The NHS continues to experience long-term pressure; a greater focus on prevention and self-care will see consumers turning to retail and OTC solutions for help and advice more than ever. There is likely to be preventative purchasing behaviour and a shift towards treating aliments at the first sight of being unwell.

This presents a key opportunity for sales of seasonal remedies. Stocking a range of products and in a variety of formats will help to maximise sales at a time that shoppers are looking for effective solutions from a convenient outlet.

COVID-19 has made consumers re-evaluate their health as we see a greater focus on overall health, hygiene and immunity. This was evident at the start of the outbreak as demonstrated by the stockpiling of cold and flu remedies as people prepared for self-care during lockdown.

Claire Campbell, Olbas Brand Manager, says: “This shift to self-care is likely to continue as consumers wish to treat ailments at the first sight of illness in a bid to stay well and achieve a speedy recovery. Consumers are also taking a more holistic view of their health with self-care central to promoting overall wellbeing. Brands have a role to play in this new behaviour, as consumers are looking for advice and guidance from trusted sources, not just treatments and symptom relief. Brands who can offer this type of support through their communications to consumers will build trust and loyalty beyond their product offering, which is why at Olbas we are launching a ‘Here to Help Hub’ on our website with expert articles, trends, tips and helpful advice.”

Supply chains were also impacted as a result of the global pandemic, which had a positive impact on local supply to meet the surge in demand from stock-piling behaviour. One would expect to see a shift towards UK-based manufacturing to safeguard supply as part of longer-term business strategies.

Social distancing measures are to continue, which will have a long-term impact on the elderly and at-risk groups. It’s likely that consumer shopping habits will continue to shift towards online and at-home delivery vs. in-store. Brands can help vulnerable groups by offering greater ease-of-access through free delivery services and making websites user-friendly.

“We are continuing to see trends in consumers forming healthier habits and seeking natural remedies, with 11% of adults opting for herbal alternatives when suffering from a cold/flu (Mintel),” adds Campbell. “Products incorporating well-known herbal ingredients will resonate with consumers seeking out additional health benefits to help strengthen their immunity. With a higher proportion of consumers adopting heathier habits, coupled with social distancing, greater attention to hygiene and the likelihood in a surge in demand for the flu vaccination this year, we are expecting incident rates to drop.”

Quality and trust are still key purchasing considerations with almost half of consumers (48%) seeking quality over price tag when it comes to choosing OTC brands (Mintel). This is an opportunity for branded remedies to encourage consumers to treat an ailment at the first sign, as well as promoting faster recovery.

“Olbas has a strong heritage and is a well-known brand, providing the power to breathe for generations,” says Campbell. “Olbas is proud to provide a range of winter remedies suitable for the whole family and is thus perfectly placed to help boost sales at peak times.”

Olbas Oil, the nation’s favourite decongestant oil (IRI), is made from a combination of pure plant oils such as eucalyptus, mint, clove, juniper and cajuput. 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.

Launched in 2017, Olbas Nasal Spray also performs well within the range. Consumer trust in branded OTC products has driven value growth with higher priced formats, such as nasal sprays, with 25% of consumers opting for sensorial formats. 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.

This year Olbas will be 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 the winter campaign, as well as launching a multi-channel PR campaign to drive media coverage across the key winter months.

Victoria Gell, Fruity Confections Portfolio Director, Mars Wrigley, comments: “With most adults experiencing two to four colds a year, stocking winter remedies during the cold season offers a huge opportunity as category sales increase. As a familiar and trusted brand, Lockets has helped to keep Brits going through the winter months for many years.”

A brand consumers depend on to help them get through the day with a clear head, Lockets contains a soothing liquid centre and clearing menthol, whilst its double action formula is one that can be relied upon to calm stubborn coughs and colds and ease discomfort. Each pack contains 10 sweets and the range includes three flavours – Honey & Lemon, Extra Strong and Cranberry & Blueberry.

“Medicated confectionery is recognised as a distress purchase and, as such, offers a huge opportunity for retailers to capitalise on impulse sales during this year’s winter cough and cold season,” says Jon R White, Regional Business Manager for Fisherman’s Friend in the UK.

The brand’s sales are up by +2.8% across the total market so far this year (Ceuta), as shoppers look to Fisherman’s Friend for relief from hay fever as well as cough and cold symptoms. Whilst the promising start to the year is evident across all outlets, an impressive 26% of all sales are in the grocery multiple sector (Ceuta).

“Fisherman’s Friend continues to be a star performer in the grocery sector which is driven by the brand’s year-round proposition. It is well-known that menthol and eucalyptus can help keep winter ailments at bay, but they are also useful to relieve symptoms of hay fever and another strong year of growth demonstrates the brand continues to be an essential must-stock,” explains White.

To ensure that all retail customer and consumer needs are catered for, Fisherman’s Friend has a comprehensive range of pack sizes, including multi-packs. The brand has also introduced a wide range of fruity and mint variants – still with 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, which remains the brand’s second most popular flavour.

“Research shows that flavour continues to be a key purchase driver in this sector. That’s why stocking our iconic Original Extra Strong alongside a selection of our fruity and mint variants will ensure a good range of trusted lozenges are available to shoppers with different needs, tastes and flavour preferences,” recommends White.

Fisherman’s Friend will invest heavily in marketing again this year, with a continuation of the brand’s fully integrated two-year campaign, ‘Whatever the Day Throws at You’, featuring digital, social media and PR activity. This includes the brand returning to TV screens nationwide to support the winter sales period as part of a £1.5m burst of activity.

“Our campaign celebrates the brand’s fishing heritage which has been at the heart of the family-owned business since 1865. The timings coincide with the cough and cold season where we traditionally see a spike in demand, and our strong start to the year proves how much sales growth benefits from marketing support,” explains White.

“As such, it is a natural decision to repeat the activity to ensure our lozenges remain front of consumers’ minds and we’re confident that it will help to further boost sales for Fisherman’s Friend.”

“As it starts to get colder outside with winter quickly approaching, consumers are looking for a way to stay ahead of the game when it comes to their health. Halls, the number one relief candy brand in the UK (Nielsen), is fulfilling consumers’ needs through an exciting range of products,” comments Susan Nash, Trade Communications Manager at Mondelez International.

Last year, Halls launched Halls Proactive with Vitamin C. This product aims to drive incremental sales for retailers, through extending into a new need-state and targeting a broader consumption occasion.

Halls Proactive are sugar-free Halls sweets with added Vitamin C to proactively support your immune system, before the onset of coughs and colds. Available in two citrus flavours – Orange and Pink Grapefruit – Halls Proactive come in a resealable bag ideal for all consumption occasions.

Jakemans Brand Manager, Elizabeth Hughes-Gapper, comments: “Consumers are looking for effective ways to treat their symptoms quickly to enable them to continue with their daily routine as much as possible.

That’s why we introduced Jakemans’ most popular flavours, Throat & Chest, Honey & Lemon and Cherry in a handy stick pack format for soothing relief on-the-go as well as the traditional 100g bag.”

There is growing consumer interest in the use of natural ingredients, and Jakemans throat sweets use only the finest natural ingredients with no artificial colours or flavours. The sweets are suitable for vegetarians and each one bursts with menthol, an ingredient that releases natural vapours to soothe the symptoms of a sore throat and keep airways clear.”

Jakemans’ most popular flavours, Throat & Chest, Honey & Lemon and Cherry are available in a handy stick pack format for soothing relief on-the-go as well as the traditional 100g bag. Other flavours include Peppermint, Menthol & Eucalyptus, Blackcurrant and Blueberry.

Jakemans continues to show strong growth in the category and is up 7.6% on last year in value sales and remains the third biggest manufacturer in the category (IRI).

Grocery channels remain the preferred option for consumers shopping for cough remedies with these stores offering greater convenience and choice of products. Consumers can shop for these items alongside main food shops and with pharmacies feeling the pressure because of Covid-19, there is an opportunity for grocery retailers to take on some of that weight.

“To maximise the opportunity, retailers should consider multiple siting, by placing menthol confectionery sweets in both the confectionery section, medicine aisle and at till point,” suggests Hughes-Gapper. “In addition, stocking brands that offer good value on-the-go relief at the point of purchase will help to drive impulse purchases at the till. Retailers should also look to use SRP (shelf ready packaging) when merchandising and ensure winter ailments solutions are in a prominent position to give them good visibility.”

Lucy Rigby, Senior Brand Manager, Tixylix, comments: “With what has been a turbulent year so far, the Coronavirus crisis has set an unprecedented demand for at-home remedies, particularly in the cough and cold sector. Lockdown restrictions, alongside the lack of out of home healthcare readily available, has led to parents to seek over the counter medicines to soothe their children at home if they are displaying symptoms.”

As we approach the winter months, parents will be looking to stock up on cough and cold remedies in preparation for the flu and cold season. In March, the stockpiling phase in the Coronavirus crisis delivered a second spike in sales, equivalent to the peak of the winter season. Those with young children are expected to have even more due-diligence than in previous years, exercising more caution with symptoms, and also in case we experience a second wave of lockdown. Convenience purchases of OTC medicines are likely to be in extremely high demand if this is the case.

Tixylix offers a range of specifically formulated cough medicines for children aged 3 months to 5 years. The Tixylix range offers three tailored products to suit each phase of a child’s development

Tixylix is supported by an integrated PR and digital marketing campaign, with a highly engaged social media programme. The brand introduced a new website earlier in 2020 which features the Tixylix Activity Hub; a highly informative advice forum filled with helpful tips and tricks to help entertain kids at home. It also includes easy DIYs, free downloads and expert advice to maximise engagement with the target demographic.

2021 will see a further upweighted campaign, building on the foundations that were set this year.

“Consumer insights indicate that, as this is a distress purchase, many parents will ‘panic buy’ if their child displays cough symptoms in order to soothe them as quickly as possible,” adds Rigby. “If this happens late at night, the ease of being able to purchase a cough syrup at the store closest to them with extended opening hours becomes very important.”

The IRI data indicates that when the country went into lockdown at the end of March, consumers continued stockpiling over several weeks.

However, in line with the closure of schools and subsequent lower transmission rates we have now seen this levelling off,” says Rigby. “Going forward, we believe that parents will be much more conscious of their children’s health risks as schools and nurseries reopen, and are likely to stock up on OTC medicines prior to the peak winter months.”

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