“As is the case in any industry, you have to know your customer and be able to tell what they want.“

The number of people who pursue vegetarian or vegan lifestyles is constantly going up, and health and wellness are general trends no one can dismiss. What does that mean for the adult market and the way it addresses its target audiences? Oliver Gothe (right in picture, photo courtesy of Dr. Martina Kunz), CEO of ecoaction GmbH, tells us.

Would you say that trends such as natural, organic, vegetarian or vegan products and sustainable and fair production and trade have fully arrived in the adult market?
Oliver Gothe: Products bearing the fair-trade logo generated more than 1 billion euros worth of turnover in the German market last year. And according to VEBU (the German vegetarian association), 10% of the population in Germany are vegetarians or vegans, the majority of which can be found in the 18-29 age bracket. And naturally, this demographic is also of great interest to the adult market seeing how this group is among the most sexually active. However, the adult market has not yet managed to really draw in this group if you ask me.

If you compare the multitude of products and product lines on the adult market to the number of products that actually meet the above-mentioned criteria, one might get the impression that maybe, our market is not ready for this trend (yet). Do you share this sentiment?
Ethically-minded vegetarians and vegans want the whole chain of supply and production to be free of animal products or animal involvement. They don’t want animal glue in boxes or adhesive tapes, they don’t want animals mistreated and forced to help with harvesting the raw materials. They are very adamant about that. However, when you have a product like a condom or also cosmetics products, it is often very difficult to fully document every step of the supply chain. But if you don’t take these requirements seriously, you will never win over this group of consumers.

Photo courtesy of Ronny Hermosa

This trend is often associated with things such as wellness and wellbeing, so there is this additional dimension of fun and fitness. Isn’t that a natural fit for the adult market?
Sure, the players in the adult market have long since learned how to sell feel-good products to the consumers, things that enrich people’ sexuality beyond simply providing orgasms. I am convinced that there are several product categories that still hold lots of potential in that regard. For instance, think of the various food supplements out there. They have a positive effect on people’s sexual performance and lust, improving their sexuality in a positive and healthy way.

The adult market offers lots of products for relaxation, for massages, for body care and regeneration, etc. – i.e. products that have little or nothing to do with actual sex. Has the focus on sex limited the potential of the adult industry for too long?
I don’t think the potential of the adult industry was limited. For these products to be successful, there first had to be demand. The younger generation has different preferences and expectations than those we catered to 10 years ago. And of course, the adult market responds to these wishes and expectations.

So the lines between erotic/sex and wellbeing will continue to blur more and more?
Where does foreplay begin and where does afterplay end? Personally, I think the lines between the erotic and wellbeing are not just blurring; I feel that health is going to play an increasingly important role in our market. And this trend has already begun. We don’t see stinking jelly toys in adult shops anymore, and as time progresses, the customers will only become more critical and more demanding when it comes to adult products.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Martina Kunz

What does that mean for the future of the adult retail trade, brick and mortar as well as online?
Given the flood of brands and products on the market, you will have to stick out to be successful, and flashy marketing alone won’t do. The products you sell also need to be healthy, safe, and ethically acceptable. Transparency will be expected from the producers, and I know some of them won’t like that, but that is the way the industry is going, and if you refuse to let the consumers know what is in your products and how they were produced, that will result in poor reviews and lower sales.

How can the adult trade benefit from this development? How can they meet and foster this demand?
As is the case in any industry, you have to know your customer and be able to tell what they want. If you don’t address trends and preferences, you are limiting your own success. Also, low prices are not always the best route. The only way for the trade to really benefit from such trends in the long run is to reach out to, and connect with these new audiences.