With colder months on the way, the cold and flu season is approaching. There has been much publicised around the expectation of a greater incidence of colds and flu this season, with many immune systems weakened due to staying at home and being less exposed to germs.

Paired with the fact that there are no further lockdown restrictions planned at the time of writing, it is anticipated there will be increased demand for relief products throughout this winter season.

“Whether it be for menthol clearing or gentle soothing, shoppers will look for brands they know and trust – such as Halls – in store,” comments Susan Nash, Trade Communications Manager at Mondelez International. “Brands like Halls, the number one relief candy brand in the UK, must be readily available in store to fulfil increasing shopper needs, with the brand accounting for 50% of cough-drop sales worldwide.”

Halls has a cohesive look and feel across the portfolio, allowing consumers to find their chosen solution with confidence and ease, including best-sellers Halls Mentholyptus Extra Strong and Halls Soothers Blackcurrant.

“We advise wholesalers to stock the full range of the No1 relief candy brand, this winter, to meet all shoppers needs and flavour preferences and the anticipated increase in demand,” adds Nash.

“The past year has been challenging for the medicated confectionery sector, as incidents of cold and flu dropped by up to 95%,” says Jon R White, Regional Business Manager for Fisherman’s Friend in the UK. “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,” explains White.

This is particularly true in the impulse and convenience channels, which have contributed 28% of all sales so far this year – the second largest contribution of any single channel. This compares with 25% of Fisherman’s Friend sales going through the grocery multiple sector, 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. And consumer research the brand 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 – cementing its position in many people’s pockets as their go-to mint for fresh breath.

Given its history on the high seas, it is also unsurprising that consumers also turn to Fisherman’s Friend lozenges whilst enjoying outdoor activities. One in five (20%) purchasers of Fisherman’s Friend are regular walkers, hikers, runners, or cyclists who are looking for a year-round proposition.

“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,” continues White. “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.

“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.”

“To successfully capture those all-important impulse purchases, retailers must stock brands that are recognised and trusted by customers. Mastering the basics is the first step to achieving more sales and catching profits – this can be as simple as positioning a selection of the best-selling brands by the till points,” advises White.

With a 156-year history, Fisherman’s Friend falls into this category. Shoppers have grown up with and have fond memories of the brand, which helps to explain why its very first lozenge, Original Extra Strong, remains its best seller – accounting for 62% of sales.

The brand continues to innovate to give consumers new and interesting flavours. This includes a wide range of fruity and mint variants in its 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% of sales. Demand for this flavour is particularly strong amongst younger shoppers, and it is the brand’s second most popular flavour overall – followed by Sugar-Free Honey & Lemon at 6% of sales.

“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 first time ever, Fisherman’s Friend will be introducing price marked packs this winter season, as a part of its promotional activity. Available only in the best-selling SKU, Original Extra Strong, these limited packs will be hitting the shelves of cash & carries this September. The price marked will be 80p per sachet, and they will be produced on a limited print run.

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.

The campaign celebrates the brand’s fishing heritage which has been at the heart of the family-owned business since 1865. The timings crucially coincide with the cold and flu season where the brand traditionally sees a spike in demand, and the big investment only helps to increase its high brand recognition from retailers and shoppers.

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 unknown, 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,” adds 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.”

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.

Jakemans continues to perform well in the category and in particular grocery and convenience channels, experiencing an increase in market share of 5.5% in 2021, remaining the third biggest manufacturer in the category (IRI). The success in the category can be partly attributed to Jakemans’ annual TV and marketing campaign that continues to increase awareness of the brand amongst consumers and thus, supporting sales. “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. The branding also provides standout on shelf, making it easy for the end consumer to identify the products, supporting impulse purchasing decisions and sales.

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

“The pandemic influenced consumer purchasing behaviours, with people predominantly looking to make their purchases in one store, rather than visiting numerous shops,” Hughes-Gapper continues. “Grocery retailers benefitted due to their stock availability and convenience with a growth in frequency of visits from consumers looking to top up their ‘big shop’. As they are easy to access, shoppers could pick up their OTC products alongside their essential food items.”

In 2020, the total market for medicated confectionery grew in the initial phases of lockdown as consumers began to bulk buy through fears over stocking issues. However, this dovetailed into decline shortly afterwards as households overstocked. This coupled with a decline in symptoms due to increased hygiene measures and social distancing resulted in substantial drops in both unit and values sales within the category.

“As we look forward, we are expecting to see recovery to more normal shopping and buying behaviours as restrictions continue to ease,” adds Hughes-Gapper. “Consumers will continue to seek out a convenient solution when suffering from these minor ailments so grocery retailers are in a prime position to capitalise on this recovery as we move into the winter months.”

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 ajuput, Olbas Oil combines these natural ingredients to create the famously soothing and relieving natural vapours that ease congestion.

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. 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.

COVID-19 resulted in market fluctuations throughout 2020 and into early 2021. At the onset of the pandemic, consumers stockpiled purchases of OTC remedies which drove strong value growth, and in some cases problems with product availability. This levelled out as buying behaviour normalised and panic buying eased which when coupled with reduction in incident rates due to social distancing and lockdown led to a decline in demand for OTC products. In fact, the cold and flu category experienced a 18.7% decline in value as a result.

Quality, trust and efficacy remain key for consumers, with branded remedies winning out over own-label in the cold and flu category, with 15% actively investing in quality-known brands. With Olbas’ strong heritage, providing the power to breathe for generations, the brand continues to perform ahead of the total market (IRI) despite the market turbulence experienced in 2020/2021.

“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,” adds Campbell. “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. 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 the winter campaign, as well as a PR campaign to drive media coverage across the key winter months.

“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.”

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,” adds Gell. “Over the counter medicine is increasingly important to stock during the colder months as consumers are becoming more reliant on their local stores to cater to all of their top-up-shop needs.

“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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