OTC healthcare in general is seeing strong growth in the UK, with £118m being added to the category year on year. This accounts for a growth of +4.3% and provides a fantastic sales opportunity for retailers.

There’s a social responsibility role here too. Our hectic lives are making us increasingly run down and prone to infections and we need to look after ourselves. Consumers often book unnecessary appointments to see their GP for self-treatable ailments such as colds and flu. With the NHS under increasing pressure, retailers have a key role to play in supporting the local medical services and making shoppers aware of the benefits that cold and flu products present in helping keep them on their feet.

Minor pain and coughs and colds are among the most common ailments treatable through self-medication, says Stephen Davies, Controller for Wholesale and Convenience at GSK, hence these categories are the most important ones for retailers to focus on. GSK brands such as Panadol and Beechams offer the option for consumers to self-treat conveniently, making them must stocks for retailers.

“Offering a variety of products which cover the primary needs of pain, allergy and cold and flu relief, will ensure retailers make the most of this important category. OTC medicines are most often a planned purchase, with shoppers looking for quick and convenient symptom relief from well-known brands that they trust.”

Allergy remedies are another important area for OTC medicines. GSK recently invested in a £4m campaign for its Piri brand, spanning TV, out of home, PR, digital and social media, to drive penetration in and out of the hay fever season. The campaign will include responsive TV activation in line with the Met Office pollen count by region, ensuring shoppers receive the right message at the right time, across the allergy season and beyond.

According to charity Allergy UK, Britain has some of the highest prevalence of rates of allergic conditions in the world. Research by GSK brand Piri shows 58 per cent of Brits claim they suffer from some kind of allergy, and the causes can be surprising, with 35 per cent of Brits who own a pet suffering an allergic reaction to their animal. The Piri media campaign includes support for Piriteze tablets and syrup, linked to pet allergies.

Stephen Davies advises retailers to offer a well-stocked range of OTC medicines all year round, as people suffer from summer colds and winter allergies outside of the traditional seasonal peaks:

“Pain relief is another major year-round requirement, with consumers looking to avoid lengthy waits for GP appointment. Hence OTC offerings work well as impulse purchases for those looking for quick relief without the fuss. There are however key fluctuations in demand across the year, with October onwards seeing the strongest sales on cold and flu treatments. Retailers are advised to stock up early to ensure customers are confident supplies will be available from their local store when the bugs strike.”

A key promotional tool for retailers, says Stephen Davies, is to move their offering from behind the counter to the shop floor and stock up early. This will build shopper confidence and reassure them they can access treatments when they fall ill.

Retailers can also drive impulse purchases through cross-merchandising complementary products such as tissues, lip balms and medicated confectionery. Retailers also need to ensure their fixture is fully restocked following the busy Christmas period, as January and February are also key seasonal periods for cough and cold remedies. A fixture that’s easily navigated, well signposted and easily accessible will stand retailers in good stead.

Medicated confectionery is widely recognised as a distress purchase and offers a huge opportunity for retailers to capitalise on impulse sales during the winter cough and cold season, says Jon R White, Regional Business Manager for Fisherman’s Friend in the UK. The good news for retailers is that brand sales continue to grow, up +2% across the total market so far this year, as shoppers have looked to Fisherman’s Friend for relief from hay fever symptoms as well as coughs and colds, with 25% of sales in the grocery multiple sector:

“We are finding our brand is increasingly becoming a year-round proposition, so there is clearly a great opportunity for retailers to capitalise as we move into the cold and flu season. With shoppers inclined to stock up for the colder months, particularly during high incidents of illness – and often ditching higher-value items in favour of more cost-effective remedies – lozenges provide an effective solution.”

“Fisherman’s Friend has extremely high consumer loyalty n the UK, due to the brand’s heritage and the cult-like following of the UK’s best-selling flavour, Original Extra Strong, which contains more menthol than competitor brands.

“At the same time, we’ve introduced a wide range of fruity and mint variants over the years to appeal to shoppers who want the benefits of menthol but with a more subtle, softer flavour, and these are proving increasingly popular as shown by the sales of the Sugar Free Blackcurrant, now our second most popular flavour.”

“Stocking our Original Extra Strong alongside a selection of our fruity and mint flavours will ensure a good range of lozenges that appeal to different consumer needs, tastes and flavour preferences,” recommends Jon White. “This is of growing importance in the medicated confectionery category, with research showing flavour is a key purchase driver for consumers in this sector.”

During the 2019/2020 cold and flu season Fisherman’s Friend is once again investing extensively in marketing – with a heavyweight campaign featuring a combination of digital, social media and PR activity, as well as extensive trade promotions and sampling – to support the key winter sales period and maximise sales. This will include the brand returning to screens across the nation with a £1m burst of TV activity from the beginning of the cough and cold season in October, through to March 2020.

Our desire for increased emotional wellbeing is another driver for purchases of OTC medicines, says Stephanie Daines, UK brand manager for RESCUE Remedy at Nelsons:

“Stress and sleeplessness is a growing epidemic globally, driven by our 24/7 ‘always on’ way of living and our hectic lifestyles. The latest statistics show 73% of people experience stress and sleeplessness at least once a week and the current value of the insomnia and stress market is around £51.3m.”

Around two thirds of consumers prefer natural healthcare products, says Stephanie Daines, for a number of reasons, most commonly the belief that natural ingredients are most effective since they work with the body, have fewer side effects or impact on the natural body clock, and are gentler than prescription products.

Fears of dependency on medicinal products and their possible side effects are the concerns most often raised by consumers looking for relief from stress and insomnia, prompting them to look for alternative, ‘natural’ solutions:

“This is particularly so when consumers are considering purchasing stress or sleep products for use during the week and in the case of new mums. There is also a lack of understanding of the link between stress and sleeplessness, with more education needed on how they go hand in hand, one often triggering the other.”

Rescue Remedy, the UK’s No.1 emotional wellbeing brand, launched a “Tune into your Positive” campaign in October, helping bring to light the dual need state of stress and sleep and encouraging consumers to tap into their inner positivity when times feel a little stressful – whether on the commute, at work or at home. The campaign features across the London rail network, using proximity targeting to allow consumers to find details of their nearest RESCUE stockist.

Medicated confectionery is another major sales generator during the cold season, says Dan Newell, Confections Marketing Manager, Mars Wrigley:

“With most adults experiencing two to four colds a year, stocking winter remedies during the cold season offers retailers a huge opportunity as category sales increase.”

As a familiar and trusted brand, Lockets has helped keep Brits going through the winter months for many years. Lockets contains a soothing liquid centre and clearing menthol, while its double action formula can be relied upon to calm stubborn coughs and colds and ease discomfort. Each pack contains 10 sweets and the range includes three delicious flavours, Honey & Lemon, Extra Strong and Cranberry & Blueberry.

Mars Wrigley has a range of POS to help retailers make the most of over the counter medicines and encourage customers to buy on impulse. A fully stocked display will help maximise profit potential and guarantee repeat visits from shoppers.

“Over the counter medicine is increasingly important to stock during the colder months as consumers become more reliant on stores that can cater to all of their top-up shop needs,” says Dan Newell, “Lockets is a trusted brand which helps many people get through the day, easing colds and coughs so families can get on with what’s important. With this is mind, our great range of POS will support retailers and help boost their sales during the winter season.

With increasingly busy lives and the NHS recommending that minor winter ailments – such as a sore throat – are treated without advice from a GP, says Jakemans Brand Manager, Elizabeth Hughes-Gapper, there will be greater demand this cold and flu season from the consumer for self-care solutions that ease the symptoms of seasonal illnesses, without requiring medical advice. Over the past year, retail has seen 2.4% sales value increase for cough, cold and flu solutions , a lucrative opportunity for retailers throughout the cold and flu season.

Jakemans sweets contain menthol, an ingredient that releases natural vapours to help soothe the symptoms of a sore throat and keep airways clear. With 30% of consumers making their purchase choice of sweets based on the product having assorted flavours, wholesalers should consider stocking a range of flavours to help encourage sales of cough sweets during the winter months. Jakemans’ three most popular flavours – Throat & Chest, Honey & Lemon and Cherry – are all available in a handy stick pack format, convenient for use on the move.

When looking for ways to soothe symptoms of minor winter ailments, consumers tend to choose products which contain ingredients that they are familiar with. This means that favoured products include those that are free from preservatives and flavourings. Featuring seven delicious menthol flavours, Jakemans sweets are free from artificial colours and flavours and are suitable for vegetarians.

To maximise sales, retailers should consider dual siting, by placing menthol confectionery sweets in both the confectionery section and at till point. In addition, stocking brands that offer on-the-go relief for good value at the point of purchase will help to drive impulse purchases at the till. Retailers should also look to shelf ready packaging when merchandising and ensure winter ailments solutions are in a prominent position to ensure products have good visibility.

The consumer trend for remedies that contain naturally occurring ingredients continues to grow , says Nikki Banwell, Olbas Brand Manager at LanesHealth. and with it comes an opportunity to maximise wholesale of traditional products. The nation’s favourite decongestant oil, Olbas Oil, is made from a combination of pure plant oils such as eucalyptus, mint, clove, juniper and cajuput to effectively relieve congestion in both adults and children 3 months and over by inhalation. 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.

Nasal decongestants have seen value growth for the second consecutive year (+3.06%) and well-known brands still hold trust from consumers, with a high proportion preferring branded products. Olbas provides a range of winter remedies to ease congestion of a blocked nose that are suitable for the whole family and is perfectly placed to help boost sales at peak times.

Olbas Oil’s powerful decongestant vapours can help clear even the most stubborn of blocked noses to restore easy breathing when suffering from a cold. By 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.

For more sensitive little noses, Olbas for Children’s gentle decongestant formula can help ease congestion for children aged three months and over. Add just four drops to a tissue or hanky and place it out of reach to bring soothing and effective relief both day and night.

Olbas Nasal Spray is the perfect handbag addition, offering fast-acting congestion relief that works within just two minutes. This product is suitable for adults and children aged six and over, clinically proven to unblock the nasal passages and prevent the spread of viral infections and bacteria. It combines essential oils of eucalyptus, niaouli and wild mint extract with mineral-rich hypertonic seawater.

Olbas is supporting 2019/20 seasonal demand with TV advertising across the winter, supported with PR. The Olbas range includes Olbas Oil, Olbas for Children, Olbas Nasal Spray, Olbas Bath, Olbas Pastilles, Olbas Blackcurrant Pastilles (Sugar Free) and Olbas Inhaler Stick.

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