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The past two years have been a rollercoaster for the medicated confectionery sector. Relentless lockdowns undeniably dented growth in the category, as people simply weren’t socialising – leading to a dramatic fall in the incidences of cold and flu, and a subsequent fall in demand for products relieving cold and flu symptoms.

But now the picture is very different, as pandemic concerns lessen and many consumers are clearly eager to return to a level of normality.

“We are certainly seeing our category bouncing back, recording both value and volume growth at the start of the 2021/2022 cold and flu season,” explains Jon R White, Regional Business Manager for Fisherman’s Friend in the UK.

Fisherman’s Friend alone saw a +26.1% increase in volume over the first three months of the season across all channels (Nielsen), posting volume increases of +24.9% in multiple grocery compared to +15.7% in impulse and convenience.

The brand also saw a value growth of +28.6% between January and March 2022, including a +12.7% value sales growth in multiple grocery which signals a clear return towards pre-Covid levels.

“Fisherman’s Friend has been helping to meet the increased demand for medicated confectionery and plays an important role in helping people to manage short-term symptoms,” adds White.

Ex-factory sales in the multiple grocery channel were up by +12.7% in the first quarter of 2022 but there is still plenty of scope for retailers to capitalise on the growth of the brand.

“It’s no secret that the current economic climate is going to be having wide-spread effects on purchasing habits across the UK and this is something that we urge retailers to be aware of. With the cost of living rising, and store visits typically up +10.3% and basket spend down 12.4% as people continue to shop little and often (Nielsen), winter 2022 is likely to continue marking a new era of cautious shopping,” continues White.

As a result of this, many medicated confectionery purchases are expected to be made during the coming cold and flu season, likely fuelled by a combination of needs-based and impulse-led purchasing decisions.

“During uncertain times, we know that people turn to more familiar and established brands that they know and trust. And with Fisherman’s Friend containing one of the highest menthol contents of any brand available, this widely sought after and well-loved product is a must-stock ahead of the cold and flu season,” notes White.

One of the reasons for the brand’s long-term success and continued strong performance is its ability to innovate to give consumers what they want. This includes a wide range of fruity and mint variants in the 10-strong range – all containing the benefits of menthol, but with a more subtle, softer flavour. These lozenges have proved a big hit with consumers – as shown by the buoyant sales of the Sugar-Free Blackcurrant variant, accounting for 16.8% of sales. Demand for this flavour is particularly strong amongst younger shoppers, and it is the brand’s second most popular flavour overall.

Sugar-Free Honey & Lemon, Aniseed, and Sugar-Free Mint complete the line-up of Fisherman’s Friend’s top 5 selling flavours, closely followed by Sugar-Free Spearmint and Sugar-Free Cherry.

“Staying live to NPD is important – and these flavours are a must-stock for retailers ahead of the winter season alongside our core range, to encourage incremental sales,” continues White.

For the past few years, Fisherman’s Friend has invested heavily in marketing with its humorous ‘Whatever the Day Throws at You’ campaign, successfully keeping lozenges front of people’s minds, with an integrated approach across TV, digital, social media and PR activity, peaking around the important winter sales period.

Running initially from 1st October until mid-December, the campaign will be back on screens this winter with a repeat of the 2021 winter seasonal campaign, which featured a series of humorous ident ads around Channel 5’s popular Everyday Heroes series, as well as around the channel’s weather bulletins.

Elizabeth Hughes-Gapper, Jakemans Brand Manager, comments: “With incident rates of common illnesses such as coughs, colds and flus on the rise as consumers lifestyles return to ‘normal’, it’s likely that the category will return to pre-COVID performance.”

In fact, we’ve already seen this pattern emerge with the percentage of adults experiencing a cold in the last 12 months increase by 12% to 37%.

The medicated confectionery category is showing signs of recovery and is up by 73.8% in terms of value sales and 50.2% in terms of unit sales within the last 12 months (IRI).

As part of that, Jakemans has seen one of the biggest share gains in value versus two years ago.

Jakemans SKUs dominated the top selling bag lines and drove an impressive 89% of real value growth in bag formats within the last 12 months (IRI).

“The legacy of the pandemic is still having an impact on key market trends across all health categories,” adds Hughes-Gapper. “There has been a fundamental behaviour shift as consumers are much more socially aware and take a more conscious role in minimising the spread of germs to protect others. This shift alongside sustained pressure on the NHS, increased awareness of looking after our own health and greater consumer confidence in managing their own health needs, has led to the home becoming a central point for healthcare. This ‘care at home’ trend will give the OTC category a boost as consumers feel more confident to treat common ailments at home.”

Since the pandemic, consumers are increasingly treating their health holistically. As such, they are more aware of the products they use and how this might affect their natural body rhythms.

Brands can capitalise on this increased holistic approach by promoting the use of natural ingredients in their products and the health benefits these deliver. Jakemans provides a range of soothing menthol lozenges in a range of flavours such as Throat & Chest, Honey & Lemon, Cherry, Peppermint, Blackcurrant, Menthol Eucalyptus and Blueberry. Jakemans uses only the finest natural ingredients, contain no artificial colours or flavours and are suitable for vegetarians. Each lozenge is bursting with menthol – an ingredient that releases natural vapours to soothe the symptoms of a sore throat and keep airways clear. In fact, 19% of adults are interested in remedies with different flavour options (Mintel). This indicates that consumers are looking for ways to make being ill more bearable and brands that can offer a variety of flavours.

Claire Campbell, Olbas Brand Manager, comments: “We are seeing consumers seeking out products that offer dual benefits. For example, there is a trend arising, particularly with younger consumers, for products that offer additional health and wellbeing properties.”

Olbas Bath combines soothing Olbas aromas with the comfort of a bubble bath offering a relaxing experience that soothes tired, aching muscles, as the natural vapours gently clear your head, delivering a dual benefit in one solution.

Furthermore, 41% of consumers are interested in a cold or flu remedy that could help improve their sleep (Mintel).

Olbas’ decongestant properties can help to offer effective congestion relief throughout the night by simply placing a few drops to a tissue and placing it close to the bed, allowing the vapours to open up the nasal passages as you sleep.

Olbas Oil is the nation’s favourite decongestant oil (IRI). Olbas Oil is made from a combination of pure plant oils such as eucalyptus, mint, clove, juniper and cajuput. Its powerful decongestant vapours can help clear even the most stubborn of blocked noses when suffering from a cold. By simply adding just a few drops to a tissue, handkerchief or hot water and inhaling, the distinctive soothing and relieving vapours help unblock a stuffy, congested nose. These types of products are also in-keeping with NHS self-care tips – when suffering from a blocked nose they advise using methods such as steam inhalation to soften and loosen the build-up of mucus in the nose.

Olbas Oil is also available in a formula especially for infants aged over 3 months. So, by displaying this next to Olbas Oil will enable parents to quickly identify the best product for all the family. Olbas for Children is a gentle yet effective decongestant oil that helps relieve congestion and catarrh to restore easy breathing. Adding four drops to a tissue and holding close to the nose, allowing the child to breathe in the vapours, can help bring them soothing and effective congestion relief both day and night.

Olbas is launching a new TVC supported by £1.5million media investment. The activity will be supported with a strong PR campaign to ensure the brand and retail sales are well supported throughout the peak cold and flu season.

“Despite the cost-of-living pressures, consumers are still seeking out trusted brands that offer reassurance and efficacy,” adds Campbell. “This in conjunction with increased consumer attention to health and immunity post-pandemic and a boost of co-mingling will see consumers seek out effective, convenient solutions to help relieve the common symptoms associated with cold and flu. Ensuring retailers can offer a mix of products and formats will ensure you meet consumer needs throughout the cold and flu season.”

Rob Watson, Marketing Manager – Cough & Cold, Johnson & Johnson Ltd, comments: “Two years on from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, proactive healthcare has become more a part of our everyday regime and demand for self-care products is higher than ever. At Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, we believe we are perfectly placed to help improve personal health by delivering products that are rooted in science and endorsed by professionals.”

The Winter Remedies (Cough, Cold and Flu) category has recovered from the lows of the lockdown’s of 2020 and early 2021, with demand significantly above pre-COVID levels through the off-season months. Experts believe that with the increase in movement and relaxation of all COVID-19 mitigation measures, cold and flu cases are predicted to bounce back this coming winter. We have already seen this in some Southern Hemisphere markets, such as Australia, which have seen record demand for these products during their 2022 winter season.

As such, the category is predicted to outperform pre-pandemic levels in terms of demand for common cold remedies and allergy symptoms. Sudafed Blocked Nose Spray (xylometazoline) continues to be the #1 best-selling product in the winter remedies category (Nielsen) and there is significant growth in cough syrups, with Benylin Chesty Coughs Non-Drowsy (guaifenesin and levomenthol), remaining the best-selling cough syrup on the market (Nielsen) and Sudafed tablets and capsules range also seeing significantly increasing demand.

Children’s medicine is also outperforming pre-pandemic levels, as children continue to build up their immunity to the usual bugs and germs, which they were less exposed to during the pandemic.

“To accommodate the wide range of consumer preferences and healthcare needs, we offer parents and carers new and different ways to take the power of their child’s health into their own hands,” adds Watson. The Calpol range includes non-medicinal products such as the Calpol Vapour Plug and Nightlight, which has proved popular with parents who want to help comfort their child through the night and help with easy breathing. It releases soothing lavender and camomile vapours that can clear and ease children’s breathing for up to eight hours.

“With the burden on hospitals and GPs also anticipated to rise once again this winter, consumers will continue to look upon retailers and pharmacies for accessible self-care, and we are committed to supporting shoppers who we anticipate will rely more heavily on the winter remedies category in particular,” says Watson.

Johnson & Johnson is launching Benylin Herbal Chesty Coughs Sugar Free Syrup (ivy leaf dry extract) in response to a growing demand for naturally-derived solutions in the health & wellness space. This new formula is made from 100% naturally derived ivy leaf extract, a traditional herbal medicinal product for use in chesty coughs associated with common cold, exclusively based on longstanding use as a traditional remedy, as an alternative for those who prefer a sugar-free, plant-based product.

Benylin has also invested in new packaging designs, which will help consumers to more easily navigate the range of cough solutions and make informed choices for their needs.

Victoria Gell, Fruity Confections UK Brand Director at Mars Wrigley, comments: “With the common cold affecting adults in the UK up to four times a year, the increasing rate of sale of winter remedies during winter months offers retailers a significant opportunity to drive sales.”

Following the pandemic, consumers have indicated that their views on self-care have shifted, with research showing that 69% of people who might not have considered self-care their first option pre-pandemic were more likely to in the future (Nielsen).

Lockets contains a soothing liquid centre, with a clearing menthol flavour designed to help consumers keep a clear head. Lockets’ double action formula is one that can be relied upon to calm stubborn coughs and ease discomfort, making them a must stock for wholesalers. Each pack contains 10 sweets and the range includes three flavours: Honey & Lemon, Extra Strong and Cranberry & Blueberry.

“Merchandising winter remedies portfolios effectively will be key in maximising sales,” adds Gell. “Mars Wrigley offers a dedicated range of eye-catching POS that can create intrigue for consumers, driving traffic to displays, which can also drive sales.”

“During the colder months consumers can become more reliant on local retailers, especially when looking for winter remedies,” suggests Gell. “Stocking over the counter medicine will be important for retailers to stock during the winter to help their customers cater to these demands.”


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