First aid innovations spur category sales

Press enter to search
Close search
Open Menu

First aid innovations spur category sales

By Nora Caley - 08/20/2018
Give consumers some credit. They are finding more and more ways to get hurt. In addition, give suppliers as much credit. They are keeping pace with consumers in terms of new first aid items that treat these injuries.

Suppliers are eager to say that they are developing new bandages and ointments to help consumers take even better care of cuts, burns and other minor maladies. At the same time, a growing number of retailers are working to make it easier for consumers to find relief on store shelves.
Yet, the excitement within the category is not translating into growing sales on the shelves. According to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, for the 52 weeks ended May 20, U.S. multi-outlet sales of first aid accessories totaled more than $2 billion, down nearly 2% compared with the same period last year. Sales of first aid tape, bandages, gauze and cotton totaled more than $879.1 million, up 1.68%. One bright spot was first aid kits, up 2.73% to nearly $55.2 million.

Making the category even more interesting is the fact that the baby boom generation remains the main customer here — which suppliers say may be a good thing.

“Currently, we see that the aging population is growing, and therefore accounts for a large number of consumers in the wound care and first aid space,” said Jeffrey Thompson, marketing brand lead for Band-Aid Brand Adhesive Bandages, a brand of New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson. “We also see that people are leading more active lifestyles, and consumers are looking for products that fit those lifestyles.”
So the rush to bring new items to market continues unabated. For example, Band-Aid Brand recently released Hydro Seal Adhesive Bandages for Wound Care and Foot Care, which feature hydrocolloid technology, designed to keep water out while absorbing liquid that oozes out of a blister or other wound. The hydrocolloid technology shows the bandage working as it forms a white bubble during the healing process. The bandage helps prevent the formation of scabs that can prolong healing and cause scarring, the company said.

“Consumer trends are shaping the category,” Thompson said. “People are buying products with clearer benefits because they are tying it to usage occasions and specific activities for their particular lifestyles.”

As baby boomers age, they need more healthcare products, put more stress on the healthcare system and need retailers to meet their growing needs, said Kimberly Washington, vice president of consumer marketing at Northfield, Ill.-based Medline. “We are also noticing a need for patients to prepare at home prior to certain procedures as the number of outpatient care increases,” she said. “With this in mind, a more prominent and important concern is focused around infection prevention.”

Medline created a line of Germ Shield products, which act as a consumer’s first line of defense for infection prevention. The line includes Antimicrobial Ointment, CHG Antiseptic Pre-Surgical Cleanser Kit, and 2-layer gloves. Also, Truly Ouchless! bandages have been improved with advanced breathable adhesive and two types of backing — plastic and Flex-Fabric. They are designed for families with kids, or anyone with delicate skin. The product’s EZ Release silicone adhesive technology is specifically designed to hold tight and let go easy, which the company said makes removal easier and less painful. The user can peek at how the wound is healing and then reseal the bandage securely.

Not only is the population aging, but there also is an increase in the number of people with diabetes, and those two factors are driving growth in the wound care segment. “Unaffordable medical care leads to more self-treatment,” said Sheila Erickson, vice president of marketing at Edina, Minn.-based Simple Science, which makes Skin Smart Antimicrobial Wound Therapy spray. “This may mean a doctor prescribes procedures you can’t afford, such as visits to wound care centers for a foot ulcer, or that you shop for solutions yourself instead of seeing a doctor — using the Internet to research or asking a pharmacist in a store.”

Another trend related to wound healing is the use of medical-grade honey, said Grace Manzano, senior marketing manager at United Exchange, or UEC, in Cypress, Calif. UEC Medical recently launched L-Mesitran Medical Grade Honey Gel, an advanced healing, natural wound care product. The gel keeps the wound area moisturized and helps it heal, she said. Also new from UEC, licensed Peanuts adhesive bandages will debut this year. “Licensing is more on the fun side,” she said. “We also have Smurfs bandages.”

Other first aid injuries include burns, said Mark McGreevy, vice president of business development at Pleasant Prairie, Wis.-based Quest Products, which makes the Alocane line of products. “Burn wounds come not only from the sun, but from the heated-up elements, such as your car, metal bars on a play set, fire pit and barbecue,” he said. “Indoors you have cooking burns, and a lot of women burn themselves on curling irons.”

In addition, McGreevy pointed out that barbecue burns occur all summer long, fireworks burns occur around July 4th, and then another surge occurs during the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas. “We see a spike due to rookies cooking,” he said.
To promote its products, such as Alocane Emergency Burn Gel, which offers immediate relief with 4% lidocaine, the company offers samples at beaches and during outdoor festivals. “We walk up to people who are sunburned and ask them what solution they use,” McGreevy said. “Usually they don’t have one. They go home and wait for it to heal.”

The newest product from Alocane is a burn pad with 4% lidocaine for immediate spot relief. The pad, designed to protect and cushion the burn, does not have any adhesive. “The last thing you want to do is put adhesive on the wound,” McGreevy said. “You put the burn pad on the wound and wrap it in gauze.”

Consumers are not just looking for a box of bandages, said Aaron Baumgarten, director of product management at Littleton, N.H.-based Tender. “They want to be prepared for the unexpected injury, and be able to find and treat injuries quickly,” he said. “Therefore, they are willing to spend more to have quality components, organization to find instruments quickly, and first aid instructions to provide guidance and support.”
Tender offers its patented Easy Care First Aid System, which arranges supplies, equipment and instructions into injury-specific compartments to help people quickly and effectively provide first aid.

There is a lot more to this category, and many said it is important that retailers touch on virtually all segments. For example, according to IRI, sales of insect first aid products totaled more than $15.7 million, down 4.26%. Still, manufacturers said they are innovating, especially in new delivery systems in single-use products.

Cornwall, N.Y.-based Randob Labs offers Sting-Kill and Fire Out products. “Sting-Kill’s formula is not only real monographed medicine for topical relief of painful bites and stings, but it comes in two unique, single-use deliveries: topical swabs and wipes, which both provide easy on-the-go use,” said Jim Creagan, the company’s president.

Randob also offers topical Fire Out roll-on, which provides itch and pain relief for fire ant stings in a unique application, because fire ants tend to sting over a broader area of the skin, the company said.

Packaging can help drive sales, too. Randob Labs introduced packaging for Sting-Kill to work with a retailer’s pusher systems. The company also is using social media to reach its audience, partnering with Coyote Peterson, a key YouTube influencer in the sting/outdoor category.

Poison ivy and poison oak are other sources of itching and irritation. Albany, Ore.-based Tec Labs makes Tecnu brand products, such as scrub, cleanser, gel and spray. Consumer education also plays a major role in driving sa