Foot care manufacturers look to enable self-care, educate consumers

More and more consumers with foot pain or discomfort are bypassing the doctor’s office and looking to self-treat their problems. Yet, often, when they get to the foot care aisle, many do not know which product will offer the best relief.

That’s why companies seeking to gain a foothold in this market, which market research firm IRI pegged at being around $1.2 billion between devices, antifungal medications and other foot care products, including creams and powders in U.S. multi-outlets for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 7, have been focusing on eliminating the guesswork for consumers.

Increasing consumer engagement at the point-of-purchase and providing more education about products on packaging are two strategies foot care suppliers are betting on.

As in other categories where consumers are demanding more bang for the buck, manufacturers also are responding by offering a wider selection of products they claim are comparable to custom products at lower price points.

One player vying to gain traction in the market is Brewster, N.Y.-based PediFix. Chief marketing officer Christopher Case noted that foot care as a category is being driven by an aging population that is prone to foot problems and one that is embracing self-treatments. Case said this offers an opportunity for retailers to sell more foot care products, particularly as foot doctors who sold products in their practice join hospitals where they can’t dispense many of these products.

Offering products that provide easy application and removal is one of the ways manufacturers are responding to consumers who self-treat.

PediFix recently innovated with plantar fasciitis relief self-adhesive strips. “We took the exact product we sold to the medical industry for many years, and we put it in OTC packaging,” Case said.

Another PediFix entry is a self-perforated silicone tape on a dispensing roll used to protect blisters, corns and calluses. It has a gentle, easy release mechanism that peels off, so it doesn’t cause discomfort, Case said.

PediFix also created a 25-count package of foot-cleaning wipes that contain tea tree oil and peppermint oil for consumers who find a shower inconvenient or inaccessible.

Following a similar path when it comes to focusing on innovative formulations that are convenient to use is O’Keeffe’s, the foot care brand of Cincinnati-based Gorilla Glue. O’Keeffe’s is known for its green jars of therapeutic hand cream for extremely dry, cracked skin, but has expanded into the foot care segment with a formulation that comes in a jar, as well as in a tube.

The tube formulation enables consumers to easily apply the cream without having to screw on a lid, and they don’t have to be concerned that they are contaminating the product as they would when applying cream from a jar.

“We realized that a similar formulation and product would be good for people who have skin issues with their feet, particularly diabetics who have cracks in the skin on their feet,” said Kevin Namaky, O’Keeffe’s associate director.

Baby Foot USA, based in Springfield, Mo., also is focusing on providing consumers with convenience and ease of use with its lavender-scented Baby Foot Exfoliation Foot Peel, which features 3-D prefilled booties that remove dead skin cells. The one-hour treatment contains 16 natural extracts, glycolic and lactic acids.

Kim Webb, Baby Foot director of channel sales, said Baby Foot appeals to millennials, who are starting to care for their feet and getting pedicures at an early age. “They also enjoy the ‘peeling’ process,” Webb said.

Baby Foot also has an Exfoliation Foot Peel for men that comes in a mint scent with 3-D booties that fit up to men’s size 14.

Right product, right package
Among other efforts, manufacturers are revamping their packaging to provide consumers with the opportunity to engage with their products.

PediFix offers a recyclable plastic clam shell, which enables consumers to open the package, inspect and touch the item, and reseal the package so it’s still in good condition to be sold if they don’t buy it.

Pointing out that consumers may be overwhelmed by all of the choices in the foot care aisle, Case said the company always had a silver foot on its packaging and text explaining what the product is. “We added red pain circles to the specific area of the foot that the product applies to,” Case said. “Consumers can quickly scan the different packages and see if the product is designed for their condition.” Daniel Feldman, president and chief operating officer of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Profoot agrees that innovative products and packaging that provide consumer engagement are crucial in the market.

Emphasizing that brick-and-mortar retailers face challenges, Feldman believes that they have a massive advantage in the foot care market over online retailers.

“Having an entire planogram of foot care products in front of consumers is critical, and having engagement with customers is critical versus the more linear approach of online shopping,” Feldman said.

Feldman also noted that almost all customers buying insoles and inserts want to touch and feel the item. “Amazon hasn’t figured out how to do this. We’ve taken steps to further enhance that customer interaction and that level of personal customer engagement by making our products even more accessible to the customer by having more touchpoints on the package. That’s critical and it helps improve sales,” he said.

Innovation destination
Manufacturers are pulling out all the stops to make sure the mix contains products that provide solutions pronto.

O’Keeffe’s recently introduced Exfoliating Moisturizing Foot Lotion, is intended to give consumers a smoother feel to their skin noticeably faster than the brand’s original foot cream, Namaky said.

Looking to deliver on the need to offer a speedy solution to consumers, Miami Beach, Fla.-based Footcare Express’ managing director and a certified pedorthist, agreed that time is of the essence for consumers. Reinhartz created an off-the-shelf product line called Insite Insoles, which are available in soft, medium and firm support.

“Insite Insoles offer a quicker fix. Consumers don’t have to spend time having their feet measured as they do for custom insoles,” he said.

Manufacturers also are paying close attention to the fact that shoppers are looking for the lowest prices. Noting that Insite Insoles retail from $30 to $90, Reinhartz said, “It is a more affordable high-end product that might yield similar results as a custom orthotic. It’s attractive, especially when consumers are looking to save money. Custom orthotics can be very expensive.”

Retailers that carry affordable products previously available only to the professional market will boost their bottom line, Case said, providing the example of PediFix’s Professional Nail Cutter, which wholesales for $30 and retails for $50 to $60. “It gives pharmacies the opportunity to have a high ring on a high quality professionally developed product,” PediFix’s Case said.

Feldman believes innovation will continue to drive the market. “We know with our 30-plus years of experience, the only way to grow the category is through innovation. Retailers are coming back to the idea of multiple brands and stockpiling innovation as opposed to additional private-label SKUs. That’s a welcome change, and I think it will bear fruit,” he said.