Cold case

Once considered a seasonal business, cough and cold products are now an everyday category.

It used to be the winter months were the prime time people caught a cold or the flu, but the mobile nature of our society makes it hard to get through the day without running into someone who is sniffing, sneezing, coughing or wheezing.

According to the National Institutes of Health, Americans experience more than one billion colds annually. Children typically get as many as eight colds each year, compared to the average adult who catches two to four colds a year.

While it may be called a common cold, it still makes a person feel miserable. So for these reasons and more, people look for relief from over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines, which can help ease symptoms. Although many shoppers continue to turn to traditional products for help, an increasing number of people are considering natural remedies, either in place of or in addition to conventional treatments.

OTC cold and flu remedies are about a $2.5 billion category and natural product sales comprise as much as 15% of that total, say industry observers. Natural cough and cold remedies have been steadily climbing for the past several years, a clear sign, some experts say, that consumers are becoming disenchanted with traditional options. As consumers see the benefits of natural food products, they are more receptive to exploring natural cough and cold alternatives, say observers.

Given that the average person often uses multiple products to treat a cold, experts say that consumers appreciate the fact that many natural products can be used in conjunction with traditional ones. It was with that in mind that Freehold, N.J.-based TheraBiogen, maker of TheraMax homeopathic nasal sprays, recently introduced a sore throat spray. As is the case with all of its products, the sore throat spray features non-addictive, natural, homeopathic ingredients and contains no zinc, say company officials.

According to Kelly Hickel, CEO of TheraBiogen, consumers are drawn to the company’s products because they work fast and are effective due to the right combination of active ingredients. “Our products can significantly relieve the severity and duration of the common cold and flu, as well as aid in the relief of seasonal allergies and sore throats,” says Hickel.

When it comes to throat and chest lozenges, taste is just as important as their ability to address cold symptoms, according to Denis Cronin, the U.S. sales manager for Manchester, N.H.-based Jakemans. “Today’s consumers are looking for relief from allergy and cough and cold symptoms with products that are efficacious and also taste good,” says Cronin.

Cronin notes that Jakemans’ lozenges are all-natural. “Our products contain honey, lemon, anise and eucalyptus oil and are completely free from harsh chemicals, plus our unique formulation provides soothing relief and unique flavor,” he says. “Our products’ taste keeps bringing customers back and the ingredients bring comfort to those who are experiencing cough cold symptoms.”

Children’s remedies
Given the frequency children get colds, it is no surprise that much of the attention in the cough cold category often centers on safe, effective and convenient products for kids. “Talking to parents we saw how frustrated they were in finding a safe children’s pain relief product that was easy and convenient to administer,” says Wade Ambler, brand director for New Castle, Del.-based ScripsAmerica. “As many parents have discovered, there has not been much innovation in the children’s pain relief category for several years. Any new products have been merely a modification of existing dosage forms,” says Ambler.

ScripsAmerica’s RapiMed is a quick dissolving tablet that melts in a child’s mouth in about 15 seconds, which is four to eight times faster than other brands, say company officials. The sugar-free product, which is available in wild grape and bubble gum flavors, is individually blister carded to preserve product integrity and was designed as such to make it easy for parents to administer on the go without the need for dosing devices or water.

“RapiMed was inspired by necessity,” says Ambler. “Given the number of recalls and dosage concerns during the last few years associated with liquid cough and cold products for kids parents were searching for better, safer options.” According to Ambler, RapiMed’s proprietary technology makes it easier to safely and quickly dose a child without the hassle, mess and concern for inaccuracy associated with dose cups or syringes. The products, which feature bilingual directions, will launch in July.

Los Angeles-based Hyland’s has introduced a 100% natural Baby Cough Syrup that is formulated for infants six months and older, to relieve symptoms for a variety of coughs. Building on the success of Hyland’s Cough Syrup with 100% Natural Honey 4 Kids for children ages 2- to 12-years-old, Hyland’s new Baby Cough Syrup offers a solution to parents searching for OTC medicines to ease an infant’s discomfort.

Manufacturers are also launching products that address the respiratory issues surrounding coughs and colds. Asheville, N.C.-based King Bio recently introduced RespiratoryCare, which company officials say is a complementary product to its AsthmaCare formula. “Many people have experienced the way a bad cold may progress into the lungs and chest. Certain people are especially prone to these types of ailments, expressing many different types of coughs, from ‘dry’ to ‘productive’ to ‘wheezing,” says Dr. Frank J. King, Jr., president and owner of King Bio. According to King,

RespiratoryCare addresses all these issues plus many of the other symptoms associated with chronic lung disorders—another growing category of health problems for which King says consumers are seeking safe medicines.

“RespiratoryCare is an advanced homeopathic formula which uses nine homeopathic ingredients in three powerful, yet gentle, potencies to help relieve symptoms of bronchial inflammation, cough, excess mucus and lung and bronchial congestion,” says King. Since colds and coughs are so often linked with flu symptoms, King Bio offers Multi-Strain FluCare, which King points out sells well when placed near RespiratoryCare.

Hyland’s has recently introduced several homeopathic products that address cough cold concerns. Hyland’s new DEFEND Cold & Cough, DEFEND Cold & Cough Night and DEFEND Sinus, offer multi-symptom relief for adults in natural formulas that are non-drowsy and free from dyes, alcohol and sugar.

According officials at Hyland’s, DEFEND can be used to safely and effectively alleviate common cold and sinus-related symptoms in adults without diphenhydramine, dextromethorphan or phenylephrine. “DEFEND Cold & Cough soothes symptoms including nasal congestion, cough, sore throat and sneezing in a non-drowsy liquid formula that is ideal for daytime relief,” says Les Hamilton, vice president of sales for Hyland’s. Whereas DEFEND Cold & Cough Night liquid formula, Hamilton points out, is designed to alleviate cold symptoms as well as the occasional sleeplessness that accompanies them. Likewise, DEFEND Sinus quick-dissolving tablets are specifically formulated to relieve symptoms of sinus pressure, headache, nasal congestion, sinus pain and fever associated with colds or allergies.

“While the most recent cough and cold season has been [mild], early adopters of our items have seen a positive margin and sales effect to their categories,” says Hamilton. “We believe that grocery and drugstore accounts that have not picked up Hyland’s DEFEND items are missing a key opportunity at offering their adult customer a natural, safe alternative solution to remedying their colds.”

Timing is everything
To encourage treatment at the right time for consumers and provide added value for retailers, Newtown Square, Pa.-based Boiron USA has launched its best-seller Oscillococcinum in a 30-dose package. Company officials say that busy moms and professionals will value the ability to treat flu-like symptoms quickly, conveniently and less expensively. They also say that the new item will help retailers attract loyal shoppers and increase revenue.

“In France, where Oscillococcinum has been well-known as a first-defense medicine for more than 65 years, an online study of 1,200 people showed that one-third of users purchase five or more boxes of the traditional six-dose package [for a total of 30 doses] per year,” says John Durkin, vice president, sales and marketing for the company. “When initially feeling hot and fatigued, with headache, body aches and pains, the French know to act quickly with this familiar homeopathic medicine. They know there’s no need to delay treatment out of concerns of side effects, including drowsiness or interaction with other medications,” says Durkin.

For consumers, Durkin points out that Boiron has now cost-effectively packaged its Oscillococcinum to promote preparedness at the crucial early stage. “Within the mega box, handy break-away packs of three doses support stocking Oscillo in purses, at work, in toiletry travel totes and elsewhere to take quick action at the first sign of symptom, especially in highly contagious environments like homes and offices,” he says.

While having an ample supply removes barriers to treatment due to accessibility, Durkin notes that the low cost-per-dose removes possible price-based hesitations to usage. As Oscillo users trade-up from the popular six dose, he points out the new Oscillococcinum 30 dose can increase retailers’ revenue while consumers save more per dose—a win-win in this economic climate.

According to Cronin, Jakemans has recently launched a berry-flavored chest and throat lozenge in a sugar-free formula. “We received many requests from consumers who cannot or who do not want to use sugar-based products. The new product has the same great flavor that consumers have been enjoying in England for more than 100 years, but without the sugar,” he says.

Proper placement
The time has come, says TheraBiogen’s Hickel, to feature natural cough and cold products near traditional counterparts. As he sees it, when consumers have a cold, flu or allergy they want quick and simple relief from products that won’t cause issues. “They don’t come into the store equating all that with something that is natural so the best way to nab the sale is to feature products like ours alongside traditional offerings,” he says.

The other component is having pharmacists who are educated about the array of natural cough and cold remedies that are carried in the store. “Playing the role of customer, I’ve asked a number of pharmacists to recommend something for my cold, but frequently find they are not aware of what homeopathic products are and what they can do. For retailers that means money is being left on the table.”

Based on recent study findings, Boiron USA’s Durkin agrees there is a clear opportunity for retailers to expand categories and integrate natural products into traditional sets. “For example, placing a daily immune-boosting vitamin next to a first-sign-of-symptom homeopathic medicine next to a traditional OTC for full blown symptoms correlates with how people are shopping to prevent or treat symptoms,” says Durkin.

Cronin says Jakemans’ throat and chest lozenges may be natural, but sell best when merchandised in the HBC aisle along with other cough and cold items. “This is where most consumers look for these products and with the national and regional advertising we are currently using this is where we are driving the customers to,” he says.

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