Berlin (dpa) – As discreetly as possible, well hidden in the fist, the tampon is handed to a friend under the table: Most women have probably already experienced such a situation. But when it comes to a few start-ups, the classic tampon has had its day. And with it, in their opinion, the shameful image of menstruation.
With period panties, soft tampons and menstrual cups, they declare war on established companies. Their message: Those who menstruate should feel good – and decide for themselves how to handle them. Julia Rittereiser is one of the founders. “I myself have tremendous period pains and was always looking for a solution that would make my period more comfortable and pleasant,” she says. “At the same time, I wanted something that didn’t produce so much waste.”
Your company Kora Mikino has therefore specialized in a sustainable alternative to tampons and sanitary towels: period panties. The underpants consist of several layers and, according to the company, can absorb up to 30 milliliters of blood – that corresponds to about 3 medium-sized tampons. The bestseller: Not the inconspicuous underpants, but the chic lace panties.
The numbers seem to prove Rittereiser right. “We are growing very strongly,” she says. Last year sales were in the seven digits, this year it will more than double. “If we can believe the numbers, things will go up significantly,” says Rittereiser. “I think the product will meet the ravages of time.” The vision is that at some point in every underwear department there will also be period clothes.
So far, however, the alternative products have not yet played a major role in the industry. According to a market analysis by Splendid Research, 2019 percent of women buy single-use products 96. 57 percent emphasize the importance of biodegradable and recyclable products. Zero Waste Europe estimates that one-way period products generate around 590. 000 tons of waste in EU countries every year.
The subject is having a hard time – even with investors. “In certain decision-making positions you have to deal with people who find it absurdly difficult to put themselves in the shoes of the target group,” says Rittereiser. “They lack the imagination to empathize with period pain or menstruation.” It looks similar to comedian and businesswoman Carolin Kebekus. “Far too little is invested in female founders, women still have less access to capital than men,” she says.
Together with entrepreneur Tijen Onaran and presenter Laura Karasek, Kebekus is investing in the start-up up Nevernot, which sells soft tampons, among other things. In contrast to classic tampons, the heart-shaped sponges do not have a return thread and should be significantly less noticeable. They can also be used during sex. “Female products get much less funding than financial products – I think health beats finances,” says Onaran. “They are often less trusted, or the products are rated as too” niche “,” says Kebekus. “Most investors simply have no idea how much a good soft tampon can improve a woman’s life to 1000 percent.”
Product and ideals are among many young people Start-ups closely interwoven – this is also the case with Cordelia Röders-Arnold from the start-up Einhorn. «It is my wish to make life more beautiful for menstruating people. To make a period into a strength, where it was perceived as a weakness for years », she says.
Einhorn became known a few years ago for sustainable and colorful condoms – four years ago Röders-Arnold came to the company and promoted the topic of period products. Since then, Einhorn has also been offering organic tampons and panty liners as well as menstrual cups. The cups are folded and inserted into the vagina, where they create a vacuum and collect the blood. Unlike tampons, they can be boiled and reused after use.
Einhorn also transferred the colorful design of the condoms to tampons and cups. “Usually the usual packaging is white, green and discreet, clean and safe,” says Röders-Arnold. «It doesn’t have to be discreet. The period can take up space and make noise. Our tampons are called TamTampons, because we want you to be able to make tampons too. ” According to Röder-Arnold, period products now make up more than half of Einhorn’s sales. This is in the seven-digit range.
The message of the start-ups also includes addressing all people who are getting their period. Because not only women menstruate: Even people who do not assign themselves to any gender or trans people, for example, can have their days.
“The old manufacturers also dictate the narrative,” says Rittereiser. “Menstruating people want to emancipate themselves from the fact that non-menstruating people tell them how to handle menstruation.” It is about getting the authority to interpret the topic. “And the disempowerment of those who have purely commercial interests.”