63.8% of women take supplements, according to the CRN 2022 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements

For far too long, women’s specific health needs have been overlooked or ignored by the healthcare industry, but that’s starting to change. “Very little clinical research has been women-centric in the past, and even in research that includes women, results are simply ‘adapted’ to women,” says Maggie McNamara, Marketing Director, Gencor. “In most cases, women are either omitted from the study or bundled together with men to discuss results and outcomes. Women need to be the focus or at least etched out when clinical studies are being done. Being able to separate women out of a group study may show that women react better or worse or require less of a dose than their male counterparts.”

Gencor is just one company working to address this disparity by investing in research and development in women’s health needs. “We are currently doing several clinical trials on women concerning their specific nutritional and health requirements,” says McNamara. “A woman’s nutritional needs differ at each life stage, from reproductive years to pregnancy, but it goes beyond that. For instance, women absorb nutrients more slowly. Iron needs are more significant for women. Women experience greater levels of insomnia and do not process serotonin as well as men.  Calcium requirements for women rise during and after menopause because of the risk of developing osteoporosis as estrogen levels drop. In sports nutrition, women oxidize more fat and fewer carbohydrates and protein than men during endurance exercise.”

Natural health retailers and nutrition supplement companies are in a sweet spot to grow their businesses by appealing specifically to their female customers, especially as more women seek out holistic solutions to their health issues. “The wellness market has seen significant growth, especially with a newfound focus and understanding around integrative medicine, and women are considering a more holistic approach to health more now than ever before,” note Jamie Beauchamp, Youtheory VP Marketing and Sales, and Joyce Moran, Youtheory Education Director.

In fact, women are significantly more likely to use supplements than men, McNamara notes. “The CRN 2022 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements reveals that 63.8% of women use supplements, while only 50.8% of men do. Further, these numbers are even more pronounced as age increases, with 80.2% of women 60+ taking supplements, as opposed to 67.3% of men.”

Supplements to address the health concerns of aging women are one area primed for major growth in the coming years. “The global population of postmenopausal women is growing. According to WHO, in 2021, women aged 50 and over accounted for 26% of all women and girls globally. This was up from 22% 10 years earlier,” says Franziska Weichmann, Manager of Scientific Communications and Product Development at
Horphag Research. “Additionally, women are living longer. Globally, a woman aged 60 years in 2019 could expect to live on average another 21 years.”

Also noting huge market potential in the aging demographic, Rajwant Gill, Marketing Executive, Gencor, says, “According to market research, the number of menopausal and postmenopausal women globally is projected to increase to 1.2 billion by 2030. As women are now taking the lead in extending their health span, demand will rise for research-backed products in managing aging health concerns such as menopause symptoms, bone health, and joint support.”

However, it’s not just older women driving sales in this thriving category. “Nutrition companies are listening to the new generation of young women who are breaking down the stigma around hormones, sex, and mental health, alongside nutrition companies that are run by some of these same young women who want to make a change,” notes Nikita Austen, Director of Education and Innovation Specialist, Solaray. “Many nutrition companies are women-owned and operated, leading to changes in the offerings available. Two sides have come together to make a large impact on the offerings available to consumers.”

It’s critical to have staff on hand with the knowledge to discuss solutions to issues that previously had been thought of as too embarrassing to discusst in public. “Once considered taboo, health issues like premenstrual syndrome, menopause, infertility, libido, and stress are now front and center, “ says Marlena Hidlay, Director of Marketing, Minerals and Nutrients, Balchem. “But as women around the world become more empowered, the opportunity exists to address their health and wellness needs head-on.” Read on for a look at science-backed supplements for women’s health that are worth stocking on your shelves.

Women’s Top Health Concerns—and the Ingredients that Foster Wellbeing

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) 

“Many 18- to 40-year-old women are dealing with headaches, mood swings, and uterine cramps and bloat around their periods,” notes Austen. She points to saffron as an ingredient that may help provide relief. “You may know saffron as the most expensive spice in the world and though it is, it only takes a small amount to get powerful benefits like mood and premenstrual support.”

Chasteberry extract also has big benefits for PMS relief, notes Gene Bruno, Vice President of Scientific & Regulatory Affairs at NutraScience Labs. “Studies found that 40 mg/day of Chaste Tree Berry extract helped relieve premenstrual symptoms, premenstrual-related discomfort, premenstrual-related acne, and supports a healthy menstrual cycle including a healthy balance of female hormones.”

Customers looking for multi-faceted benefits that include PMS relief may also want to consider French maritime extract (branded as Pycnogenol). “One study showed treatment with Pycnogenol lowered pain during menstruation, which was reflected by a significant reduction of NSAIDs used,” notes Weichmann. “Plus, a 2021 study found Pycnogenol to be effective at reducing the number of urinary tract infection episodes, increasing the number of infection-free and symptom-free patients, and decreasing oxidative stress in patients with urinary tract infections.”

Fertility/ Prenatal Care

“For women seeking to start a family, this is a primary concern,” shares Dr. Stacey Smith, Marketing and Communications Manager NORAM with Gnosis by Lesaffre. “One thing women have realized is that conception is not an absolute—many struggle with fertility, so they seek out the nutrients that can help increase their chances of success, and then support their child through pregnancy.”

All told, prenatal supplements are a profitable, premium segment, according to Tom Druke, Director of Marketing, VitaCholine. “Coming out of the pandemic, birth rates have rebounded, with women aged 35 to 44 showing the largest increase, up nearly 5%.”

When stocking prenatal supplements, consider these four critical nutrients:

Folate: “Folate plays an essential role in human growth and development,” says Dr. Smith. “It contributes to maternal tissue growth during pregnancy; normal homocysteine metabolism, which not only contributes to a healthy pregnancy but also cardiovascular support.” Dr. Smith notes that glucosamine salt of (6S)-5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), branded as Quatrefolic, has higher bioavailability that may offer more potent benefits. “It is considered a ‘finished’ folate, meaning that the body can use it immediately without any kind of metabolization.”

Choline: “Choline is an essential nutrient that supports the growth and development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord,” notes Druke.

Iron: “More than 80% of pregnant women in the United States do not get enough iron in their diets from food and beverages alone,” reports Eric Ciappio, Ph.D., RD, Strategic Development Manager, Nutrition Science, Balchem. That makes it essential to include this important mineral in prenatal supplements. For optimal benefits, Ciappio advises looking for formulas that use iron bisglycinate, a chelated mineral form with demonstrated bioavailability. “Iron bisglycinate is an iron solution with demonstrated benefits in pregnant women that outperforms competitive iron salts like ferrous fumarate with better bioavailability and fewer side effects. The World Health Organization recognizes that iron bisglycinate is two to three times better absorbed than ferrous sulfate in the presence of ‘anti-nutrients’ like phytates.”

Omega-3s: “Regarding prenatal health, a recent review, including 19,927 women, showed that omega-3 DHA supplementation during pregnancy indicated a reduced risk for preterm births and supported healthier birth weights,” notes Ståle Søfting, Sales and Marketing Director at GC Rieber VivoMega. “Studies have also shown that consuming omega-3 EPA and DHA during pregnancy may reduce the child’s sensitivity to common food allergies and the occurrence and severity of atopic dermatitis in the first year of life.”

Peri- and Menopause

“Perimenopause and menopause continue to rank high in interest as these stages can bring disruptive symptoms for nearly one-third of a woman’s life,” says Weichmann. “One study estimates that women spend nearly $1,400 in health costs and $770 in lost productivity for untreated hot flashes alone.”

Weichmann notes that Pycnogenol can offer some relief. “Pycnogenol is specifically shown to improve all menopausal symptoms, including hot flushes and nightly sweating, menstrual problems, memory and concentration problems, anxiety, sleep problems, depression and others.”

Black cohosh is another study-backed botanical solution for women who are dealing with menopause symptoms, says Cheryl Myers, Chief of Scientific Affairs and Education at EuroPharma, Inc. “The record for black cohosh is well established. It has repeatedly shown amazing benefits for relieving night sweats, irritability, hot flashes, and mood swings. Because it does so well taking care of these symptoms, it also allows women to experience uninterrupted sleep—possibly for the first time in quite a while.”

What’s more, Myers adds, “Black cohosh doesn’t appear to have phytoestrogen content. The lack of phytoestrogens makes it safe to use for women who have had breast cancer.” EuroPharma pairs black cohosh with the adaptogen EPR-7 Rhodiola in its Menopause Relief PLUS supplement for additional support for energy and focus in one daily dose.

IFF also offers a multi-ingredient formulation to address common menopause health concerns, including hot flashes, cognitive performance, bone health, and gut discomfort, says Maider Gutierrez, Global Health Category Leader, IFF. “It includes carefully selected HOWARU probiotics and other healthy ingredients, like Sharp-PS, SoyLife, and AB-Fortis. This concept is readily available for brand owners looking to quickly enter this market segment and help women improve their menopause experience.”

For women who are dealing with sexual side effects related to menopause, such as vaginal dryness and loss of libido, there are natural solutions available. “For vaginal dryness, I would recommend Omega-7, our sea buckthorn supplement,” says Myers. “It is a rich source of the rare omega 7 fatty acid, as well as other beneficial plant nutrients and essential fatty acids. A published double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study found that women taking 3 grams of sea buckthorn berry and seed oil daily had significant improvements in vaginal moisture and the integrity of the mucosal tissue.”

Another option that David Foreman, The Herbal Pharmacist, recommends is Libifem, a fenugreek extract that supports sexual health. “It addresses desire, arousal, and hormones. It works excellently for women by supporting healthy hormone levels (estradiol and testosterone ratios) and has been shown to increase sexual arousal, desire, frequency, and satisfaction in healthy women.”

Plus, Bluebonnet has recently launched a product line called Intimate Essentials that can help, notes Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, BS, MS, Ph.D. Candidate, Sr. Director of Research & Development, Bluebonnet Nutrition Corporation. “This line of supplements is formulated to help support female libido, hormonal balance, healthy aging related to sexual function, and now, fertility.”

Mood, Energy & Stress Support

“As a supplement company, we have seen exponential growth in products that may help to support emotional wellbeing, specifically when it comes to stress support, calming, and cognitive health,” note Moran and Beauchamp. “This year alone we have seen over 100% growth in ashwagandha sales with new innovations arising in the areas of new formats, fun flavors. For instance, Youtheory Ashwagandha Liquid is a truly innovative formula that may support mood and overall wellbeing.”

Rajat Mittal Shah, Co-founder/Director of Nutriventia, also points to ashwagandha as an important adaptogen for supporting mental wellbeing. “Adaptogenic herbs, like ashwagandha, can help support healthy hormonal and physiological responses to stress,” says Shah, noting that Nutriventia’s patented ashwagandha extract, Prolanza, is a long-acting formula that can help with all-day stress management in a single daily dose.

Bluebonnet also features the stress-supporting power of adaptogenic herbs in its Targeted Choice Stress Relief Vegetable Capsules, notes Sugarek MacDonald. “It is a wholesomely crafted blend of adaptogenic herbal extracts, including ashwagandha, Siberian eleuthero root, passionflower, rhodiola rosea, holy basil, and lemon balm along with the amino acid derivative L-theanine that works to help the body and mind adapt and cope with occasional stressors while promoting an overall sense of relaxation.”

Vinpocetine, a compound derived from the periwinkle plant, is another botanical ingredient that may help support overall mental wellness, add Shelby Smith, LifeSeason Education Coordinator, and Niki Wolfe, Director of Education and Social Wellness for LifeSeason. “Vinpocetine has been on our radar lately, which is why we include it in multiple formulas and recently added it to our LifeSeasons essentials line. Vinpocetine supports the mind/body connection, which is critical for women wanting to experience better cognitive health, blood flow, and overall health.”

There’s also plenty of holistic help available for women seeking energy support. “Research shows that red ginseng helps preserve mental and physical energy, and supports healthy hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity, and serotonin, cortisol, and GABA levels,” says Myers. “That translates into making it easier for people to get through their days, especially if they experience post-lunchtime slumps in the afternoon—as I think many of us can identify with. In clinical studies, our own HRG80 Red Ginseng has been found to bolster concentration and focus, improve mental well-being, reduce brain fog, and increase energy, in one case by up to 67%!”


It goes without saying that sleep is a critical part of maintaining optimal health, and many women don’t get enough, notes Qi Jia, Ph.D., President and CEO, Unigen. Melatonin is commonly used to improve sleep quality and quality but it can leave some people feeling groggy the next day. Enter the new natural melatonin alternative: Maizinol (UP165), a corn leaf extract that binds to melatonin receptors and produces melatonin-like effects. “Maizinol is a hormone free natural supplement clinically proven to increase the deep sleep time that is a restorative stage of sleep,” says Jia. He points to an open access clinical publication that found UP165 composition was effective in improving sleep quality in human clinical studies by enhancing the deep sleep time significantly compared to placebo.

Bone & Heart Health

Bone and heart health often go hand in hand, because getting more calcium into bones also works to reduce levels of arterial calcification—and no nutrient does a better job at both than vitamin K2, maintains Dr. Smith. She says Gnosis by Lesaffre’s branded version of K2, MenaQ7, is specifically formulated to activate the body’s two Vitamin K-dependent proteins: Osteocalcin, which binds calcium to the bone mineral matrix, and Matrix Gla Protein (MGP), which inhibits calcium from depositing in arteries and soft tissues where it can increase cardiovascular risks. In clinical studies, MenaQ7 has been shown to offer clinically statistically significant protection of the vertebrae and the hip (femoral neck) against bone loss. “After three years of supplementation, maintenance in both bone mineral content and bone mineral density were statistically significant in the MenaQ7 group, as well as statistically improved bone strength,” says Dr. Smith. In the same study, “results confirmed that MenaQ7 not only inhibited age-related stiffening of the artery walls but also made a statistically significant improvement in vascular elasticity.”

Silica can also help boost calcium absorption into the bones by up to 50%, says Myers. “The right form of silica can stabilize bone growth and allow bones to retain calcium longer. EuroPharma offers Silica-20, which uses silica from the above ground part of a plant called spring horsetail. It balanced the ratio of natural bone anabolism (adding minerals to bone) with bone catabolism (withdrawing minerals from the bone.) This healthy balance allows bones to retain calcium longer—by an average of 50% or more. A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study over 12 months of 65 women revealed that Silica-20 supported bone health and strength. Silica-20 has also been shown to promote dental health.”

Another heart-healthy ingredient that may also offer powerful support for bone health: resveratrol, notes Foreman. “Resveratrol has been shown to promote the formation of new bone-forming cells and improve bone mineral density in the lumbar and femur.” He says Gencor’s patented resveratrol extract, VeriSperse, has shown multiple areas of benefit for bone health. “For example, three unique studies show significant increases in bone-specific alkaline phosphatase (BAP), increases in lumbar spine trabecular volumetric bone mineral density (LSvDMBtrab), and a reduction in a key marker of bone resorption called C-terminal telopeptide type-1 collagen.”

Joint Support

Staying mobile and active is a priority with age, says Michael Schwartz, N.D., President, Michael’s Naturopathic Programs. Curcumin, the bioactive compound in turmeric, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects that can help safeguard joints.

One clinical study using Gencor’s patented curcumin extract HydroCurc found that 500mg of HydroCurc taken once daily showed fast-acting joint pain relief within just five days and was well tolerated. Nutriventia also offers a patented turmeric extract, TurmXTRA60N, which delivers 1575-mg turmeric extract in a small 250-mg dose.

Gencor also offers additional joint support with its patented form of palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), sold as Levegan, adds Foreman. “One study on osteoarthritis had 111 subjects who received either 300mg Levagen, 600mg Levagen, or a placebo. The results showed dose-dependent improvements across all WOMAC sub-domains: Joint pain, stiffness, and function while improving quality of life and reducing anxiety.”

Collagen is another well-established staple for joint support, which is why it’s a mainstay in Bluebonnet’s Targeted Choice JointStrength Vegetable Capsules, says Sugarek-MacDonald. “Collagen provides the structural foundation for bones, joints, ligaments, and cartilage. This unique formula incorporates hydrolyzed collagen peptides type II with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates as well as MSM. It also includes a specialty joint strength blend comprised of devil’s claw root, hyaluronic acid, turmeric root extract, and boswellia gum. It is specially formulated to help optimize joint flexibility, mobility, and range of motion by maintaining healthy connective tissues, as well as supporting a healthy inflammatory response in joints from a specific non-disease cause like physical overexertion of the joints from intense exercise.”

Dr. Smith points to S-Adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe), branded as Adonat by Gnosis by Lesaffre, as another potent helping hand in joint support. “Where joint health is concerned, SAMe provides anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects through the production of glutathione, providing joint pain relief. SAMe also supports proteoglycan production for cartilage maintenance and protection,” she explains. “SAMe is involved in more than 100 biochemical pathways and it has been shown to have benefits for improving mood, ensuring liver health, and promoting stronger joints.”

And for improved lubrication and joint comfort, consider a supplement that includes the cucumber fruit extract Q-Actin, recommends Bruno. “Randomized, controlled trials have shown that 20 mg/day of Q-Actin was more effective than 2,700 mg/day of glucosamine-chondroitin or placebo in promoting joint comfort as well as improving physical function.”

Beauty & Gut Health

“The gut health and the beauty-from-within categories are not slowing down anytime soon, but are now more intertwined than ever before,” explain Beauchamp and Moran. “As we learn more about the importance of the microbiome, we’re starting to see unique innovations in gut and skin health and women are becoming well-educated on how these two organs are closely connected. A daily probiotic, such as Youtheory Spore Probiotic capsule or powder, not only helps to support a healthy gut flora, but may also help support healthy skin from within.”

Pycnogenol also offers beauty benefits, especially in aging women, adds Weichmann. A 2012 study examined 20 healthy women, aged 55–68 years in which Pycnogenol increased hyaluronic acid production in skin by increasing hyaluronic acid synthase by 44%, reduced skin fatigue by 30% and increased skin elasticity by 25%. What’s more, she says, a new study, conducted with menopausal women, found oral intake of Pycnogenol to significantly increase hair density, decrease transepidermal water loss in scalp skin and optimize resting flux of the scalp. Hair density increased from the baseline of 225.8 hairs/cm2 to 293.6 hairs/cm2 after two months of supplementation with Pycnogenol– a statistically significant increase of 30%.

4 Keys to Appealing to Female Customers

“Women consumers are cognizant, savvy shoppers, and a huge percentage of them are responsible for buying supplements for themselves and their whole household,” says McNamara. In fact, the U.S. department of labor estimates that women make 80% of the health care decisions for their families. Here are a few smart strategies to better market to female customers.

Focus on science-backed evidence. “Beware the brand that underestimates the intelligence of its current consumer base—especially Millennials and the younger Generation Z,” cautions McNamara. “They are looking for clinically studied ingredients suited to their specific needs.”

Listen and learn. “As a manufacturer of many leading supplements designed for women, we know how important it is to listen to your customer,” note Beauchamp and Moran. “We try to have regular conversations with our followers via social media, email, and demos to better understand their needs and many of our early innovations start at that very organic level. We also have those same conversations with our retail partners to find out what they are hearing at the shelf level. For instance, we were one of the early pioneers in the collagen market because our customers were asking for more complex, combination formulas, which led to the development of our Total Beauty formula.”

Stock up on multitaskers. “Addressing multiple areas of health doesn’t translate into a willingness to take more pills,” notes Gutierrez. “Consumers increasingly seek products offering multiple health benefits which can be delivered in formats beyond traditional tablets or capsules. A combination of probiotics and other ingredients like botanical extracts can be a way to provide multiple benefits.”

Multivitamins designed to address multiple symptoms that affect women during each life stage also appeal to busy women. “Instead of having to research what to take for all 150+ different symptoms that a woman can experience, vitamin companies are doing the work and creating custom formulas to meet each life stage,” says Austen. “Now, a woman can walk into a health food store and find something catered to her needs, no matter what stage of life she is in. From caterpillar to butterfly and each stage in between, there is a vitamin formula to support.”

Lean into online messaging. Smart retailers pay close attention to what influencers are promoting on TikTok and Instagram to keep on top of trending products. “Like it or not, retailers must recognize that the proliferation of lifestyle influencers on social media is a big part of their business reality—what happens on social media, including the amplification of headlines about nutrient research or other wellness trends—has a very direct impact on the bottom line,” councils Myers. Bringing in local influencers or hosting educational events can also be other great ways to broaden your customer base, she adds. “Hosting special events with guest speakers, for example, can help generate excitement and bring new customers into the store that might not have considered natural products in the past.”  WF 

“Nutrition companies are listening to the new generation of young women breaking down the stigma around hormones, sex, and mental health.”

—Nikita Austen, Solaray

 Natural health retailers and brands are in a sweet spot to grow business by appealing to female customers, especially as more women seek holistic solutions to their health issues.