Healthy OTC growth: Consumers seek allergy switches, probiotics and protein

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Healthy OTC growth: Consumers seek allergy switches, probiotics and protein

By Michael Johnsen - 04/14/2017
There is no question that one of the top nonprescription categories contributing to both sales and foot traffic right now is allergy. According to IRI data, sales of nasal sprays — the category that captures all of the latest nasal corticosteroid Rx-to-OTC switches, such as Flonase and Nasacort — are up 10.2% to $1.2 billion across total U.S. multi-outlets for the 52 weeks ended Feb. 19.

Meanwhile, sales of cold/allergy/sinus tablets — the category that captures all of the still-growing traditional allergy tablets, such as Zyrtec and Claritin — are up 1.9% to $4.6 billion during the same period.

One significant factor contributing to the steady growth of new OTC users is the steady migration of allergy sufferers from their doctor’s offices to the retail pharmacy with the regular stream of nasal corticosteroid Rx-to-OTC switches. It started three years ago with the switch of Sanofi Consumer Healthcare’s Nasacort Allergy 24HR, which today commands a healthy sales base of $118.4 million. That was followed one year later by GSK Consumer Healthcare’s Flonase, which now commands a solid sales base of $321.8 million.

Last year, McNeil Consumer Healthcare switched Rhinocort, and Bayer introduced its Bayer Clarispray to market.

This year, GSK Consumer Healthcare added to its allergy switch repertoire with the launch of Flonase Sensimist Allergy Relief, which was previously available by prescription-only under the Veramyst brand to treat symptoms associated with seasonal and perennial allergies. The upgraded allergy nasal spray features MistPro technology, delivering a finer and gentler mist spray.

Sanofi Consumer Healthcare recently switched the allergy tablet Xyzal Allergy 24HR from prescription-only to nonprescription status. In launching Xyzal, Sanofi recently revealed the results of a social experiment linking Its newest allergy remedy to better sleep, bridging allergy to another strong category In the OTC aisles. The study found that allergy sufferers had a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep than people without allergies, for example, and allergy sufferers were less rested and less physically active during the day than people without allergies.

Healthy gut
Another category that Is performing well Is probiotics. Similar to bridging allergy and sleep, there are several co-merchandising opportunities across categories. For example, last year Premama launched Its Premama Digestive Aid targeting expectant moms with a formulation to help maintain digestive balance and boost the Immune system. Connecting the growing awareness around probiotics to pregnancy care Is a significant opportunity, Dan Aziz, president of Premama, told Drug Store News. “Capturing a new mom is extremely valuable, as it gives you the opportunity to provide the entire household with products if the mom trusts your brand,” he said.

Connecting to that new mom through such growing product categories as probiotics could lead to significant opportunities. Sales of mineral supplements, where many probiotic SKUs are captured by IRI, were up 6.4% to $3.5 billion across total U.S. multi-outlets for the 52 weeks ended Feb. 19. And that $3.5 billion opportunity could very well open the door to a $67.5 billion opportunity, which represents the total spend families make from the time they try to conceive to their child’s first birthday, Aziz said.

“A number of our retailers are creating a maternity/new mom destination, which takes products from vitamins, baby and fem care, and brings them all to one destination,” he said. “Creating these destinations, with proper education and support, will really allow retailers to win this new mom customer.”

Cleaner protein
A third burgeoning category is protein ready-to-drink shakes and meal replacement bars. According to IRI, sales of nutritional liquids are up 12.4% to $3.3 billion, while sales of intrinsic health value bars are up 4.2% to $2.4 billion. The trendline behind this growth is a gravitation toward cleaner ingredients and a breakaway from non-transparent proprietary blends.

“Clean foods have risen in popularity over the years as consumers have become more health conscious,” noted Eric Zaltas, VP research and development at Premier Nutrition.

Brand marketers also are breaking away from proprietary blends. That transparency gives consumers a firm grasp of exactly how much of what ingredients they’re ingesting.

Hearing the future
A new opportunity in OTC is hearing aids. There is legislation under consideration to create an over-the-counter class of hearing aids. The category wouldn’t compete with more complex hearing aid solutions for those with greater hearing loss, but rather create a new class of hearing aids and expand the market. “Getting [Personal Sound Amplification Products] on the same shelf as over-the-counter eyeglasses would be a major win for consumers,” said Gary Shapiro, CEO and president of Consumer Technology Association. “PSAPs can provide a less expensive, readily available array of products that can aid the millions of Americans living with mild hearing loss.”