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External analgesics rub consumers the right way

BY Michael Johnsen

There is a pair of significant reasons sales of external analgesics, including heat and ice packs, should be picking up in the coming year. First and foremost, the down economy continues to shape shopping behavior, and that should benefit sales of all external analgesics—because whether the consumer is treating an acute muscle ache from the prior weekend’s activities, or is suffering from a chronic pain-relieving need from such a condition as arthritis, external analgesic pain relief can either save a trip to the doctor or complement that doctor’s treatment regimen with little fear of drug-drug interaction.

Consumers also are becoming more sensitive to, and aware of, their overall pain management regimen, noted Scott Matolka, director of marketing topicals for Hygenic. “What might be benefiting topicals a bit more [than the economy] these days is a much higher awareness level and preference not to orally medicate,” he said. “The American consumer of late has become very savvy and concerned about [the medicines] that they’re putting into their bodies.” That’s a market driver that bodes well for the future of the category, especially given the aging of the baby boomers. The first of the baby boomers turns 65 years old next year, which means a steady flow of patients already saddled with a higher average of oral prescription medicines.

Top 10 external analgesic rubs and private-label sales

*In millionsSource: SymphonyIRI Group for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 8 across food, drug and mass (minus Walmart) channels
BRAND SALES* %CHANGE VS. YEAR AGO
Icy hot $69.5 10.2%
BenGay 34.8 -3.8
Private label 32.5 8.8
Aspercreme 16.6 -4.7
Salonpas 12.5 2.1
Tiger Balm 11.4 13.6
Biofreeze 7.3 22.7
ActivOn 5.4 -29.6
Stopain 5.2 -3.8
Neuragen PN 4.9 5.0
Bikini Zone 4.6 19.4
TOTAL $273.1 -4.6%

And while historically topical analgesics have trended older, Matolka noted, an affinity for topical pain relief also is developing among younger consumers. In fact, as Hygenic parlays its professional Biofreeze into the mass market with its “Perform, from the makers of Biofreeze,” the company plans to target younger users.

For example, Hygenic recently penned a sponsorship deal with the organizers behind the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, which currently hosts annual marathons across 17 cities. All Rock ‘n’ Roll Series events feature a two-day health-and-fitness expo prior to the event, where all participants must visit to pick up their race packets. It’s at those types of events that Hygenic will look to actively engage younger consumers who are likely to become heavier users.

Beyond representing a cost savings to consumers, the depressed economy may be increasing the number of patients in search of pain relief, as workers put in longer hours. As part of its relaunch into the external analgesic rub space, Expedite Products introduced a new product that may have direct appeal to people working longer hours—Freeze It For Feet, a 3-oz. roll-on. “Over the last three to five years, there’ve been more condition-specific analgesics for different therapeutic uses,” said Fred Miller, president and CEO at Expedite. Consumers are looking for different products to address different needs, he said.

In addition to Expedite Products’ Freeze It For Feet launch, the company plans to support the relaunch of its entire Freeze It lineup in the coming year with consumer advertising across print, radio and TV, and an extensive sampling campaign at such sporting events as marathons.

And McNeil Consumer Healthcare, marketers of the No. 2 rub BenGay, recently launched BenGay Pain Relief + Massage, a product that incorporates roller-balls that help massage the rub into the area in need of relief. McNeil also rolled out its Tylenol Precise, parlaying its well-known internal analgesic brand into pain patches and rubs (see story, this page).

Top 10 heat/ice packs and private-label sales

*In millionsSource: SymphonyIRI Group for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 8 across food, drug and mass (minus Walmart) channels
BRAND SALES* %CHANGE VS. YEAR AGO
Thermacare $50.8 10.3%
Private label 50.6 21.4
ThermiPaq 6.1 27.2
Ace 6.1 -9.2
ThermalOn 3.7 204.7
Cryo-Max 3.4 -7.0
Bed Buddy 3.3 -45.3
HotHands 2 2.8 19.5
Kaz SmartTemp 2.6 1.3
Be Koool 2.5 10.7
Theramed 2.3 -13.0
TOTAL $153.0 6.1%

And Boiron plans to relaunch its homeopathic Arnicare pain relief into the mass market, supported by a $3.8 million ad spend in the coming year. Arnicare products began shipping last month with an official launch date of early 2011.

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Assured sees high rise in same-store sales

BY Alaric DeArment

FRISCO, Texas September same-store sales at Assured Pharmacy increased by 13.5% compared with last year, the specialty pharmacy provider said Thursday.

Assured, which specializes in treating chronic pain, said sales were $1.4 million, or around $66,253 per business day, compared with $1.23 million a year ago.

“We are pleased with our September sales results and our continued patient growth, with 3,064 patients serviced in the month of September,” CEO Robert DelVecchio said. “As these sales figures reflect, we remain on track for increased sales and market share growth, improved earnings at the store level and stronger cash flow.”

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Retailers, drug makers can help cut diabetes rate

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT The dramatic rise in the prevalence of diabetes over the next several decades is likely to place huge strains on the U.S. healthcare system, costing the country hundreds of billions of dollars every year. It also means the diabetes market will continue to be a hot bed for innovation for decades to come.

(THE NEWS: Diabetes prevalence among Americans may increase to 33%, CDC study finds. For the full story, click here)

Barring a cure for the disease or a dramatic reversal of current trends, the plague of Type 2 diabetes is likely to get worse and account for numerous hospitalizations, as it already does. According to the government Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, nearly 1-in-5 U.S. hospitalizations in 2008 were related to diabetes, with the greatest concentration in the South.

No individual, company or even government agency can reverse the trend on its own, but many — including retailers — can help. And that will continue to feed a frenzy of activity in this space.

Agrowing number of supermarkets across the country have used various means to promote healthy eating, ranging from easy-to-read nutritional rating systems to in-store nutrition experts and store tours. Meanwhile, pharmacists and retail clinicians, as healthcare providers, can use their expertise to spread awareness as well. Rite Aid stores will offer free Diabetes Solutions Days events Nov. 2 through 4.

Health insurer Anthem Blue Cross has won recognition for a pilot diabetes program, “Bridging Cultural Health Care Gaps: Diabetes,” which seeks to find culturally appropriate ways to communicate about diabetes to African-American and Hispanic members. Anthem conducted the pilot among 4,000 of its members in California and Georgia, and plans to expand the program to other states. 

More of these localized types of efforts — borne out of the spirit of the Ashville Project — continue to arise.

And of course, manufacturers continue to lead the innovation, and many are going beyond just products. Novo Nordisk recently released the BlueSheet, a report that promotes awareness and education in the prevention and treatment of diabetes.

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