A successful ad campaign has been named as one of the causes behind a national tampon deficit
The US is experiencing a severe deficit of tampons, with an extremely successful ad campaign being cited as one of the factors contributing to the shortages, TIME Magazine reported earlier this week.
In 2020, popular comedian and actress Amy Schumer was hired by Procter & Gamble as a ‘face of Tampax’ – the most popular tampon brand in the US. In the ad campaign, Schumer played the role of a helpful tampon supplier who appeared in toilets and ‘saved’ women from getting into trouble by supplying them with Tampax.
Since then, “retail sales growth has exploded,” the company’s spokeswoman Cheri McMaster told TIME. Demand for Tampax is up 7.7% over the past two years, which prompted the manufacturer to run its plant in Auburn, Maine, 24/7.
However, as research conducted by TIME’s Alana Semuels revealed, the successful advertising campaign has not been the only cause of tampon shortages which have been well documented by social media users: Twitter, Reddit and other social media are flooded with photos of empty shelves where some of the most-needed hygienic products were supposed to be.
“This isn’t as bad as toilet paper shortages in Spring 2020, but it’s not great,” Dana Marlowe, the founder of I Support the Girls charity which provides homeless people with bras and menstrual hygiene assistance, wrote on Twitter.
The shortage first became clear during the Covid pandemic when people were stocking up on essentials. Later on, according to TIME, another problem compounded matters: a raw materials shortage. As demand for face coverings and other medical supplies was growing, the demand for raw cotton and rayon was also on the rise. As a result, tampon manufacturers have been struggling in sourcing these materials. The fact that the price of cotton was rising fast (in April it was 71% higher than in the previous year), further aggravated the problem.
Rising costs of transportation have made delivery of the products to the US more expensive. The CEO of startup The Organic Project, Thyme Sullivan, told TIME that the cost of getting its tampons to the US is up 300% from last year.
In addition to all the listed problems, manufacturers are also struggling with staff shortages amid the rising demand for its products. As tampons are considered to be medical devices, they are subject to strict control regulations and therefore “companies can’t put just anybody on the assembly line, so production lagged demand,” the author of the research explained.
“Increased demand, staffing shortages, raw material shortages – none of these factors are unique to tampons. Yet what makes the tampon shortage so persistent and problematic is that unlike most other items that the supply chain has made it hard to access, tampons are not something women can stop buying until supplies return,” TIME explains.
Tampons are not the only scarce product in the US. Last month, New York authorities were forced to declare a state of emergency over a shortage of baby formula. The deficit of the vitally important product was triggered by the February shutdown of a Michigan plant operated by Abbott Laboratories, over contamination concerns. The facility, which accounts for roughly 40% of the formula in the US market, recalled some of its products and shut down a manufacturing plant after four babies who had been fed formula made at the facility contracted a rare bacterial infection. Two of them later died.