'Tripledemic' Spurs Rising Sales For Related OTC Products

Strike three! Catalina Marketing is keeping score of store sales related to the current "tripledemic" (flu, COVID and RSV -- respiratory syncytial virus), and the results are good -- for OTC marketers, if not the suffering public.

Unit sales of OTC products related to the current tripledemic rose an average of 19% year-over-year during October and November, according to newly released data from Catalina’s Shopper Intelligence Platform. During the same period, sales fell 3% for OTC products overall, Catalina said.

"While RSV rates have started to fall, the flu season is expected to last through February 2023, so the overall 'tripledemic' will continue to have an impact on OTC shopper behavior well into the New Year," said Sean Murphy, Catalina’s chief data and analytics officer, in announcing the results.

The sales increases for tripledemic-related products mirrored a “significant” October rise in Google searches pertaining to flu and respiratory virus infections, Catalina said. During the same period, however, searches related to COVID were relatively flat, the company added, with sales of at-home testing kits and face masks down a whopping 45%.



"Sales of home COVID testing kits may have dropped as consumers become less vigilant about spreading the virus and the federal government continues to provide free home kits,” said Murphy. “Following the large social gatherings that accompany year-end holidays, Catalina expects to see an uptick in kit purchases when an expected surge in cases follows in January.”

Prices of products related to the tripledemic also rose significantly in October and November, up an average of 12%, but Catalina noted that these “inflation and related price increases have had little impact on virus product categories.”

Children’s analgesics, which have been in short supply at many retailers, led the sales increases at 69%, while prices rose 16%.

Both children’s analgesics and children’s cough/cold products (up 19% in sales and 18% in price) were the only tripledemic-related product categories that saw increased sales for private-label brands. Catalina says this was likely caused by a “small flurry of panic buying” caused by news reports of those product shortages.

The largest average price increase -- 23% -- came in the “adult cough/sore throat drops/lozenges” category, whose unit sales rose 26%.

The scorecard for other product categories:
-- Adult cough/cold rose 39% in sales, with prices up 11%.
-- Chest rubs rose 15% in sales, with prices up just 5%.
-- Nasal sprays and asthma remedies rose 14% in sales, with prices up 6%.
-- Adult analgesics rose just 6% in sales, with prices up 11%.

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