Demand for over-the-counter medicines is set to increase as winter sets in. But what are consumers looking for in remedies? Shireen Khalil reveals that price and effectiveness are key.

With the colder months creeping in and daylight hours dwindling, the over-the-counter (OTC) & winter remedies market is ready to kick off.

Last year, the value of the cough, cold, flu and allergy relief market increased by 5% to £720m, according to consumer trends research body Mintel.

But Mintel’s report, Cough, Cold, Flu and Allergy Remedies, reveals that there are two significant barriers to sales of OTC & winter remedies. The first is that consumers perceive them as being ineffective at relieving symptoms. The second is their price – an important point that wholesalers need to be wary of to avoid reduced profits.

In combination, these two barriers are likely to drive consumers towards own-label cold and flu remedies, as well as cheaper, natural alternatives, such as lemon and honey.

This guide will help you and your customers succeed in the category.

Be big on brands

When it comes to pain relief, cough and cold remedies are among the medicines most in demand in the convenience channel, according to Jon Atkins, customer business manager at GlaxoSmithKline.

Atkins says that rather than making impulse purchases, shoppers will have a brand and product in mind when entering a store, so it is vital that wholesalers stock the well-known and trusted market leaders, such as Panadol and Beechams.

There are an estimated 57m GP consultations each year, some of which could have been treated through OTC remedies, according to the trade body Proprietary Association of Great Britain. So there is a huge opportunity for retailers to step up and provide the products and brands that consumers trust.

Popular OTC brand Fisherman’s Friend has very high consumer loyalty due to its iconic heritage. Its bestselling flavour is Original Extra Strong, which contains more menthol than its competitors, according to the brand.

Martin Stimson, area business manager at Fisherman’s Friend UK, says retailers can capitalise on impulse sales this winter using medicated confectionery, which is recognised as a distress purchase.

“That was certainly the case last year, as sales of Fisherman’s Friend skyrocketed by an impressive 4.8% compared with the previous year – the brand’s best performance since 2000,” Stimson notes.

Flavours to watch

Fisherman’s Friend continues to tap into demand for cost-effective options from shoppers looking for lozenges during the colder months, explains Stimson.

“We have introduced a raft of fruity variants over the years to appeal to shoppers who want the benefits of menthol but with a subtler, softer flavour, and these are proving increasingly popular,” he says.

Within the Fisherman’s Friend UK range, Stimson points wholesalers to its bestselling varieties, including Original Extra Strong, Sugar Free Blackcurrant, Aniseed and Sugar Free Honey & Lemon as the must-stock items this winter.

Stimson explains that the key trends in this category are flavour and effectiveness: “They are invariably the deciding factors for shoppers when choosing medicated confectionery, while sugar has also become an important consideration for some shoppers when purchasing lozenges. This has led to strong growth for the fruity varieties of our sugar-free Fisherman’s Friend flavours.”

According to the 2017 IRI Adult Cough Liquid Sales report, the free-from market is continuing to grow, and sugar-free formulas now account for 10% of all cough liquid sales – a figure that is likely to increase, given the rise in diabetes incidence rates.

Know your audience

Ed Round, marketing manager at Covonia, says Muslims will make up 8% of the UK’s population by 2030, so it is important for pharmacies to stock alcohol-free products to meet rising demand on this front.

One of Covonia’s most popular products is its Chesty Cough Sugar Free Syrup, and Round notes: “The sugar-free and alcohol-free formulation is the ideal solution for people with diabetes and those who choose not to consume alcohol for religious or lifestyle reasons.”

Consumers expect flu remedies to provide symptom relief at affordable prices. Most adults also lead busy lifestyles and this is taking a toll on their health. To keep up with their hectic schedules, consumers expect and want quick relief.

Round says that while consumers expect medicinal benefits from cough medicine, there are also psychological and emtional benefits. “Through consumer research we have discovered that 75% of people think ‘cough medicine should give a warming, comforting sensation’ and 72% said that ‘cough medicine should give you a sensation of clearing your nose and throat’,” he says. “The Covonia range has been formulated to deliver on both these aspects.”

Ranging and choice

Incidences of coughs and colds tend to increase from late September onwards, and Round says that wholesalers should ensure they have taken delivery of sufficient stock early enough before demand kicks in.

Both Round and Fisherman’s Friend’s Stimson argue that trust plays a major role in purchases: “Consumers are far more likely to purchase a brand that they are aware of – mainly driven by advertising awareness – and a brand that they have been recommended by others,” the latter adds.

Retail Viewpoints

MehmetLemsip is our most popular over-the-counter (OTC) remedy due to brand trust and the varieties it comes in. Yet, I can’t remember a time when we received category help from a representative from any of the players in the market. It would be helpful if we had help on what to stock.”

Mehmet Guzel, Simply Fresh, Old Oakham, London

“Lemsip Max All in One Lemon is our most popular OTC winter remedy. It’s located at the till. It’s just one of the more convenient products we have – the fact that it’s an all-in-one helps. We could do with a bit more help from our wholesalers in this category.”

Martin Lightfoot, Londis Solo Convenience, Baillieston, Glasgow

We stock a variety of winter remedies and OTC solutions, but our most popular sellers are the following: Lemsip, Benadryl and Covonia. Covonia’s cough syrup is our bestseller out of all of them, though. We find that customers prefer syrups over tablets. We keep them behind our counter.”

Vim Odera, Nisa, Canvey Island, Essex

Julie Leslie“Our most popular brands during the winter period are Beecham, Lemsips and Benilyn throat syrups. They’re positioned behind the sales assistants, which is in eyeshot of our customers, prompting them to purchase. Our throats sweets are at the front of the counter with chewing gum and mints.”

Julie Leslie, MagCulture, Clerkenwell, London



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