Atishoo! Cha-Ching! Making healthy profits from colds and flu

Our busy modern lifestyles continue to take their toll on consumer health, making us prone to coughs, colds and other bugs, says Lucy Cornford, Category Director – Personal Care at Mintel. Over the counter (OTC) colds and flu remedies are a massive profit opportunity for multiple retailers, including supermarkets and convenience format stores.

The need to power through at work not only increases the demand for products that can alleviate the symptoms of coughs and colds, but also helps spread those coughs and colds through the workplace, bringing in more consumers – the original viral marketing.

Understanding of colds and flu is lower than average among under-35s, who paradoxically are the most likely to be experiencing these ailments, suggesting that brands could be doing more to ensure young adults are seeking out the correct treatment for their needs. Going forward, brands could look at developing product packaging and doing more with social media to appeal to this demographic.

As well as targeting under-35s, growth in the coughs and colds market is also being driven by a boost in the child population, impacting the child and parents’ OTC market. Opportunities exist to target both these groups – under 35s and families – through extending product ranges and innovating in faster-acting formulations and product formats, and encouraging people in general to prepare ahead of the cold and flu season, stocking up in advance.

Cold and flu remedies are an essential store cupboard item for many adults – 57% always have a supply at home. And they are widely used – half of all adults treat flu with a slight temperature without consulting the doctor.

However, a further 28% do nothing and wait for their symptoms to run their course, an untapped market. There is some evidence that consumers are opting for ownlabel alternatives, as they can get similar products cheaper. 42% of cold and flu remedy users are happy with stores’ own brands, while brands matter to a quarter of users.

Despite growing pressure from own-label, the big brands continue to perform well due to technological innovations and advertising support, with faster acting formulas treating multiple symptoms. Even though consumers are increasingly price conscious, as we have said, Mintel point out there are opportunities for brands to remain competitive by increasing their sphere of influence and extending product ranges to appeal to consumers outside the traditional cold and flu season.

Certain other remedies also do well in treating colds and flu, including analgesics/pain killers, homeopathic and complementary medicine products to treat secondary complications, such as vaporisers and vapour rubs. For retailers, the big attraction is that these products do not have to be prescribed by a suitably qualified person and dispensed by a pharmacist, and are a natural fit in the supermarket or convenience format store’s offering.