Well into the pandemic’s second year, over-the-counter healthcare brands like Mucinex, Afrin, Nature Made, Natrol and Icy Hot continue to show strong sales growth despite consumers’ making fewer trips to drug and grocery stores, according to Catalina Marketing’s Buyer Intelligence Database. However, Catalina cautioned marketers about shifting brand loyalties.
Analyzing data from Sept. 1 to Nov. 10, Catalina found consumers were spending more per each retail visit than they had before the pandemic. Compared with the same period in 2019, consumers made 5% fewer trips to stores, but spent 19% more per visit, with dollars per store up 13%. (The 19% increase in dollars per trip is offset by the 5% decrease in trips, leading to the overall 13% increase in store sales, according to a Catalina spokesperson.)
From June 1, 2020 through Nov. 14, 2021, 23% of consumers did not return to their previous OTC health care brands, and 44% of those who did return still reported a decrease in their brand loyalty. Consumer behavior has been impacted by “persistent out-of-stocks,” the marketing data firm noted.
In cough and cold remedies, Catalina found sales up 61.8% over the same period a year earlier, and attributed that gain to more people seeking treatments to deal with a resurgent cough, cold and flu season versus a milder season in 2020, when people were relatively sequestered. Reckitt’s Mucinex was the top brand in this category, with sales up a whopping 94% over 2020.
Sales of nasal sprays and asthma remedies were up 29.4%, with Bayer’s Afrin leading the way with a 32% increase.
Immunity-boosting products showed a 14.1% increase YOY and an 86.7% increase boost over 2019, with Nature Made leading the way at 11% over 2020.
Sleep aids were up 12.9% over 2020 and 44.8% over 2019, with Catalina suggesting that “people continue to deal with restless nights as the pandemic goes on.” Natrol led in this category with an 19% increase over 2020.
External analgesics were up 5.5% over 2020 and 23.9% over 2019, with Icy Hot up 8% over 2020.
Vitamin sales rose 9.5%, over 2020 and 31.2% over 2019, led Led by Nature Made at 12% over 2020.
Catalina broke down target audiences into four groups: new enthusiasts, symptom busters, lapsed users and vulnerable brand loyals.
To reach new enthusiasts, it suggests marketers “proactively target these shoppers and tailor your messaging to the benefits and attributes that brought them to your brand.”
To reach symptom busters: “Promote your brand’s reputation and link to treating specific symptoms. Reinforce and amplify correct usage through social and new media.
To reach lapsed users: “Use sequential messaging through mobile and digital ads, CTV, and out-of-home. Offer ‘re-trial’ incentives to those who don’t respond to advertising.”
To reach vulnerable brand loyals: “Review your pricing and promotion strategy to regain preference for your brand, and remember it’s less expensive to keep current customers than gain new ones.”
“It starts with knowing your audience and tailoring your outreach to them with messaging that is both personal and relevant," stated Catalina CMO Marta Cyhan.