A US feminine hygiene brand is hoping to shake up the UK sanitary market with the launch of a disposable menstrual cup.

Pitched as an alternative to sanitary pads and tampons, Softcup is rolling into Sainsbury’s, one other multiple and two pharmacy chains next month (rsp: £4.99/eight-pack) following a trial in selected Boots stores at the end of last year.

Exclusive UK distributor The Urology Company said it was hoping to capture a 5% share of the £100m UK tampons category [Mintel] in its first year.

Re-usable cups were already available on the market, but Softcup was disposable giving it potential mainstream appeal, said product manager Rose French.

“The market for re-useable cups is very niche, with many women put off by the thought of having to clean and re-use the product,” she explained.

The cups, which are made from soft, flexible material and worn around the cervix to collect rather than absorb menstrual fluid, offered protection for up to 12 hours and, unlike tampons did not cause dryness, odour or irritation, said the company.

As well as “offering 100% protection”, Softcup would allow women to carry on with their lives during their period, including having sex, added French.

The brand might face a battle convincing women to move from a menstrual protection product they had used for much of their life, said Amy Bridgeman, director of creative & strategic planning at brand agency Pi Global. “For a woman to change these habits of a lifetime there have to be some really compelling reasons,” she added.

Softcup is produced by Evofem - a US company specialising in women’s sexual and reproductive health - and was launched in America in 1996. Its UK launch will be supported by a £2m push kicking off in May.