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Focus On: Bausch + Lomb keeps it eyes on the prize

Bausch + Lomb’s Consumer Healthcare business is on quite a roll these days.

The unit, which produces around $1 billion in annual sales, is piling up impressive and consistent growth numbers for its Bridgewater, N.J.-based parent company through a strong combination of new products, existing brands and marketing support that have grabbed consumers’ attention. It even has made many of the nation’s retailers more aware that they should give the typically low-interest eye care category more prominence to capture these valuable sales from the consumer and take advantage of the growing number of products ­— and the impressive revenue and profits they can produce.

This has not happened by accident. The company was acquired in 2013 by Valeant Pharmaceuticals, now known as Bausch Health Companies, and has more than 21,000 employees worldwide. The Bausch + Lomb Consumer Healthcare division is one of the company’s four business units, which include pharmaceutical products, surgical devices and equipment and contact lenses. It has embarked on a well-developed business strategy that focuses on the needs of its consumers, patients and the eye care professionals who often make the recommendations vital to the success of any healthcare company. And, yes, product introductions that seem to be hitting time after time certainly help, too.

“Our Consumer Healthcare business has produced a consistent annual growth rate of about 6% over the last six years,” said Joe Gordon, U.S. president of Bausch + Lomb. “Our success comes from our continuous interactions with consumers, eye care professionals and the patients they serve. Coupled with trends and insights from market research, we are committed to developing and bringing innovative, efficacious products to market.”

The proof is in the pudding. The Bausch + Lomb Consumer Healthcare unit currently offers more than 100 SKUs across such well-known brands as Biotrue, renu, Soothe, Opcon A, Alaway and Ocuvite and PreserVision eye vitamins, some of which are No. 1 in their respective categories.

This year, the company already has introduced four products. They include the much-heralded Lumify redness reliever eye drops, which company officials said are the only OTC eye drops containing low-dose brimonidine tartrate, with low-risk for rebound redness and 95% symptom improvement seen in one minute. Gordon said industry information shows that Lumify already has become the top doctor-recommended product in its category and the No. 3 best-selling brand in its segment in just a few months.

“Lumify works differently than any other redness relievers on the market,” Gordon said. “By selectively targeting redness, Lumify provides a reduced risk of side effects in comparison to other drops, such as ‘rebound redness,’ which can allow eye redness to return to a greater extent when the drop wears off. Lumify also addresses the issue of loss of effectiveness over time, which often happens with other redness-reducing drops. These differentiators are important, and it shows through the fact that after just 12 weeks on the market, it already has a 21% share of the redness reliever segment.”

The other new products introduced in 2018 are PreserVision AREDS 2 formula chewable vitamins, Ocuvite Blue Light eye vitamins and Soothe Xtra Protection preservative-free lubricant eye drops. “All of these products are a direct result of our continued collaboration with consumers, eye care professionals and their patients,” Gordon said. “We work closely with these core audiences and constantly analyze market trends to bring new products to market that can help fulfill their ever-evolving unmet eye care needs.”

These new products also are the result of several other factors, including an aging consumer base that is demanding better eye care products, millennials seeking unique products for both cosmetic and health reasons and an influx of new technologies that allow for improved products.

Bausch + Lomb has long been a respected name synonymous with eye care. Founded in 1853 by John Jacob Bausch, a German immigrant, who borrowed $60 from his good friend and eventual partner Henry Lomb early on, the company became a national leader in optics and eye care in the first decades of the 20th century. In fact, in 1954, the company received an honorary award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for advancement of the motion picture industry for the CinesmaScope Lens, which pioneered widescreen movies.

Things really started to pick up for the company’s lens and lens care business in 1971, when the Food and Drug Administration gave Bausch + Lomb approval to market SofLens, the first mass-produced soft contact lens. In 1987, the company picked up the pace, introducing renu, the first contact lens cleaning product.

Gordon is quick to note that other segments of the Bausch + Lomb business also have helped the Consumer Healthcare segment stay ahead of the curve.

“We are the only fully integrated eye care company in the United States,” he said. “Although each business focuses on a certain subset of the eye health industry, our core functions like R&D and operations work together to leverage ideas and learn from one another to help us become better at what we do across the board.”

The company’s mindset also plays a big role. “Innovation is the basis of all we do at Bausch + Lomb,” he said. “We have also built a culture that is based on entrepreneurship, a great team spirit and the ability to be nimble. We are quick to act, and our team knows that they have the ability and support to try never-before-done approaches and projects, without the fear of failing. That culture has allowed us to develop a business that consistently adds new products and line extensions.”

Working with retailers is another key aspect of the success. Todd LaRue, the company’s vice president of sales, said that offering key insights to the retail world helps educate merchants about the potential of the segments Bausch + Lomb is involved with and encourages them to give the category more space and more visibility in-store.

“Our job is to educate the retailer about where we know there are opportunities within these categories, and where we see real value for them,” LaRue said. “We want to help the retailers personalize their sections and target specific shoppers through the use of data and other information. We also offer a wide range of displays to help them create more awareness of these products.”

LaRue said that the company also is committed to publicizing the Bausch + Lomb brand and its key consumer healthcare products through circulars and social media.

Don’t expect things to slow down anytime soon as the future looks as bright as the last few years for the company. LaRue said that the company’s continued investment in research and development will allow it to bring new advancements to market. “As Joe said, for us, it is all about listening to and working with the eye care professionals, their patients and the consumer,” he said. “Together we will continue to discuss and evaluate their needs so we can bring meaningful products to the marketplace.”

Gordon said: “While Bausch + Lomb is a 165-year-old company, and we are very proud of our past and all we have already accomplished, we also know what is important for the future — continuing to develop high-quality eye health products in order to meet the needs of our consumers, eye care professionals and the patients they serve. It is the secret to our success.”
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