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REX Awards 2022: OTC and Preventive Health

DSN’s Retail Excellence Awards spotlight companies that develop innovative over-the-counter products.

Self-care is more important than ever. Whether they are reluctant to visit healthcare providers during the ongoing pandemic, or just to take charge of their own health, consumers are seeking over-the-counter medicines. The demand is still growing for products that provide solutions for cough-cold, pain, sleep, stress and other maladies.

REX Award 2022 - OTC and Preventive Health logo

According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, citing figures from The Nielsen Company, retail sales of OTC medicines totaled $36.5 billion in 2020 compared with $35.2 billion in 2019. Among the largest categories in 2020 were upper respiratory at $8.65 billion, internal analgesics at $4.5 billion, heartburn at $2.16 billion, first aid at $1.56 billion and eye care at nearly $1.3 billion. 

The pandemic did not stop innovation, and manufacturers developed innovative products that answer key consumer needs. This month, DSN recognizes some of the leaders in the OTC medicine and preventive health space. Here are this year’s Retail Excellence Awards – OTC and Preventive Health.

Xlear is a manufacturer of xylitol-based products. The American Fork, Utah-based company makes Xlear Sinus Care products, Spry Dental Defense products and XyloSweet natural sweetener. Nathan Jones founded the company in 2000, after his father, Dr. Lon Jones, developed a xylitol nasal spray after reading extensive research done in Finland about the benefits of xylitol. 

Last year, Xlear (pronounced “clear”) reformulated its Spry toothpaste. Nathan Jones explained that the reformulation is based on a new study, published in the Journal of Dentistry, which found that the combination of fluoride and nanosized trimetaphosphate, or TMP, more effectively hardens teeth against damage and decay than fluoride alone. “The inspiration for this innovation came from where Xlear finds inspiration and innovation as a rule: sound science,” he said. “We fund research and pay close attention to the ever-evolving state of health knowledge. Then we use that data and research to produce products that help people stay healthier and happier.”

[Read more: REX Awards 2022: Natural Products]

In 2022, Xlear will highlight Spry and focus on the nasal spray. “The last two years have demonstrated the importance of nasal hygiene in a world full of novel pathogens,” Jones said. “We want to educate people about the importance of washing your nose as a way to both breathe better and be healthier.” 

Additionally in 2022, the company plans to focus on the benefits of Xlear nasal spray in helping reduce snoring, an issue that makes many relationships suffer. “Not only does it impact both partners’ sleep, but it can put a huge damper on intimacy,” Jones said.

WishGarden Herbs' Serious AM Cough Soothing Syrup

WishGarden Herbs
A provider of whole herb liquid extracts, WishGarden Herbs pioneered condition-specific blends that are fast acting and gentle on the body. The Louisville, Colo.-based company makes several immune support products for children and adults. Among the newest products are two cough syrups. Serious AM Cough Soothing Syrup has wild cherry, elecampane, linden, hawthorn, marshmallow and elderberry to open up the chest, soothe the bronchioles, relax the cough reflex, evict the excess phlegm from the body and support a healthy inflammatory response in the throat and upper respiratory. Serious PM Cough Soothing Syrup has passionflower, wood betony, hops and wild lettuce to promote restful sleep and wild cherry, elecampane and mullein to open the airways. 

Last year, WishGarden Herbs expanded its product offering to new categories. “Immune has an ebb and flow in sales every year,” said Sindy Wise, vice president of business development. “The push for us was getting into product categories that sell year-round.” 

Exercise and Revive Recovery Aid contains turmeric and maca root, tart cherry, wild yam, and white willow bark to support a healthy inflammatory response. Rise and Shine Daily Energy Boost has maca root for supporting strength and stamina, and schisandra traditional Chinese longevity berry, yerba mate, milky oats and gotu kola. Party Prep has traditional herbs that help maintain normal liver function and detoxification, prickly pear to support a healthy inflammatory response in the liver, and Japanese raisin seed to encourage the production of enzymes. There’s also a topical: Clear Complexion Blemish with calendula flower, burdock root and other ingredients.

ADM Protexin's Bio-Kult Boosted

ADM Protexin
In 2020, ADM Protexin, which makes Bio-Kult probiotics, expanded its lineup with Bio-Kult Boosted, which the Doral, Fla.-based company said was its most successful launch yet. “We listened to our customers, who were asking for a higher CFU count of the original Bio-Kult formulation,” said Alexa Wood, brand manager at ADM Protexin. “As most people looking for a higher CFU count are likely to be taking alongside antibiotics or traveling, we opted to add vitamin B12 to help the normal function of the immune system.”

The original Bio-Kult and Bio-Kult Boosted are the brand’s top products. The company will continue to focus on both for 2022. “With the ongoing pandemic, consumers are looking to support their immune system, so we know it will be a strong year for both these products,” Wood said. 

Other products in the portfolio include Bio-Kult Candéa, which targets the intimate flora; Bio-Kult Pro-Cyan, which targets the urinary tract; Bio-Kult Infantis for babies, toddlers and young children; Bio-Kult Migréa, which targets the head; Bio-Kult Mind, which targets cognitive function; and Bio-Kult S. Boulardi, which targets the digestive and immune system. The products do not need to be refrigerated, have no artificial colors or flavors, and are manufactured to pharmaceutical MHRA cGMP standards. 

ADM Protexin developed its own research-driven probiotic strains, identified with the initials PXN. All strains are included in the European Qualified Presumption of Safety list compiled by the European Food Standards Agency, which assesses the safety of microorganisms in food in Europe.

Bausch + Lomb Lumify

Bausch + Lomb
For nearly 170 years, Bausch + Lomb has been focused on developing products that support eye health. The Bridgewater, N.J.-based company’s portfolio of OTC products includes ocular nutritional supplements, eye drops and lens care solutions. 

In 2021, Bausch + Lomb launched Alaway Preservative Free, which the company said is the first and only FDA-approved OTC preservative-free antihistamine eye drop. When the pandemic limited travel and in-person gatherings, the number of hours people spent outdoors increased, impacting many of those who suffer with itchy eyes as a symptom of allergies. Alaway Preservative Free antihistamine eye drops provide relief that lasts up to 12 hours. Also in 2021, the company introduced Biotrue Hydration Boost lubricant eye drops, formulated to relieve symptoms associated with irritated, dry eyes due to a prolonged use of digital devices. 

In 2022, the company plans to launch several new OTC and vision care products, including a new multipurpose contact lens solution. “We will also continue to highlight our broad portfolio of ocular nutritional supplements, lens care solutions and eye drops,” said Joe Gordon, U.S. president of Bausch + Lomb.

In addition to product innovations, Bausch + Lomb also expanded its sustainability programs by launching the Biotrue Eye Care Recycling Program, which provides consumers the ability to properly recycle all brands of their eye drop single-dose units, lens cases and lens solution caps, depending on each city’s recycling guidelines, as well as Biotrue Hydration Boost eye drops multidose bottles.

Boiron USA
The homeopathic medicine company Boiron is known for its Arnicare line of pain relievers and Oscillococcinum flu reliever. Founded 90 years ago by twin brothers and pharmacists Jean and Henri Boiron, the Newtown Square, Pa.-based company sources more than 1,000 botanical substances from botanists and harvesters, who take care to preserve the plants used and the land on which they grow. 

The Arnicare line relieves stiffness, pain and swelling, and includes Cream, Gel, Leg Cramps and Arthritis. Oscillococcinum is a multi-symptom flu medicine that temporarily relieves body aches, headache, fever, chills and fatigue. Other OTC remedies from Boiron include SinusCalm, ColdCalm and StressCalm in dissolvable tablets that can be taken without water. The brand also offers digestive products for gas bloating relief.

Country Life Vitamins

Country Life Vitamins 
With the goal of empowering individuals on their personal journeys, Country Life Vitamins offers vitamins, minerals, fitness optimization and skin care. The Hauppauge, N.Y.-based company is driven by a quest to understand consumer needs. “In 2021, we saw a large shift in the health-and-wellness space as people began navigating the pandemic and wanting to understand how to keep their minds and bodies as healthy as possible,” said Sharon Paguio, senior director of marketing and development. “There was an increase in interest surrounding areas of the space, including immune support, cognitive support and overall daily wellness as a means to stay healthy, active and free from illness during these uncertain times.”

In 2022, Country Life Vitamins plans to continue listening and observing consumer trends and needs. The company will focus on key areas including immunity (Gut Connection Immune Balance, Quercetin + D3), energy (vitamin B), cognitive health (Sharp Thought, Gut Connection Cognitive Balance) and overall wellness (Core Daily 1 Multivitamins). “As we have done for decades, Country Life Vitamins will continue to uphold our Pledge of Integrity in 2022 by committing to our key pillars of authenticity, cleanliness, freshness, consistency and accuracy,” Paguio said.

Gaia Herbs Sleep, Ashwagandha and Relax

Gaia Herbs
Gaia Herbs is known for its turmeric products, used to help reduce occasional inflammation. The Brevard, N.C.-based company offers Turmeric Supreme Extra Strength, Turmeric Supreme Joint, Turmeric Supreme Sinus Support and others. In the last year, Gaia Herbs launched two turmeric gummies, Adult Daily and Extra Strength, to offer consumers a more convenient way to take their Gaia Turmeric. They are both full spectrum, USDA Organic certified, Non-GMO Verified and sweetened with real fruit. 

“The inspiration for innovation comes from understanding what consumers are looking for and Gaia’s commitment to purity, potency and transparency, and ensuring that we deliver on those standards in everything that we make,” said Alicia Richman, director of brand strategy and innovation. 

This year, Gaia will highlight its newest gummy products: Ashwagandha, Relax and Sleep. “We believe that more and more consumers are understanding the benefits of adaptogens and how they can support their health,” Richman said. All three gummies are also USDA Organic certified, Non-GMO Verified and sweetened with real fruit.

Hyland’s Naturals

Hyland’s Naturals
Among the best-known products in the Hyland’s Naturals portfolio are Hyland’s Organic Elderberry Plus for immune support, Hyland’s Leg Cramps ointment and tablets for pain relief, and Hyland’s Naturals Stress Busters with L-theanine, chamomile and lemon balm. In addition to providing OTC products that offer relief, the company has a prevention focus. “We were really excited to launch gummy supplements at the end of 2021 that allow our brand to not just take care of consumers when they’re not feeling well, but also help them stay healthy the rest of the time,” said Les Hamilton, chief revenue officer. 

The gummy supplements are made with natural ingredients, with no artificial flavors or sweeteners, no high fructose corn syrup and no added preservatives. They are also certified organic where possible. “Hyland’s families have trusted our brand for generations, so we have to make sure that we deliver supplements at the same high quality as our OTC products, albeit more fun and delicious to take.” 

Hyland’s Naturals has many exciting new products planned in 2022, and will continue to expand its portfolio supporting babies, kids, moms and active consumers.

Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health"s Band-Aid Sensitive Skin

Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health
Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health is driven to improve the health of consumers around the world, with a portfolio of iconic brands that are rooted in science and endorsed by professionals. By staying close to consumers and deepening its partnerships with customers, the company delivers meaningful innovations across its portfolio of brands in the self-care category.

In 2021, J&J launched innovative and inclusive products. One hundred years after Band-Aid Brand adhesive bandages were invented, the company launched Band-Aid Brand Ourtone adhesive bandages in three brown shades to provide options for communities of color. Zyrtec Non-Medicated Soothing Face Wipes cleanse and refresh skin. Extra Strength Tylenol Cold + Flu Multi-Action is available behind the counter at the pharmacy without a prescription. 

The company said COVID-19 reinforced the importance of health and has driven consumers to be more proactive with their healthcare decisions than ever. To meet their fast-evolving needs, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health is focused on outcomes, and in the past year delivered several innovations across its portfolio. Additionally, over the course of the last year, the company adopted new ways of working and fueled its digital ambition, embracing a critical shift in how it reaches consumers every day.


Originally a beauty company founded in 1980, Natrol is now one of the most recognized names in vitamins, minerals and supplements. Natrol makes products in the sleep, immune, nutrition and beauty categories. Also in the ’80s, Natrol developed Ester-C for immune support. Today, the product has evolved to Easy-C, one of the brand’s top sellers. In 2020, the company answered the demand for immune health products by reintroducing Natrol Chewable Zinc and Natrol Immune Boost, and rolled out two new products — Immune-Biotic and Elderberry Gummies.

In addition to immune support, sleep has been the focus lately for many consumers. Last year, the Chatsworth, Calif.-based company launched Natrol Sleep+ line, gummies that feature melatonin and other ingredients. The lineup consists of Sleep+ Immune Health Berry Gummies, Sleep+ Calm Strawberry Gummies, Sleep+ Beauty Raspberry Gummies, Kids Sleep+ Immune Health Berry Gummies and Kids Sleep+ Calm Strawberry Gummies. 

This year, Natrol is expanding that line into a new form factor and adding a new secondary benefit as well. “We believe this will appeal and are excited for its introduction into the market in February,” said Harel Shapira, brand director of innovation. “When we innovate, we always have the consumer front and center, and this approach is at the heart of what makes our innovations successful.” 

The new form factor can help retailers attract more consumers into the aisle. Gummies have grown in popularity over the past few years, so much so, Shapira said, that approximately 75% of new items in sleep supplements this year were in the gummies form. Still, most consumers prefer traditional forms like tablets, capsules and softgels, so it is important to include these in an assortment.

Total Resources International first-aid kits and wound care

Total Resources International
More than a provider of first-aid kits and wound care, Total Resources International wants to change how people think about being prepared. “Our purpose and intent is to be forward thinkers and change the mindset of consumers to become proactive instead of reactive,” said Geolyn Gonzalez, vice president of sales and marketing.

The Walnut, Calif.-based company’s flagship brand is the Be Smart Get Prepared line of first aid and emergency preparedness products. The Home and Family first-aid kits have whimsical names like What a Healin’ Deluxe First Aid Kit, Tender Lovin’ Diabetic Wound Care and Sneeze the Moment Face Masks. For outdoor enthusiasts, there are Hiking Buddy, Happy Explorer and Happy Wanderer First Aid Kit, as well as Lone Wolf Emergency Survival Kits. “We design with the consumer and their lifestyle in mind,” Gonzalez said. “We address serious first-aid concerns in unconventional ways by offering fully comprehensive solutions packaged with a playful aesthetic.”

The products are designed to provide smart, sensible solutions for individuals and families to achieve overall safety and wellness at home and away from home. In addition to first-aid kits, Total Resources International launched a flagship product in 2018, Silvex Wound Gel, a Nano Silver gel used to treat injuries, prevent infections and neutralize viruses. The company said the Nano Silver technology also effectively kills 99.9% of harmful bacteria, such as MRSA and VRE, staph and more. 

This year, the company is extending its line of Nano Silver products with an antibacterial wound wash, immuno throat drops and an immuno boost supplement. “With the rising trends of natural products in the wound care industry, we feel Nano Silver technology offers the healthiest and most powerful solution for our consumers’ needs,” Gonzalez said.

Doctor Easy's WaxRx Ear Wash System

Doctor Easy
In 2021, Doctor Easy Medical Products continued its mission of bringing professional-grade ear washing to retail with WaxRx. The company said WaxRx is different from any other OTC ear cleaning solution since it can remove even the most stubborn ear wax impaction safely and easily at home.

“From our 25 years of experience in the professional arena, we knew the demand was out there for a truly effective ear cleaning system,” said Marsha Garcia, president of the women-owned, Orange Park, Fla.-based Doctor Easy. “So we’re excited to be reaching more and more consumers in chain drug and mass market with our self-care system. WaxRx has already helped over half a million consumers avoid costly medical visits for earwax removal.”

Garcia also said that the company will continue to promote WaxRx in 2022 with ongoing national cable TV and digital ad campaigns.

“Our focus is on supporting our retailers by educating the consumer about WaxRx and the availability of professional-grade ear care products at retail,” she said.

Focus Consumer Healthcare's Garlique

Focus Consumer Healthcare
Focus Consumer Healthcare manufactures consumer healthcare products across several categories including Pamprin, Garlique, Herpecin L, Blue Star, Zapzyt, Sun In, UltraSwim and Benzodent. The Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company launched and expanded several innovations in 2021 across its brands. For Herpecin L, the company identified an unmet need within the cold sore category that led to the launch of new Herpecin L Pain Relief with Lidocaine. This maximum-strength triple-action item, which launched exclusively at a mass retailer for year one, is proving to be incremental and is helping propel Herpecin L sales. 

Garlique Healthy Blood Pressure launched in select retailers in 2020, and the company expanded on this new innovation in 2021 as more retailers brought the item into distribution with a full-scale launch. With this launch, Garlique is positioned to help consumers support both their healthy cholesterol and healthy blood pressure needs, with the Garlique franchise growing more than two times the VMS category growth. 

Pamprin is a heritage brand that has been around for decades, helping women deal with the pain, discomfort and irritability associated with their menstrual cycle. Based on consumer feedback and insights, the company repositioned the brand with updated packaging and expanded advertising.

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