NEW YORK — Last year, the big question on everyone’s mind was: How many brands can actually thrive in what has become a cluttered antacid shelf? Because just exactly how many heartburn sufferers are there?
With some 65 million Americans affected by gastric complaints and 30% of those seriously affected with a major gastro event each year, the answer is enough to drive 13% growth into a category that was already above the $1-billion watermark across food, drug and mass (excluding Walmart), according to data provided by SymphonyIRI Group for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 3. That’s $150 million more than last year, and the annual indulgence of heartburn- inducing holiday foods for the ensuing 2010 season hasn’t even begun.
The lion’s share of that growth can be attributed to Novartis Consumer and its successful rollout of Prevacid 24HR, which generated $118 million within the first 11 months on shelf. And Merck Consumer brought in another $12.7 million with the launch of the third over-the-counter proton-pump inhibitor Zegerid OTC a little more than six months ago.
But the real story may be in how both Procter & Gamble and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Health successfully guarded — and in the case of GSK’s Tums, even grew — market share.
Procter & Gamble only lost $11.9 million in annual sales (not including Walmart) of its clear market leader, Prilosec OTC. Not only did P&G have to contend with two new PPI competitors — Prevacid 24HR and Zegerid OTC — but the brand also had to compete for the second year with extensive store-brand-equivalent competition. According to Perrigo president, CEO and chairman Joe Papa, Perrigo’s omeprazole products brought in some $325 million through retail registers for the year through June 2010.
GSK, meanwhile, grew sales by approximately 5.9% to $98.3 million across its top three Tums brands by stressing its fast-acting benefit; calcium relieves heartburn almost immediately, versus within an hour or so for such H2 blockers as Pepcid AC and Zantac, and a day or so for PPIs. “Tums is still a category driver with the highest household penetration and is a destination item in the category,” noted GSK Consumer director of sales Janet Carter-Smith. Immediate relief holds a 63% share of stomach, Carter-Smith added, with almost four times more buyers than PPIs and H2 blockers.
But extended-relief and immediate-relief products address different needs for the consumer, Carter-Smith noted, and the needs of extended-relief products don’t necessarily cannibalize sales opportunities for immediate- relief products, and vice versa. Extended- relief and immediate-relief products also serve different needs of the retailer; extended relief delivers a high dollar ring, while immediate relief helps contribute to trip opportunities.
Partly for those reasons, GSK has positioned its Tums brand as a conjunctive sale to PPIs. “There are approximately 44 million PPI users with an estimated 81% experiencing breakthrough heartburn,” Carter-Smith said. “Tums doesn’t replace PPIs,” she said, but that immediate relief helps take care of that breakthrough heartburn on the spot.