All eyes focus on natural remedies

Consumers are gravitating toward more natural eye and ear care products that have fewer chemical additives, industry observers said.

The shift comes amid increasing demand for eye care products overall, as the baby boomer population ages and younger consumers seek options for treating various eye irritations resulting from allergies, prolonged exposure to computer screens and other factors.

Some retailers have begun making it easier for consumers to find natural OTC eye and ear care products, including CVS, which is adding “alternative choices” shelf signage to highlight brands with natural active ingredients, according to Yann Pigeaire, director of marketing at Switzerland-based Similasan, which offers a range of eye drops with natural active ingredients.

“Consumers are looking for relief from a variety of different ailments, such as dry eyes, allergies, styes, etc.,” he said. “Some consumers also seek the convenience or preservative-free aspect of single-use vials.”

Eye and lens care solutions tallied more than $1.7 billion in sales for the 52 weeks ended June 11, according to IRI, an increase of 1.3% over the prior-year period.

The growth was led by category leader Alcon Laboratories — a division of Novartis AG based in Fort Worth, Texas — which saw sales growth of 6.2% in the period,  with sales of $537.9 million, or about 30.9% of the total category sales. The company’s Clear Care Plus product, introduced in 2015, more than doubled its sales in the 52-week span, to $32.3 million, an increase of 113.5%.

Earlier this year, Alcon released a survey showing that 81% of patients said their contact lenses felt like new after using Clear Care Plus, compared with 24% of habitual users of multi-purpose solutions. In addition, 83% said they would continue to use Clear Care Plus, and the same percentage said they would recommend the product to others.

Clear Care Plus leverages the cleaning power of hydrogen peroxide, then neutralizes into a saline solution “without the chemical preservatives found in other solutions,” the company said.

In addition, Alcon’s Systane brand includes lubricant eye drops in preservative-free vials, appealing to consumers seeking more natural solutions to eye care.

Bausch + Lomb’s Biotrue multi-purpose contact lens solution also touts its natural composition as a selling point. The product “works like your eyes with the same lubricant they have naturally and the same pH as healthy tears,” said the company, which is a division of Laval, Quebec-based Valeant Pharmaceuticals International.

“There has not been a significant amount of innovation in this category lately,” said Similasan’s Pigeaire. “Similasan Redness and Itchy eye relief has been gaining momentum at our drug retailers in the past year. Other than that, legacy brands continue to grow with existing products.”

Sales of ear drops and treatments rose 1.1% in the 52 weeks ended June 11, according to IRI, led by sales growth in products from Medtech Products and Hylands. Similasan also saw growth in its eardrops in the period, according to IRI data.