Trends beyond hemp: What OTC consumers want besides CBD

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Trends beyond hemp: What OTC consumers want besides CBD

By Susan B. Levy, Susan B. Levy Consulting - 12/02/2019

CBD seems to be all the rage in consumer health care, even as the frothiness of the market is causing hesitation for some top consumer health-and-wellness companies to enter the category.

As self-care continues to evolve, other trends in consumer health care are worth considering, as many will have a long-term impact on the market from strategic and tactical standpoints.  

1. Consumer health care is no longer just pills and potions. Consumers are thinking more holistically about self-care, which includes both their overall physical and mental well-being. 

In June, CVS Health announced it will encourage employers to cover the cost of the digital app Sleepio as an alternative or supplement to prescription or OTC drugs for insomnia. Medtech is another modality that consumers are using for their self-care, from wearables like Fitbits that help track exercise to devices that treat everything from acne to migraines. Successful consumer healthcare companies and retailers need to evolve to provide a broader range of solutions — from services, apps, information and devices — to meet consumers’ expectations for self-care. This new vision will require investment in a new set of capabilities to holistically deliver well-being beyond the OTC solutions of today. 

2. Self-care also includes everything we put into our bodies. Consumers also are becoming more purposeful about what they ingest. Centrum has updated its positioning to “feed your cells” with micronutrients. In April, RB launched the nootropic brain health brand Neuriva. Beyond dietary supplements, probiotics and prebiotics, consumers increasingly are conscious about fuel for their bodies, including protein — once the domain of sports enthusiasts only — and collagen in every form from bars to powders. Awareness also has been growing about the health benefits of hydration beyond exercise, and waters are being alkalinated and infused with antioxidants and electrolytes to deliver benefits, from skin enhancement to recovery from alcohol overindulgence.  

3. Self-care involves increased disintermediation of both the retailer and the doctor. Beyond Amazon and Proactiv, direct-to-consumer products have been on the rise — from personalized vitamin service companies and LOLA feminine care products to quip toothbrushes and Harry’s razors.

While this model does not work well for situations requiring acute treatment, these direct-to-consumer players provide special services that traditional retailers do not.  

Separately, consumers are avoiding the cost and time associated with a trip to the doctor and are able to obtain medication directly from pharmacists in several states, from birth control pills and vaccines to naloxone for opioid overdose and even HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis. Other start-ups are enabling consumers to avoid both the doctor and the brick-and-mortar retailer, from Nurx (birth control) to hims (anxiety, hair loss, erectile dysfunction and acne). 

The results of a secret shopper study, “A Study of Telecontraception,” were highlighted in the September 2019 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, in which the authors concluded that telecontraception “may reduce barriers to contraception because vendors are convenient and reliable,” while generally adhering to prescribing guidelines.  

These services could demonstrate that consumers adequately can self-diagnose and self-treat certain conditions without the intervention of a learned intermediary. This real-world evidence about consumer behavior could support Rx-to-OTC switches, creating new self-care categories for healthcare companies and retailers to capitalize on as a means to prevent further disintermediation.

Given these trends, the future state of the delivery of self-care solutions requires new models.  Retailers and manufacturers need to rethink the services and products that they provide — from the perspective of the consumer — to remain relevant. 

Susan B. Levy is founder and principal at Susan B. Levy Consulting.

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