When creative agency boss Rebekah Brown thought she was starting the menopause at the age of 46, her doctor recommended she go to the health food store and try out some supplements to help manage the symptoms. What she saw on the shelf shocked her.
“It felt like an end of life aisle. All of them looked like they were targeting women in the mid-80s, lots of comfy cardigans, lots of pink, lots of dentures. And I was thinking, ‘I’m only 46!’,” she says.
Not only were there issues with the branding, but also the contents. Brown was experiencing the perimenopause, the first transitional stage in the process which can last between four to eight years. Yet the supplements all contained generic multivitamins and there was no information about how different ingredients might help at different stages.
“It felt like the sector as a whole hadn’t really kept pace with the understanding that we as a society increasingly have around nourishment and the benefits of functional foods when you looked at the back of the boxes,” explains Brown. “There was nothing on the shelves that was able to deliver for me.”
This is a classic story for the 13 million women going through the menopause annually. Research shows around 75 per cent of women will visit their doctors with symptoms and of that number, three quarters will leave the surgery with nothing. Given her agency experience helping companies such as Vivobarefoot and Plenish better understand what consumers wanted, Brown decided to use this expertise to create a brand that worked for her. This idea became MPowder, a natural supplements company that creates protein powders aimed at women going through the three different biochemical stages of the menopause.
Why supplements? As the menopause changes how much estrogen women have in their bodies, it can lead to health problems such as an increased risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and stroke. However, the wellness movement has shown that we can arm our bodies with nutrients to stave off these issues. As a result, all MPowder’s supplements use ingredients that have shown potential in the lab, with the recipes verified by nutritionists and herbalists to target the specific problems women face. For instance, the perimenopause powder, named Peri-Boost, contains soya, flaxseed, cacao for a natural energy boost, magnesium to help joint health, and a herb named Moldovian Dragon Head, part of the mint family, which can stimulate collagen production for improved skin, hair and nails.
Potential customers, part of MPowder’s community of ‘Makers’, take part in the trials and offer feedback. The powders are all vegan and designed to be functional so they can be added to a morning smoothie, porridge, or even in a protein ball. One interesting result from the trials was around weight. Women often see their metabolism change and blood sugar fluctuate during perimenopause which can lead to weight gain. Yet those trying the powder saw a reduction in bloating and snacking, which helped them to manage their weight better too.
Customers who subscribe to MPowder also gain access to The Powder Room, the growing community of women using and trying the products. They can connect with other another, discuss their experience taking the powders and join in workshops from specialists such as Abi Adams, the menstrual movement coach, and Dr Moltke, founder of GetTheDose and an authority on CBD dosing. This is part of Brown’s mission to ensure women are at the centre of the company, and made to feel like their voices and opinions matter. “Women are almost made to feel invisible at this life stage,” she explains.
She’s not wrong. The menopause is often perceived as a negative and scary process. And the lack of help and advice can contribute to that: one in five women have to take time off work and many end up leaving the workplace unable to cope. As well, suicide rates for women are at their highest in the western world at this point. But the science also argues that women can be happier too: “When women transition through menopause, they become more confident, more likely to launch a successful business, have greater empathy,” says Brown. “They have huge value to society.”
The conversation is starting to change. Former first lady Michelle Obama used her podcast to discuss her experiences of the menopause. A grassroots movement in the UK finally saw menopause added to the sex education curriculum in 2019 too. In the tech world, however, Brown says it still carries an element of taboo. “Investors are looking at the space but not quite understanding whether there is an opportunity or what that opportunity is.”
However, Brown is in the right place to help change this perception. MPowder has been going through the Founders Factory programme, as part of the factory’s corporate partnership with the FMCG giant Reckitt Benckiser. Though her entire time in the programme has taken place via Zoom, she says it’s been incredibly valuable.
Now the perimenopause powder has officially launched, which you can buy via the MPowder website or retailers including Cult Beauty, the plan is to work on getting the menopause and post-menopause powders through the trial process. She hopes to build out The Powder Room community and continue to grow it into somewhere women can come to learn, meet and chat in a safe online space. “We’re the first generation of women that are likely to live 40 to 50 per cent of our lives post-menopausal. Our ambition as a business is to help reframe midlife to create a community-driven brand that we co-create with our consumers and deliver products that genuinely work.”
Prices from £69, mpowder.store