The past year has been challenging for the medicated confectionery sector, as incidents of cold and flu dropped by up to 95%, according to The Sunday Times.

But despite Covid-19 undeniably denting growth for the sector during the winter season in particular, there have been some beacons of light.

For although sales of medicated confectionery fell by -45.9% (Nielsen) across all retail outlets during 2020, sales of Fisherman’s Friend remained relatively buoyant, down by a relatively impressive -21.8% (Nielsen) in the impulse and convenience channels.

“Whilst we are obviously not celebrating these figures, they do show how Fisherman’s Friend is a more resilient sales proposition than many other brands within medicated confectionery. It suggests that for many shoppers, Fisherman’s Friend is a faithful friend beyond just relieving the symptoms of cold and flu during the key winter season,” says Jon R White, Regional Business Manager for Fisherman’s Friend in the UK. This is particularly true in the grocery multiple sector, which has contributed 25% of all sales so far this year. This compares with 28% of Fisherman’s Friend sales going through the impulse and convenience channels, 13% from pharmacy, 29% from value retail and 5% through e-commerce.

“In spite of the dramatic fall in the incidence of cold and flu over the last year, there is still strong demand for certain brands with wider benefits and consumption occasions,” says White.

The Fisherman’s Friend range is regularly chosen by hayfever sufferers, for example. And consumer research conducted at the start of winter 2020 shows there is a clear demand for the right products all year round, irrespective of cold and flu incidence. In fact, nearly one in four (23%) of those who have purchased Fisherman’s Friend chose the brand when not suffering from a cold, flu or even hayfever, due to its super strong menthol.

“This past year has shown that we have a loyal customer base, and during times of uncertainty, people are turning to familiar and established brands that they know and trust, like Fisherman’s Friend. Therefore, we advise retailers to take advantage of the year-round sales opportunity by stocking the brands and products that consumers want – so they can be ready for whatever the day throws at them,” continues White. “That said, as life begins to return to ‘normal’ – and as incidence of cold and flu are likely to increase as a result – we would expect to see a return towards more normal sales levels for the category as a whole, and especially for brands like ours that have a wider range of usage occasions.”

For the past two years, Fisherman’s Friend has invested heavily in marketing with the “Whatever the Day Throws at You” campaign, successfully keeping lozenges front of people’s minds, with an integrated approach peaking around the important winter sales period. The 2-year campaign reached over two thirds of the adult population (67%) and went some way in maintaining the brand’s resilience during a challenging year.

Earlier in the year, visits to retailers were down by -10%, and basket sizes were up by +25%, as shoppers tried to limit the number of trips they were making (Dunhumby). And although the long-term impact of Covid-19 is yet to be established, a positive shift has been seen since March.

“The number of shopper trips is increasing, with the average basket size reducing, suggesting that confidence is returning slowly but surely. As we head into the cold and flu season, it is likely people will be out and about more to make up for a long winter of discontent last year,” says White.

“We therefore advise retailers to monitor the level of incidents of coughs and colds to ensure they are meeting demand for cost-effective at-home remedies, such as lozenges. By stocking the best-selling SKUs, retailers will generate the biggest sales. It’s as simple as that.”

Anthony Dunn, Squad Lead, Cough & Cold, Johnson & Johnson Limited, comments: “COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of health, and consumers are more conscious than ever of the importance of self-care in particular. At Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, we are perfectly placed to help improve personal health by delivering products that are rooted in science and endorsed by professionals. We stay close to consumers to understand their needs, preferences and unique experiences. We then combine these insights with our strong science to make differentiated products that will have a meaningful difference in consumers’ lives.”

The Winter Remedies (Cough, Cold and Flu) category has seen some significant declines over the past year, as lockdowns and other social distancing measures limited the incidence of common cold and flu. Despite these declines, nasal sprays as a format have outperformed the category, as shoppers continue to treat their non-cold related congestion occasions such as allergy. In fact, Sudafed Blocked Nose Spray is now the #1 best-selling product in the entire Winter Remedies category (Nielsen).

Children’s medicine has seen category recovery over the spring and summer months this year as schools have reopened and families have begun mixing again, meaning increased incidence of the usual bugs and germs. To accommodate the wide range of consumer preferences and healthcare needs, Johnson & Johnson offers parents and carers new and different ways to take the power of their child’s health into their own hands.

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.

“Consumers are looking to retailers and pharmacies for accessible self-care, and we are committed to supporting them as shoppers return to the winter remedies category,” adds Dunn. “As such, we will have an increased media and in-store support plan in place across the Benylin, Sudafed and Calpol brands, to help shoppers make an informed choice for their needs.”

Given the growing demand for nasal sprays, Johnson & Johnson is also launching Sudafed Natural Relief Blocked Nose Spray – a saline solution which cleanses and hydrates the nasal passage, offering natural congestion relief – as an alternative for those who prefer a gentler product to help relieve their congestion.

While nasal sprays have outperformed the category through lockdown, other formats are already seeing signs of recovery. Benylin Chesty Coughs Non-Drowsy, is currently the best-selling cough syrup on the market (Nielsen), and will be further supported by a campaign educating consumers on its benefits. The Sudafed tablets and capsules range is also seeing increasing demand, with products such as Sudafed Sinus Max Strength Capsules providing an oral format for those who are looking for multi-symptom relief of a stuffy nose and sinus pain.

Claire Campbell, Olbas Brand Manager, comments: “Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen consumers adopt new behaviours towards preventative ailment management and as such, a shift in consumer behaviour towards prioritising health. This has driven demand for products that are deemed to have additional health properties such as vitamins, minerals and supplements, as well as a demand for natural remedies which are perceived as more healthy.”

Made from a combination of pure plant oils such as eucalyptus, mint, clove, juniper and cajuput, Olbas Oil combines these natural ingredients to create the soothing and relieving natural vapours that ease congestion. Additionally, consumers are favouring products in formats that provide a hygienic application when on the move, such as topical application through nasal sprays. Olbas Nasal Spray combines this desired format, with a natural, fast-acting formula ticking numerous boxes to meet consumer demands. Olbas Nasal Spray works by helping to gently unblock the nasal passage in just two minutes, which helps prevent the spread of viral infections and bacteria, while the mint extract provides an immediate refreshing sensation.

Olbas Oil remains 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.

Many brands offer dedicated paediatric products within the range so by siting alongside the original adult remedies will help consumer recognise the brand to further support sales. 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.

Retailers can also consider the use of promotional displays, such as gondola ends, especially during the onset of the winter months when incident rates are on the rise.

This year will see Olbas investing in a primarily digital focused campaign in response to changes in media consumption as a result of COVID-19. Video, display, PPC and social advertising will all be key channels for our winter campaign, as well as a PR campaign to drive media coverage across the key winter months.

“Grocery retailers should be prepared for an uplift in demand for cold and flu remedies this winter,” says Campbell. “We are seeing consumers adopt a much more proactive approach to their health which is driving the need for grocery retailers to provide a wide range of OTC products. Retailers should align with this interest in prevention, encouraging early use of remedies and positioning products as helping to fight the development of ailments.”

“Looking forward to the upcoming cold and flu season, continued hygiene behaviours including face coverings, social distancing and increased hand washing, will likely impact on incident rates and thus, further impacting demand,” Campbell continues. “That said, as lockdown measures ease, rates of colds and flus will begin to increase, particularly amongst younger adults and those with young children. Children are more likely to spread germs due to poorer hand and respiratory hygiene.”

Elizabeth Hughes-Gapper, Jakemans Brand Manager, comments: “Consumers have experienced a heightened awareness of their own health and immunity over the past eighteen months demanding products that provide health claims and additional benefits.”

As well as an increase in health-related claims, there have also been more brands claiming that their botanical/herbal, free-from and all-natural products can offer health benefits. There are opportunities for brands to capitalise on this health trend. Jakemans uses only the finest natural ingredients, with no artificial colours or flavours. Each lozenge is bursting with menthol, an ingredient that releases natural vapours to soothe the symptoms of a sore throat and keep airways clear.

Furthermore, as the vaccination programme continues to rollout, consumers are beginning to feel less concerned about exposure, which could lead to a more relaxed attitude towards hygiene. As behaviours and attitudes change and consumers spend more time outside the home and in the company of others, rates of ailments, such as sore throats and coughs are likely to increase.

Jakemans provides a range of soothing menthol lozenges in a range of flavours such as Throat & Chest, Honey & Lemon, Cherry, Peppermint, Menthol Eucalyptus, Blackcurrant and Blueberry in a traditional bag format.

Jakemans’ three most popular flavours – Throat & Chest, Honey & Lemon and Cherry – are all available in a handy stick pack format. Stick packs offer an easy on-the-go solution for consumers looking to soothe the symptoms of a sore throat whilst on the move.

“Convenience and ease of purchase is key, so retailers should look to use SRP (shelf ready packaging) when merchandising and ensure winter ailments solutions are in a prominent position to enable products to have visibility on shelf,” says Hughes-Gapper.

Jakemans offers a range of different product formats that appeal to different consumer preferences, such as 100g bag formats that offer great value for money and stick packs for convenience. Stick packs offer an easy on-the-go solution for consumers looking to soothe the symptoms of a sore throat whilst on the move. All Jakemans products are also sold in shelf ready packaging making it easy to display on shelf.

This year will see Jakemans investing in its annual marketing campaign including running a TV ad across the winter months, plus PR activity.

Victoria Gell, Fruity Confections Portfolio Director, Mars Wrigley, comments: “With the common cold affecting adults in the UK up to four times a year, the sale of winter remedies during the cold season increases offering retailers a huge opportunity.

“As a familiar and trusted brand, Lockets has helped keep Brits going through the winter months for many years. This is a brand consumers depend on to help them get through the day.”

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

Mars Wrigley has a dedicated range of eye-catching POS to help make the most of over the counter medicines and encourage customers to buy on impulse.

“Having a fully stocked display will help maximise profit potential and encourage repeat visits from customers,” says Gell.

“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 in mind, our great range of POS will support retailers and help boost their sales during the winter season.”



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