Get them coughing up the cash Profiting from OTC healthcare and winter remedies this autumn and beyond

The cold months are a peak time for sales of over the counter (OTC) medical products licensed for sale without prescription, including cough and cold treatments, painkillers and other strong sellers and present a perfect opportunity for wholesalers to help their retailer customers to build their sales and store traffic.

In addition, medicated confectionery offers an ideal avenue for retailers in the convenience sector to capitalise on impulse sales. Widely recognised as a distress purchase, it’s essential for retailers to stock up on medicated confectionery items during the winter cold and flu season and be well prepared.

OTC healthcare in general is seeing strong growth, says Stephen Davies, Controller for Wholesale and Convenience at GSK, with £118m being added to the category year on year, which amounts to an increase of +4.3% and provides a fantastic sales opportunity for savvy retailers. As minor pain and coughs and colds are among the most common ailments most treatable through self-medication, says Stephen, these categories are the most important for wholesalers to focus on. GSK brands such as Panadol and Beechams offer a trusted option for consumers to self-treat conveniently, making them must stocks for retailers.

Presenting a variety of products covering 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, says Stephen Davies, with shoppers looking for quick and convenient symptom relief from well-known brands that they can rely on.

“We strongly advise retailers to offer a well-stocked range of OTC medicines all year round, as people suffer from summer colds and winter allergies outside the traditional seasonal peak for cold and flu treatments from October onwards. Pain relief is another year-round requirement, with consumers looking to avoid lengthy waits for a GP appointment. Over-the counter (OTC) offerings therefore work well as impulse purchases, for those looking for quick relief without the fuss.”

A key promotional tool for retailers is to move their offering from behind the counter to the shop floor and keep it topped up. This will build shopper confidence and reassurance that they will be able to access treatments when they fall ill. In addition, retailers can 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 after 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 sign posted and easily accessible will stand retailers in good stead.

GSK recently invested in a £4m campaign for its Piri brand.

Spanning TV, out of home, PR, digital and social media, the campaign aimed to drive penetration both in and out of the hay fever season, including responsive TV activation in line with the Met Office pollen count by region.

According to the charity Allergy UK, Britain has some of the highest prevalence of rates of allergic conditions in the world, with the number of sufferers rising by an estimated 2 million people in just one year. While two thirds of sales happen in the hay fever season (May-June), Piri, the UK’s number one selling allergy brand, has 30% share of the category out of the time period, presenting an additional sales opportunity for retailers.

Research by Piri shows 58 per cent of Brits claim they suffer from some kind of allergy, with 35 per cent of Brits who own a pet suffering some form of allergic reaction to their animal. The Piri media campaign therefore includes support for Piriteze tablets and syrup, linked to pet allergies.

Our desire for increased emotional wellbeing is another driver for purchases of over the counter medicines, says Stephanie Daines, UK brand manager for RESCUE Remedy:

“Stress and sleeplessness is a growing epidemic globally, driven by our 24/7 ‘always connected’ way of living and increasingly 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 in the UK 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’ products:

“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, is launching 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 will feature across the London rail network, using proximity targeting to allow consumers to find details of their nearest RESCUE stockist.

Fisherman’s Friend is another important part of the winter remedies category. Jon R White, Regional Business Manager for Fisherman’s Friend, says the convenience and wholesale channels have contributed 45% of all sales of Fisherman’s Friend in 2019 so far, the largest contribution of any single channel. The brand’s sales continue to grow in this channel, up +2% so far this year, as shoppers look to Fisherman’s Friend for relief from the symptoms of hay fever as well as coughs and colds.

“We are finding that our brand is increasingly becoming a year-round proposition, so there‘s clearly a great opportunity for convenience retailers to capitalise on this,” adds Jon. “As we head into the 2019 cold and flu season, retailers must be careful to keep track of the level of incidents of coughs and colds to ensure they are stocked up at the right times. Shoppers are often ditching higher-value items for more cost-effective remedies, and our lozenges provide an effective solution.”

The Fisherman’s Friend UK range includes Sugar Free Cherry, Sugar Free Lemon, Mint, Sugar Free Mint, Sugar Free Original, Spearmint and Original, alongside bestselling varieties Original Extra Strong, Sugar Free Blackcurrant, Aniseed, and Sugar Free Honey and Lemon. New Spearmint Sugar Free will be launching in the convenience channel for winter 2019, providing a further sales opportunity.

“Sugar Free Spearmint has already become a popular addition to the Fisherman’s Friend line up, with a rate of sale that suggests it will fast head towards becoming the brand’s second best-selling variant behind Original Extra Strong,” explains Jon.

During the 2019/2020 cold and flu season Fisherman’s Friend will once again be investing heavily in marketing with a heavyweight campaign featuring 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 TV from the beginning of cough and cold season in October, through to March 2020.

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. 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, 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 their 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 customers.

“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.

Staying with medicated confectionery, Halls, the number one relief candy brand in the UK from Mondelez , has demonstrated its market-leading position with the launch of new Halls Proactive with Vitamin C. 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 rcitrus flavours – Orange and Pink Grapefruit – Halls Proactive come in a handy re-sealable bag ideal for all consumption occasions.

Amy Lucas, Brand Manager for Halls at Mondelez International, says: “The Halls and Halls Soothers range are iconic brands in the Relief category and when we tested new Halls Proactive, the results showed 82% of UK consumers would consider purchasing the exciting new range extension.

“As it starts to get colder outside and winter gets nearer, we want to provide our consumers with a way to stay ahead of the game when it comes to their health. Halls Proactive with Vitamin C is a first mover for the category and aims to drive incremental sales for retailers, through extending into a new need-state and targeting a broader consumption occasion.”

Alongside the launch of Halls Proactive, Halls are also introducing a new ATL marketing campaign from November, focusing on a mix of social media channels as well as in-store.

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 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, wholesalers 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 use SRP (shelf ready packaging) when merchandising and ensure winter ailments solutions are in a prominent position to ensure products have good visibility.”

When consumers are feeling under the weather they will often seek over the counter remedies from trusted brands to ease their symptoms whilst on-the-go, says Nikki Banwell, Olbas Brand Manager at LanesHealth. “This provides a great opportunity for wholesalers to stock a range of cold and flu remedies throughout autumn and winter.

“The consumer trend for remedies that contain naturally occurring ingredients continues to grow 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 in the nose.”

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.