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Weight-loss services, kits gain repeat customers

BY Michael Johnsen

The sale of diet aids and weight-management products is booming — approaching the $5 billion mark as an overall category across total multi-outlets, growing at a 12% clip.

But the real opportunity is in weight-loss services. You not only get those return trips for advice and the opportunity to sell additional fitness-oriented products, you have the potential of having a transformed patient who associates "healthy living" with the retail banner.

For example, MinuteClinic’s new weight-loss program incorporates the DASH diet. The program includes weekly visits with a MinuteClinic practitioner, as well as nutrition and weight-loss advice — and most insurance plans cover the cost of the program.

Walmart recently adjusted its perception on what meal replacement options consumers would buy in the mass channel with a pilot with Nutrisystem. The initial results were so positive, Walmart expanded that pilot to more than 3,700 locations based on strong consumer demand. "We’re seeing repeat business at Walmart, as well as multiple kit purchases, indicating that customers are seeing good results and enlisting other family members to diet with them," noted Dawn Zier, Nutrisystem CEO. "We expect to have additional product and kit to launch in retail for the 2014 diet season."

Within the weight-loss tablet space, GlaxoSmithKline’s Alli has been gaining traction with its return to market. Alli, the largest product in the space in terms of dollars, is experiencing 22.7% growth on sales of $62.6 million, according to IRI. GSK is rebuilding this brand under a new marketing campaign branded, "Let’s fight fat."
 

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Devices, apps promote preventive approach

BY Michael Johnsen

For the three months ended in May, smartphone penetration reached 61% of the U.S. market, according to Nielsen. Penetration of smartphones remained lowest among Americans ages 55 years and older (42%), but this group is catching up fast, as penetration among this demographic has nearly doubled over the past year.

As tech-savvy baby boomers continue to explore ways to extend their quality of life, the healthcare system is moving from a "sick care" model to a outcomes-based, disease-state-prevention model that will eventually incent young and old to better track their health care ‚ — benefiting sales of tech-enabled self-care devices.

Installations of mobile apps used for sports and fitness activities are set to rise by 63% from 2012 to 2017, generating strong potential demand for wearable health devices like heart rate monitors, or HRMs. "An IHS consumer survey revealed that 62% of respondents interested in using sports and fitness apps also were prepared to purchase hardware that enhances the functionality of the software," said Shane Walker, senior manager for consumer and digital health research at IHS.

For those products helping consumers to self-monitor existing health conditions — total multi-outlet annual sales for blood-glucose meters are up 3.7%, according to IRI, and blood-pressure monitors are up 1.5% — even a slightly improving economy is expected to further lift this category. "A lot of [the growth] is due to the economy improving," noted Ranndy Kellogg, COO of Omron Healthcare. "People are starting to take better care of themselves. It’s not that there are less doctor recommendations or less hypertensives," Kellogg said, rather self-diagnostics was seen as a "nice-to-have" purchase.

 

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Gender-specific products target overlooked health issues

BY Michael Johnsen

The big news in incontinence is Oxytrol, which doesn’t reach store shelves until September. It’s a switched product coming from Merck Consumer Care that brings an entirely new indication to the over-the-counter space — overactive bladder in women.

Some analysts are hesitant to suggest a new OTC category will translate into blockbuster-style sales. However, overactive bladder is a lot like smoking cessation or weight loss in the sense that women don’t necessarily discuss these symptoms with their doctors, according to the National Association for Continence.

Private-label manufacturers are already bullish on the opportunity Oxytrol represents. "When Oxytrol was approved, that was an important product opportunity," said Joe Papa, chairman, CEO and president of Perrigo. "It opens up the category of overactive bladder [to switch]," he said, and that means other overactive bladder medicines like Detrol or Ditropan may have a pathway to OTC.

Targeting men with light bladder leakage in this space, Kimberly-Clark this spring launched Depend Guards and Shields and partnered with former professional football player Tony Siragusa to help promote the product. "Historically, men with light bladder leakage have been ignored by the industry," said Elizabeth Metz, Depend brand director at Kimberly-Clark. "As a result, many men have had to use products that were designed for women or look like they were."

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