World of pain: Self-care, launches bring analgesics big sales
Busy consumers are rarely lacking for something that pains them. But consumers concerned about the opioid epidemic, as well as the abuse potential associated with powerful prescription pain relief, have been making the trek to their local pharmacies in search of alternative solutions.
And they are finding those solutions in the OTC aisles.
“As Americans, we have witnessed the growing problems from opioid abuse. No matter the reason or purpose for using opioids, these consumers are experiencing pain, whether it is due to their current condition or due to the issues arising from the lack of current medication options,” Ben Blessing, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Bristol, Tenn.-based NFI Consumer Products, said. “The topical pain market in no way can be a substitute for treatment, but, as opposed to oral OTC analgesics, the side effect profiles are much smaller and the broad ranges of uses are wide, as well.”
Fallout from the opioid epidemic alone does not explain the explosive growth associated with the external analgesic category, which generated $723.6 million in sales across total U.S. multi-outlets for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 3, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm.
One macro trend is the continued migration of healthcare cost to the consumer. “This real shift from managed care to self-care is driving a lot of growth,” Michael McGoohan, chief marketing officer at Warrenville, Ill.-based Performance Health, said. “You’re seeing people shift a little from the oral, [and] topical analgesics are benefitting from that.”
As more consumers turn to self-care of their aches and pains, they also are seeing more options in the pain aisle as manufacturers introduce new options that span different delivery forms and active ingredients.
“In just the past year, the category has seen an explosion of products containing lidocaine, as well as the entrance of new products such as SalonPas [and] PainBloc24 that are offering
longer-term pain relief solutions,” Jodi Murnick, spokesperson at Baltimore-based Vizuri USA, said. “PainBloc24, in particular, offers a category-leading 24-hour pain relief claim when used every day, which will help to bring new consumers to the category.”
John Incledon, CEO of Salonpas maker Hisamitsu America, based in Florham Park, N.J, noted that external analgesics, excluding heat wraps and TENS devices, saw sales rise 17.8% for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 3. “That is a substantial gain, nearly $100 million,” Incledon said. Incidentally, more than $60 million of that increase can be traced to the introduction of Performance Health’s BioFreeze, a pre-existing SKU that shifted channels from professional to mass outlets.
With the pain relief category booming, the difficulty for retailers is in culling their
product selections from a flood of options.
“I don’t envy the role buyers have in this category. They are inundated with innovations that they place bets on and sometimes the bets don’t pay out,” Incledon said. “Take the TENS business, looking at 52 week data, you still see double-digit increases, but looking at 12 week data, virtually every brand is down versus year ago, and some as much as 30% to 40%. This is a
clear indication this segment needs to be re-evaluated for space and assortment.”
McGoohan agreed, adding that education could be one way retailers help consumers navigate a crowded field. “The biggest challenge today is how do you improve the shopability of aisle,” he said. “Retailers and brands need to help explain the differentiation to consumers. What is maybe missing today is a bit of that ‘premiumization’ that you see being so successful in other categories.”
New sleep, analgesic products take novel approaches
Dormin hits the big time
Over the past year, Cornwall, N.Y.-based Randob Labs has been revving its marketing engines to support the mass-market launch of its venerable Dormin sleep aid product with the help of RLA Collective. Dormin has been on pharmacy shelves since the 1950s, primarily through the independent channel, and contains the active ingredient diphenhydramine hydrochloride. Citing Hamacher Resource Group, Randob Labs’ Dormin is the No. 3 best-selling sleep aid across independent pharmacy. Dormin is available in the patient-preferred capsule format, the company noted, adding that it dissolves three times faster than comparable medicines on the market.
NFI slows pain relief’s roll
For 2018, Bristol, Tenn.-based NFI Consumer Products is highlighting its newest innovation into the external analgesics category with its sponge-top, child-resistant lidocaine product. The new pain reliever takes advantage of the current lidocaine OTC ingredient, but allows consumers the option of a hands-free application without the use of a simple bottle or a roller ball that contains alcohol, NFI said.
Strides gets consumers through the night
Strides Pharma is breaking ground in the sleep aid category with its Nite Thru. The East Brunswick, N.J.-based company said its time-released melatonin product provides lower doses of the natural sleep aid to help consumers doze off, and higher doses released throughout the course of the night to help maintain that restful state. The product retails for a suggested price of $11.99 and will be promoted through a robust media campaign that will incorporate digital ads, social media and television.
Vizuri launch eases pain
Vizuri last year had a successful test-and-learn regional launch of its PainBloc24, a 24-hour topical pain relieving product for arthritis joint pain. This year, the Herndon, Va.-based company is focused on a full food, drug and mass rollout of two SKUs. The NeuroMax technology in PainBloc24 delivers the maximum allowable OTC dose of its pain-blocking medicine, capsaicin, which turns off certain nerve fibers that send pain signals to the brain, the company said. In a clinical study, 60% of patients reported a reduction in arthritic knee pain for 24 hours following 1-to-2 daily applications of PainBloc24.
No rest for sleep solutions
It’s no longer enough for sleep aids to just help consumers fall asleep. The category is seeing growing numbers of consumers stumbling into the sleep aid aisle in search of something that will knock them out without feeling like they’ve been hit in the head by a prizefighter the next morning. And as with other categories, a growing number want a natural solution to their sleepless nights.
Roughly two-thirds (67%) of Americans said they have trouble falling asleep at least once a month, and nearly half (47%) reported that they experience this trouble at least once a week, according to Procter & Gamble’s latest ZzzQuil consumer survey. Additionally, 4-in-5 consumers who tried a sleep aid reported that it helped them fall asleep more easily and stay asleep.
According to several suppliers in the category, sleep-deprived consumers want something that works quickly, keeps them sleeping through the night and leaves them refreshed and ready to take on the new day.
“When it comes to people falling asleep, they want to do it fast,” said Jim Creagan, president of Cornwall, N.Y-based Randob Labs, which markets Dormin. “Delivering on that promise is a key factor in the sleep aid category. With Dormin’s marketing, we stress how our capsules are fast-dissolving so they work quickly.”
Almost half (46%) of consumers who turned to aromatherapy were successful getting some shut-eye, and 45% of those who tried drinking hot tea reported that helped them fall asleep more easily and stay asleep. These consumers seem to be part of a growing group who prefer sleep aids that help them get som rest naturally.
“[Shoppers don’t] want to rely on chemicals that will leave them groggy the next morning,” said Richard King, director of consumer health care at East Brunswick, N.J.-based Strides Pharma, which markets melatonin product Nite Thru.
“Our product releases melatonin 3 mg when taken, which helps someone get to sleep, and then another 7 mg, which is released over the course of the night to ensure they stay asleep, waking up well rested and refreshed.”
As suppliers work to make their products meet consumer demands, they’re also focusing on retail strategies to increase category sales. Suppliers said retailers can help optimize sleep sales by capitalizing on seasonal merchandising opportunities. “Like beer and chips get front and center during Super Bowl season, sleep aids can be promoted at key times seasonally, as well,” Randob Labs’ Creagan said, noting that Daylight Savings Time — which throws off sleep patterns — presents a prime opportunity for retailers.
An evergreen approach that sleep aids makers are taking is targeting millennial shoppers short on sleep. Randob Labs has been using this tactic to successfully build a strong sales base for Dormin.
“The millennial audience isn’t typically targeted by sleep aids, so we’re looking to break the mold,” Creagan said. Randob Labs has worked with its marketing agency RLA collective to grow its social media and digital presence, including creating a character named Norman to appeal to younger shoppers.
Creagan said that the campaign has managed to keep Dormin, which has been on the market since the 1950s and is in the midst of a mass-market launch, fresh.
“Randob Labs is growing as we embrace the newest ways to cost effectively and creatively reach our potential niche consumers to drive them to our partner retailers,” he said. “We believe we are strategically taking advantage of marketing avenues that make our brands more relevant and we are seeing the sales results.”