Talking Shop with… John Durkin

The vice president of sales and marketing for Boiron USA says shoppers that purchase homeopathic medicines spend more at the store.

Grocery Headquarters: Tell us about Boiron.
John Durkin:
Boiron, a world leader in homeopathic medicines, is a $730 million public company with 4,000 employees and distribution in more than 80 countries. It is best known for Oscillococcinum, a top-selling flu medicine, Chestal cough syrup and its Arnicare line of pain relievers. For nearly 80 years, Boiron has been committed to funding scientific research and educating the public and healthcare professionals on homeopathic medicines. As a pharmaceutical company, Boiron maintains the highest standards in manufacturing, complying with U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations, the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States and good drug manufacturing practices.

The company is making a move into supermarkets? Why and what is your strategy?
Our flagship product, Oscillococcinum for flu-like symptoms, has been present in supermarkets for several years. Its success and consumers’ desire for more natural OTCs has provided Boiron an opportunity to expand its product line to include Coldcalm (for cold symptoms), Chestal (for cough symptoms) and more Arnicare (for muscle pain swelling and bruising).

Currently, 44% of mainstream shoppers (not “core” health food store shoppers) who purchase natural OTC products do so in non-traditional channels. However, when asked what the most important purchasing factor is besides price/value, “easily being able to find the product where I shop,” ranked second only to effectiveness. This creates an opportunity for mainstream supermarkets to expand their natural health and wellness offerings and capture the “natural” shopper.

How do retailers benefit from this move and what should they do to maximize sales from your products?
In addition to the benefit stated above, homeopathic consumers are valuable shoppers. They shop more, and they spend more. Research shows that consumers’ shopping baskets containing homeopathic medicines have a higher ring in supermarkets, drug stores and mass retail outlets. Specifically in supermarkets, baskets with homeopathic medicines have an average ring value of $73 in comparison to $32 for those that do not (SPINSscan Shopper Insights year ended June 26, 2010).

What retailers can do to maximize sales is merchandise homeopathic medicines in their traditional categories. Most shoppers prefer to find homeopathic medicines in the OTC section of the store “mixed in with the traditional/conventional OTC products” or “within their own section within the traditional/conventional OTC products,” according to Boiron’s shopping habits survey.

What about educating consumers?
Boiron is positioning its products to take advantage of the key research findings by educating consumers on the benefits of its products. Boiron’s media advertising for Oscillococcinum and the Chestal cough syrup line last season was valued at $11.5 million and included television, magazine and digital.  Advertising, along with packaging and public relations efforts all highlight the safety aspect of these medicines.

To raise benefit awareness and help drive consumer demand, Boiron is actively engaged with moms through an aggressive social media campaign. New product Facebook pages and a Twitter account (OscilloTwitter@OscilloUSA) have been created, along with several new product-specific websites, including Oscillo.com and ChildrensChestal.com. Sampling is done through moms’ clubs, mom bloggers and blogger conventions.

Homeopathic medicines are gaining awareness among shoppers. What does the future hold?
About 20 years ago in France, like elsewhere in Europe, homeopathic medicines experienced a surge in growth.  Driving this growth were consumers looking for safer, more natural treatment options. Physicians were also looking for more holistic approaches and increasingly began prescribing homeopathic medicines. Since then, Boiron has grown into the second largest OTC pharmaceutical company in France.

Today Boiron is seeing similar market conditions happening right here in the U.S. where consumers are also looking for safer, more natural treatments and are seeking out Boiron’s medicines because they don’t have unwanted side effects or drug interactions.

An increasing number of physicians, pharmacists and other medical practitioners are seeking more education regarding homeopathic medicines. The high traffic in Boiron’s booth at medical shows reflects this growing interest on the part of these healthcare professionals. All indicators confirm that we are starting off on our own path of steady growth.

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