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Sweet Relief.

Byline: Dana Cvetan

Retailers compete for the loyalty of allergy sufferers and the sleep-deprived.

Most adults in the United States suffer from allergies and/or at least occasional sleep trouble. That's a good bit of misery in need of relief.

Nasal allergies affect about 50 million people, and allergies in general are increasing, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Landover, Md. The foundation reports that allergies affect as many as 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children. Allergic disease, including asthma, is the fifth-leading chronic disease in the United States impacting people of all ages, and the third most common chronic disease in children under 18.

A whopping 60 percent of U.S. adults, meanwhile, encounter sleep difficulties, according to global market research firm Mintel, as it states in its February "OTC Sleep Aids -- US" report.

Not surprisingly, sleep aids and allergy remedies are two of the fastest-growing over-the-counter (OTC) categories, says Chirag Patel, director, North American marketing for Apotex Consumer Products, Toronto.

Sprays making gains

Allergy medicine has always been in the top three or four OTC categories when it comes to growth, Patel notes.

"Its growth hasn't stopped, but what's changed is the delivery method," he says.

Nasal allergy sprays are adding a whole new element to the category.

"You're starting to see this explosion of nasal sprays, triggered by Rx-to-OTC switches [such as Flonase and Rhinocort Aqua] that have driven the category in the last 18 months," Patel reports.

Sleep aids are still growing significantly, although "you're not seeing the blockbuster products," Patel observes. "What you see [are] different formats of the same product. From an innovation standpoint, [the category] is growing moderately. It's hitting singles, not home runs."

Private label provided 45 percent of all new product offerings back in 2013, helping to fuel sales the following year, Mintel states.

National brand equivalents (NBEs) of Benadryl and Nasonex (mometasone) are both growing in the double digits, says Mark Bolling, executive vice president, sales and marketing, OTC and generic Rx for PuraCap Pharmaceutical LLC in South Plainfield, N.J.

For sleep aids, the biggest growth is in Unisom equivalents, which PuraCap offers in a 50-milligram softgel, Bolling reports.

Softgels are an advantageous delivery method, because many consumers dislike taking liquid medications, he says.

"Two of the newest products that we're launching right now are diphenhydramine and doxylamine" in softgels, Bolling notes.

Doxylamine, which is used in many cough/cold products, aids sleep and reportedly leaves users with a "less groggy feel" than some other products. Diphenhydramine, meanwhile, used in ZzzQuil, "has become wildly popular with consumers to get to sleep. It shows continued growth in the category," Bolling adds.

Strong competition

New brands will continue to hit the marketplace in these competitive categories, Patel declares.

"The brand companies are all trying to get into the space, leveraging the crowded retail shelves. There's a lot of selection out there," he says.

Retailers, Patel says, will have to decide how much shelf space to devote to own-brand allergy medicines and sleep aids. To succeed, they will have to build consumer loyalty to their store brand.

"Every retailer recognizes their store brand is their most important brand. It makes them the most money," Bolling says, and it builds loyalty to the banner.

Private brand sleep aid offerings make up almost 40 percent of the market, according to Mintel. In a Lightspeed GMI/Mintel survey, about 30 percent of consumers reported using OTC sleep aids, though 60 percent reported having sleep issues.

The survey of 1,195 adult Internet users also found that 32 percent of respondents who reported struggling with sleep were concerned about becoming dependent on OTC sleep aids, while 30 percent were concerned about side effects. Twenty-seven percent said they preferred to use natural sleep remedies such as food, drinks, yoga or meditation.

Mintel advises retailers to pursue new product innovation in sleep aids, but also to address consumer concerns about safety, dependency and side effects. The firm suggests aggressive outreach to millennials, women and parents.

And store brands account for 30 percent of the cough, cold, flu and allergy market, Mintel reports in "Cough, Cold, Flu and Allergy Remedies -- US," published in April 2015. Mintel found that about three-quarters of allergy sufferers use traditional OTC remedies. It also found that 25- to 34-year-olds are less brand loyal and more open to trying new products.

Patel expects store brands to be very competitive in this category.

"For sure, 100 percent, I think the growth will come from store brands," he says. "Retail loyalty is what it comes down to. I think loyal store brand buyers, educated store brand consumers, understand the fact that the [store brand] product gives them the same relief."

Packaging matters

Packaging, Patel says, is probably going to provide the next level of innovation for store brands in these categories. Retailers would do well to offer upscale packaging. If they are willing to spend the extra on packaging, it will pay off in sales and, ultimately, in brand loyalty, he says.

An attractive and prevalent look can be found in translucent PET bottles with pretty foil labels, Bolling says. These types of bottles also show off PuraCap's colorful soft gels to good advantage, he adds.

"They almost look like precious stones," he says. "From an aesthetic standpoint, it jumps off the shelf. It catches the eye."

Walgreens, CVS and some other retailers are using clear bottles to "really draw attention to the product," Bolling adds. The treatment is similar to national brand packaging and very attractive. Furthermore, seeing the medicine is comforting to consumers.

Bolling urges a caution with clear bottling, however. It could be a poor choice for the types of products that fade under florescent lighting.

Easy-to-open caps catering to the elderly and people with arthritis are another important packaging trend to consider adopting, he adds.

"We continue to be challenged by our retail partners to really step up our packaging," Bolling says. "They are looking for more pearlessence, raised lettering and better artwork."

Patel says retailers also must "market like crazy" if they are to succeed in these categories.

That means they must treat their store brand as a real brand, too, Bolling says. But many retailers are stepping up their game in these categories.

"They've really taken the [store brand] and tried to make it better than national brand," he says, "maybe by offering more or by [pointing out features] on-pack that would make the consumer gravitate toward the store brand product. We are really being set up to succeed."


consider the popular diphenhydramine and doxylamine as ingredients for sleep aids.


neglect packaging; embrace opportunities to innovate.


consider clear bottles to show off softgel formats.


forget to address consumer concerns about the safety, dependency and side effects of sleep aids.

Look what's new

New from Better Living Brands LLC (Albertsons Companies, Boise, Idaho), are Signature Care Maximum Strength Sleep-Aid Softgels. Formulated with diphenhydramine HCL, the softgels are claimed to be safe and non-habitforming. They help users fall asleep fast, sleep soundly and wake up refreshed. The softgels retail in a boxed plastic jar containing 32 liquid-filled softgels.

CVS Health, Woonsocket, R.I., introduced CVS Health Fluticasone Propionate Nasal Spray, USP. It is described as an allergy symptom reliever nasal spray that offers 24 hours of relief from nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy nose and sneezing, and helps outdoor, animal and indoor allergens. The non-drowsy spray contains 50mcg glucocorticoid per spray. The product retails in a 0.54-fl.-oz. boxed glass bottle that contains 120 metered sprays.

Source: Mintel's Global New Products Database
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Author:Cvetan, Dana
Publication:Progressive Grocer's Store Brands
Date:Jul 1, 2016
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