomes make the higher cost affordable.

‘It can be difficult’, explains Chirag, noting that not all brands targeting the sustainable products segment are creating equivalent products. Consumers look at lower-priced options and compare them to other brands that make more authentic efforts at sustainability. Shoppers may wonder if the more expensive brands are intentionally raising prices. Not all consumers understand that articles with sustainable components cost more to produce. The same for acquiring eco-labels. ‘That’s why education is so important,’ he concludes.
 

Preparing for period care success

Taking full advantage of expanding markets like India, Africa, and Latin America relies on having accurate information and the right partners. You can rely on Bostik for: PC-23B13

1 Euromonitor International Limited (2023). All rights reserved.
2 Estimates vary by source and nation.
3 Euromonitor International Limited (2023). All rights reserved.
4 https://www.statista.com/statistics/1226211/population-of-africa-by-age-group/
5 https://www.wwfkenya.org/faqs_on_epr_regulations_2021/



 

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