Lube Manufacturers Discuss Regulations, Formulas and Marketing

The importance of lubricants for a healthy sexual experience has always been true. But today, customers are looking for specific elements in lubricants, the FDA has issued stringent requirements for the products, and manufacturers are finding new ways to appeal to their customers.

Cassie Pendleton, marketing director for Wicked Sensual Care in Canoga Park, Calif., asserts that customers are becoming more discerning about lubricants. “They’re paying attention to the ingredients they don’t want in their products. They don’t want to see parabens. They want a formula that promotes their sexual health and wellness, a high quality formula for the most intimate area of their bodies.” Pendleton sees some differences in lubricant appeal between men and women. “Men are looking for products that make intimate experiences easier. Women are perhaps more keen on making intimate experiences more interesting, playing with different sensations to create a new experience.”

FDA’s regulations will separate garage operations from companies who follow regulations, test their formulas for safety and truly stand behind their products. -Jennifer Martsolf, Trigg Labs

The FDA’s recent crackdown on lubricant ingredients has led to some market changes. “As a company, we’re focused on quality products, and intend to do everything needed to stay in the market and grow,” Pendleton notes.

Wicked Sensual Care’s packaging is one aspect of the company’s growing appeal. “Packaging has been a huge focus of ours from the beginning of our research and development. It’s sleek and discreet. Our goal is for people to look at intimacy products in general as a part of their wellness routine, and not feel they need to hide them. Our R&D department was headed up by someone who came from the skin care industry, so our packaging reflects that. It has a high-end, sexy feeling, a product that can be proudly purchased.” In terms of marketing to both men and women, on the whole Pendleton says that Wicked Sensual Care appeals to both sexes. “We do have a product called Toy Love which is designed more for women, and the packaging has a more feminine look. But over all, our packaging has a high-end look that appeals to both men and women.”

In regard to marketing their products, Pendleton notes, “We use many different mediums, but we have really found success paying attention to what our retailers’ needs are, and doing what we can to support them with product knowledge seminars, and website resources like banner ads and images. Helping our retailers sell our product is what we focus on in terms of marketing.”

Pendleton is also aware of the importance of informing buyers, so that lubricants become viewed as a less taboo subject. “We want to override any misconceptions about the product, and normalize the use of lubricants. With our social media, in our packaging, in any information we put out, we want to show buyers that a lubricant isn’t just a product you use after a certain age, or as a problem solver, but as a welcome part of any intimate routine, like body wash or toothpaste.”

And what about lubricants with stimulating effects? Pendleton says the popularity for these types of products is growing. “People are becoming more adventurous in general, they’re experimenting and trying new things. We’ve had amazing feedback on our flavored lubricants. People are looking at this category as simply being fun to use and play with.”

Anne Hodder, educator for Paradise Marketing in Vista, Calif., says that in regard to what kind of lube formulation customers want, there isn’t necessarily a gender difference. “Customers over all are more aware of ingredients, and people are seeking the purest, cleanest lubricants they can find. It’s all less about what men or women want than it is about people who want anal or vaginal lubricants, or who are seeking a chemical-free lifestyle.” Hodder notes that popular lube ingredients may include silicone, soothing oils such as vitamin E, and plant-based alternatives to traditional synthetic options. “The FDA’s crackdown has basically led to people being more aware of lubricants and their ingredients,” she says.

Where misconceptions are concerned, Hodder asserts that a common one is that “glycerin will cause a yeast infection. You have to get around any misconception with re-education, and give people the permission to be nervous about ingredients which they can avoid if they want to do so.”

At Trigg Labs in Valencia, Calif., director of marketing Jennifer Martsolf explains what customers are looking for in lubrication as “something that’s non-irritating, non-sticky and doesn’t need to be reapplied. Viscosity and texture seems to be a matter of taste.” She notes, “Women tend to be more sensitive because we’re dealing with mucous membranes, and they need to find something that works with their particular body chemistry. Men tend to like formulas that can be wiped off easily.” Martsolf says her company is always looking for gentle ingredients with a low potential for irritation. “Silicones are still very popular, and are made up of large molecule, anhydrous formulas which do not absorb into the skin, and require no preservative system — which makes them highly recommended for those with sensitive skin.”

As to the FDA’s regulations for quality standards, Martsolf says, “This will separate garage operations from companies who follow regulations, test their formulas for safety and truly stand behind their products. Trigg Laboratories mandates that our products are manufactured to best-in-class standards. Each of our 50-plus formulas goes through a stringent course of testing and submission required by FDA to be accepted as a 510(k) Class II Medical Device. A company cannot simply register one formula and add the names of rest of their formulas to that registration. This means it will be safer for the consumer in the long run. There’ll be a consolidation of viable options and consumers will know that they can trust the brands that comply with the FDA standards.”

Martsolf says her most successful marketing is through the sales associates who advocate for her product in-store. “To support them, we combine product knowledge training with sampling to give stores the tools to promote Wet products to their customers.” And how popular are lubes with stimulating effects? “It varies by store. Some sell exponentially more than others, but overall, we find they’re less popular than our standards like Wet Original or Wet Platinum. The potential for irritation can be higher with these types of products for sensitive skin.”

As far as misconceptions about lubricant use, Martsolf says that it’s important to let customers know that lubrication can prevent a disconnect between partners. “Men can get an instant erection, but it may take a woman up to 20 minutes to become fully aroused. I always tell people it’s just more fun using lubrication. If you have a partner who is reluctant to use lubricant, you can introduce it with massage.”

Jeff Hawkins, director of sales at Carrashield Labs of Orlando, Fla., creators of Divine 9 lubricant, sees the direction of lubricants changing. “As lubricants become more of a sexual wellness product, they’re more couples friendly and more health-conscious.” He notes that his company’s Divine 9 product has been the subject of National Cancer Institute research that shows the lubricant, with its proprietary, natural Carragel seaweed extracts to be effective in the prevention of HPV in lab tests. “The type of carrageenan we use helps prevent the spread of the HPV virus. In fact, we are soon to be clinically involved in three world trials about this aspect of our product, which offers an alternative to chemical-based products.”

Hawkins says his products use marketing platforms such as the XBIZ Retreat to reach distributors and educate them about his water-based product’s benefits. “We have the added ability to market ourselves as containing natural, organic ingredients, which are sought after by customers. We use social media, and we support our distributors, and attend customer open houses where I can educate customers about our products and have the opportunity to speak one-on-one.”

Divine 9 recently went through an extensive revamping of its packaging. “Two years ago we were very generically packaged with a clear, plain bottle. I did extensive research with distributors and retailers, and we came out with a cobalt blue bottle and very rich packaging that supports our tag line ‘pleasure and protection.’”

Dean Elliot, CEO of Sliquid based in Dallas, offers his perspective on the lubricant marketplace. “Our line was built and formed by offering health-conscious, cleaner, better products for the consumer. Men and women do differ, in terms of what they are looking for. Women are more aware of staying green and clean, and making sure that a product is not filled with glycerin. They’re the most likely to be seeking a water-based lube like ours. Water makes up approximately 92 percent of the ingredients in such a lube, so we take our water pretty seriously. We use a four-stage water purifying process that includes charcoal, chlorine and UV light filtration systems. We start there with the cleanest and purest water and then use organic cotton and wood-fiber based content, and organic guar gum to help move the plant cellulose around and keep it viscous, along with potassium sorbate and ascorbic acid to kill yeast and mold.”

Elliot describes the current FDA crackdown on lubricant as having “everyone running scared, trying to figure out how to make it work. From our standpoint, we’re a cruelty-free vegan company and we don’t do animal testing. The FDA demands animal testing, so we’re working with them to comply without going against our belief in animal rights. We’ve done our common compatibility and our toxicology testing, and we’re working to circumvent animal testing and still be compliant. The bureaucracy at the FDA still hasn’t caught up with avoiding animal testing as they have in the E.U. We’re trying to break that mold of animal testing and still be compliant.”

Sliquid’s packaging is designed to help the company be noticed on the shelf among competitors. “We put our money inside the bottle not on the outside, so we don’t spend a crazy amount of money on packaging. We have two lines, Sliquid Naturals and Sliquid Organics. For Naturals, we use bright cheerful colors with a simple white lotus on the bottle. For our Organics line, we use amber bottles with more subdued colors. All of our labels are partially recycled paper stock. Both products are very similar, the only difference between the two lines is that we use a proprietary blend of flax, green tea, hibiscus, aloe vera, and sunflower seed in the Organics line that is certified organic.”

Where the company’s marketing is concerned, Elliot says, “We grow through word of mouth. We’ve had some good press in Cosmopolitan, Vogue — publications like that which have done pieces on women’s health. We haven’t paid for advertising.” Elliot describes his company as similar to a “micro-brewery. We create small batches of controlled, quality products. People love what we do, and consumers pass on information about us, and basically market for us.”

Lube with stimulating effects such as Sliquid Sizzle and Sliquid Organic Sensations, as well as six flavored varieties, appeal to some customers but not to others. “There’s no grey area with stimulating lubes. You either love them or hate them, and we often find women want that stimulation zing more than men.”

John Goepfert, CEO of Simply Solutions, the makers of Simply Slick, says that from a formulaic standpoint, today’s customers look for a lubricant that’s natural, organic and healthy.

In regard to ingredients in his product, Goepfert, “applied real science to organic compounds. People need to understand, ask the right questions, and buy the lubes that won’t hurt them, that are water soluble, oil based, and condom safe. We’re the first oil-based water soluble product out there. We only use seven natural and effective ingredients, certified organic Castor oil, purified water, certified organic jojoba oil, glycerine, pectin, stevia, and Optiflo, a safe, bio-degradable product designed to evenly coat an entire space with no gaps in lubrication.”

As far as the FDA’s current crackdown on the lubrication industry, Goepfert says, “It should’ve been done years ago. The lube world was kind of like the Wild West. It’s a pain to go through the FDA process, but it’s necessary to make sure we don’t do harm. We need more testing, not less.”

Goepfert’s lube packaging and marketing focuses more on women than men. “They’re the largest portion of the market in numbers, and with limited dollars, that’s the biggest target. I have a view that if you make things simple and honest people will buy it. If I make a product that actually does what it says it’s supposed to do, people will recommend it. With packaging, we chose an oval bottle that an average woman can hold and flip the top with one hand, squeeze with the other. When we designed the package we went with a circular outside and created a snap together tension package that uses the bottle to hold the package together. You can fit twice as many packages on a single pallet, and it’s less expensive, stronger than cardboard, green-friendly recycled plastic, and just a great fit. L’Oreal is now using the same packaging format.” Simply Solutions uses a clear bottle and plain natural white cap with labeling on the outside. “We believe in skipping dyes altogether. From the packaging to the certified organic ingredients, our philosophy is let’s get back to simple and smart. A lubricant should simply lubricate, it shouldn’t be the star of the show, just make things better.”

At Pjur in Miami, Fla., CEO Richie Harris says customer desires vary, with more women than men attuned to ingredients, health, and wellness. “We offer Pjur nude which is glycerin free, paragon free, and preservative free water-based lubricant, and we also have products with nature based preservatives.” As to the FDA crackdown, Harris notes “ The FDA has alerted the market and stopped the importation of some brands that do not comply. We’re ahead of the market with every formula’s 510K. We have worked on this for years. Health and wellness has always been part of our mission statement. Many companies went to the lowest price and the cheapest ingredients, did limited or minimal testing, like toxicity, condom safety and other tests that are really important in this class of products. Lubricants are not novelties. The industry went too much along the novelty path.”

Harris packages his products using a “locking cap that is leakproof, ready for shipping around the world. Our bottle is modern and sleek.” Harris markets using testers in stores, sample programs through gynecologists, and “loads of PR. Taylor Swift just picked up some Pjur for caring for her glam latex outfits.” Pjur is also “very active in the blogosphere. And we use Facebook, Pinterest and other social media platforms as well.”