Sex. It’s a topic that can make many folks uncomfortable, but it’s something that sorely needs to be brought to the forefront. Down with taboos and up with conversation, we say! The sexual wellness sector accounted for a whopping $39 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach a towering $123 billion in 2026 - and venture capitalists are starting to get in on the trend – for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest and most common reasons appears to be the untapped and under-serviced market represented by, you guessed it... women.
Additionally, the folks in Gen Z are widely seen as more sexually liberated and they’re coming into their own – and their own wallets. The market share that they’re going to demand in the upcoming years is going to be considerable, and VCs are starting to wake up and smell the opportunity.
So are we, here at Flying Saucer Studio! With sex education providers insisting that education is incredibly crucial, we caught up with Dr. Lourdes Martinez Staines, previously the Head of the Department of Reproductive Health for Mexico’s National Public Health Institute, the ISSEA and currently a sexual education lecturer at the University in Aguascalientes to see what she had to say.
“Sexual education here in Mexico is almost non-existent — and correspondingly the rates of teenage pregnancy (1 in 4 of those under 18 years old), and sexually transmitted diseases is on the rise. The prevalence of cultural expectations, gender roles, and a pervasively puritan viewpoint of sex as a whole is a major contributing factor. For me, working on a sex positive culture not only promotes sexual awareness but also human rights as a whole.”
Talk about impact.
It should be no surprise that we were thrilled to sit down with Neil Mehta, Founder of Royal. Not ringing a bell? Maybe you’re familiar with one of their several articles in Cosmopolitan Magazine, or Men’s Health. No? Well, you’re in for a treat.
Neil had very similar things to say about the interplay between culture and sex positivity.
“Indians and Asians can be some of the last folks to talk about sex, so this is part of the reason I wanted to tackle sex positivity around sex products. I thought, ‘If I take this on, we can give a voice to the young ones who might have those traditional parents - Indian, Asian, or white - and get rid of the taboo.’”
That’s 100% something we can get behind.
One of the most important questions that we had for Neil, naturally, was why Neil had settled on the name “Royal” for his brand - and we loved his answer:
“It’s a brand, but it’s more of a lifestyle - you want products that you can call your own that are high quality and healthy for you. That’s what Royal is - the Royal experience whether it’s before, during, or after sex.”
Starting his career in the medical and biotechnology fields, Neil pursued a masters in Public Health – learning about disease states and prevention. Living in New York City, there was a huge STI/STD boom and he found himself wondering what could be done about it.
“I was dating this girl, and we had all of these things to try – including a flavoured condom. I was totally underwhelmed. It smelled bad, it looked tacky… how do you not question effectiveness and how healthy it is when something looks like that? So I started doing some research.”
Which we all know is the beginning of the rabbit hole that spawned a truly awesome product line.
“Condoms haven’t changed since the twenties. I started asking questions and an Uncle of mine mentioned that he had a friend who was a manufacturer of condoms that was doing things in a different way. Naturally, I made the trip to see them.”
Of course he did. And what he found was a lot of knowledge about what goes into farming latex. Yes – you read that right, farming! Latex comes from a tree that’s primarily found in Asia now that the crops in Brazil and other parts of the world have been taken down by disease. Meaning companies that want to manufacture products that have latex as its base have to transport it from Asia to their facilities. In order to safely transport latex over long distances, a considerable amount of preservatives and antimicrobial agents need to be used to make sure it doesn’t spoil.
Royal goes straight to the source (which is ethically farmed for sustainability, by the way) and manufactures locally — meaning they don’t need to use nearly as much of those kinds of additives in their product AND they’re supporting local markets and people. They also decided to change how flavour is introduced into the condom.
“Folks were buying products that said ‘Made in America’ on them — but was ‘Made in America’ really better if it meant that you have to add pesticides, preservatives and other things that degrade the condom themselves? Not in our opinion. So we worked with some amazing scientists to build our flavorings into the lubricant on our condoms. Up until this point, most companies were trying to build the flavor into the latex itself — which also degrades the integrity of the condom.”
Well, that’s terrifying.
“We included a scent component too – the ingredients that makes the lubricant food grade and tasty needed to have a pleasant aroma, one that I was sure the American palette would love. So all of our products are 100% food grade and quality controlled. We also don’t use any ingredients that come from or have been tested on animals – so our products are cruelty-free and vegan friendly. Not to mention gluten free, which with the rise of Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity felt really important to make our brand more accessible.”
Gluten-free!? Come on now… Can it get better? Yep.
“We disclose the ingredients in our condoms, our lubricants and… we’re launching a new product shortly, all the ingredients will be on there too.”
Whoa — new product? Tell us more!
“The only thing I can say is that it’s a product that shows that Royal isn’t just a one-trick-pony and we’re really passionate about a healthy, sexual lifestyle. We don’t believe in providing a one-sided experience, so all of our products are geared for both men and women.”
PRO TIP: Notice how Royal has a really good idea who is buying their product? This is a key part of developing Buyer Personas and can inform how you talk to people and, perhaps more importantly, where. Learn more about how to develop your own personas with our Ultimate Startup Guide to Brand Awareness and how to get them to pick up what you’re layin’ down with The Startup’s Friendly Guide to Customer Acquisition. You’re welcome.
So, what else is there that makes Royal different from the other major condom brands out there?
“We’ve also made sure our processes are as sustainable as possible. Our manufacturing process is not a high-intensity process, even up until the point where the customer sees the package, we do our best to make sure that every step is as sustainable and carbon-neutral as possible.”
If all of that wasn’t enough, Royal condoms are also packaged to be incredibly discreet. “We wanted to create something that you could order online, or in the store, that would be discreet enough that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to be found with it. Even if someone saw it on your bedside table, you wouldn’t feel like you had to shove it in a drawer right away.”
As an incredibly accepting brand, we find it truly impressive that they have such an even distribution between men and women who are interested and purchasing their products — roughly 42% women and 58% men. They clearly know their audience and they’re speaking that language in a major way.
Royal appears to be on the forefront of sex technology, and we’re looking forward to seeing what they have to offer — including the new product that’s set to drop any minute!