By John Salak-
Vegans by their nature are a pretty passionate group. Let’s face it. They have to be given the challenges of abiding by an animal-free diet that usually draws more curiosity than converts. It’s not surprising then that Einhorn, a German company, recently received a flood of press coverage for its line of eco-friendly, vegan condoms—and for good reason. The vast majority of condoms, think latex and obviously lambskin, aren’t appropriate for vegan lifestyles.
Einhorn is clearly onto something, especially by extending its market reach beyond vegans to include the more generic “eco-friendly” sector. But are vegan condoms functional, comfortable and better than traditional offerings? The answers in order: yes, personal preferences rule and depends who you ask.
Vegan condoms aren’t new despite Einhorn’s publicity splash. The first offerings appeared more than 25 years ago when veganism was starting to boom. Today, in fact, there is a full menu of options from GLYDE, Sir Richard’s, Condomi, Unique Condoms to Einhorn and more. Some industry reports claim vegan and organic condoms are the fastest growing segments of the $8 billion worldwide condom market.
If true, this growth shouldn’t be surprising as the number of vegans—while still relatively small—is surging. The Vegan Society reports there are now 600,000 disciples worldwide, more than double the 276,000 from 2016 and four times the 150,000 in 2014. They’re even starting to influence turkey day. This means there is money to be made appealing to this group. The global market for vegan products now stands at $5 billion and is only expected to grow with the surge in practitioners.
While encouraging, the vegan-only numbers aren’t overwhelming in relative terms. But factor in like-minded vegetarians and eco-friendly stalwarts and the potential market for vegan condoms begins to grow exponentially.
The bigger question is whether vegan condoms offer significant health and wellbeing benefits compared to traditional prophylactics. They certainly do for vegans and a fair number of other consumers.
Most condoms are made of latex, which at first glance would seem fine for vegans. Unfortunately, these condoms usually contain casein, a milk derivative used to make them smooth. This means latex condoms are a no-go for vegans. Lambskin condoms, of course, are out as well.
The good news for Einhorn, GLYDE and others is that their products are reaching beyond just vegans. They appeal to anyone suffering from latex allergies or who is worried about chemical spermicides, parabens, fragrances and other toxins being inadvertently absorbed into their systems through their vaginas. Dr. Sherry Ross, a women’s health expert, notes that standard brands usually aren’t concerned if their condom ingredients are organic or natural. This means “chemicals, dyes, additives, sugar alcohols, preservatives, local anesthetics, spermicides, and other potentially carcinogenic ingredients are often included,” she told Healthline.com.
The appeal of vegan condoms may go even further. Proponents argue even if you’re not a vegan, these condoms can be appealing if your partner is vegan, you’re an animal lover or you support ethical and fair trade practices and eco-friendly, sustainable products. Vegan condoms can also appeal to anyone simply looking for a new sensual experience.
All these factors don’t, however, make vegan condoms more effective than traditional options. “The goal of the condom is to prevent pregnancy, also STIs (sexually transmitted infections), without hormonal birth control,” Ross told Healthline.com. “Standard brands have been researched to prove they are safe and effective for this use for the average consumer.”
Marketing pitches aside, any condom choice or purchase is ultimately coming down to personal preferences, needs and values.