Acquisitions galore

The consumer healthcare market has experienced a steady stream of mergers and acquisitions in recent years. Some of this has created small ripples — like pebbles being gently tossed into still waters. Then there are the mega-mergers that have had a tsunami-like effect.

Speaking at a recent gathering of the global OTC industry in London, Rakesh Kapoor, CEO of Reckitt Benckiser, pointed out that the industry was "very fragmented," and fragmented industries "eventually head for consolidation.” He went on to predict that consolidation of the global consumer healthcare industry is set to continue and will likely produce a leading player with sales of between U.S. $25 billion and U.S. $40 billion.
Let’s first look at some of the smaller brands that have been acquired and what that has meant for both parties. Then, I’ll offer some viewpoints about the larger, more thunderous acquisitions that have stirred the market across the globe.

The small getting bigger
Prestige Brands is a fabulous example of a small, nimble consumer healthcare company that recognized the desire of large CPG companies to spin off lower-producing brands that were not expanding market share. If Prestige spots a brand that is overshadowed by its owner’s more prominent brands, it swoops in and whisks it away. It has become Prestige Brands’ modus operando. For the former owner, it provides some additional capital – financial and resources — to redirect to the remaining stable of powerhouse brands. Most recently, Prestige absorbed Insight Pharmaceuticals and staked claim to its first $100M brand, Monistat.

Another example is Chattem Brands, the consumer healthcare division of Sanofi. Such highly acclaimed launches of mega Rx-to-OTC switches as Allegra and Nasacort more than solidify its legacy. However, it has been such brand acquisitions as Rolaids and ACT that reinforced the company’s foundation as a premier consumer products’ marketer,along with their other their other growth-oriented brands, including Gold Bond and Icy Hot.

The large growing larger
Johnson & Johnson’s acquisition and later divesture of Pfizer Consumer may have been the start of the rise of big market moves. The result was threefold:

  1. Captured the attention of investors and benefitted shareholders in the process;
  2. Spotlighted a portfolio of powerhouse consumer brands and overcame concern about an otherwise anemic Rx pipeline; and
  3. Aligned and streamlined an industry that had perhaps become a bit fragmented.

It was from this large merger that numerous smaller brands found new homes and led way to the rise of a number of highly-focused consumer health players, such as Prestige and WellSpring among others.

Reckitt Benckiser has been busily acquiring brands to round out its U.S. and global footprint. The initial acquisition of Adams Respiratory and its Mucinex franchise was well-timed, strategic and stage-setting for the company. This momentum drove them to next acquire Durex, Schiff and, most recently, K-Y.

Valeant is another manufacturer deliberately — and aggressively — growing its stable of products. The company strengthened its OTC footprint with acquisitions of Fleming Pharmaceuticals (Ocean) and Coria Laboratories (CeraVe). Then, as they swallowed up Bausch & Lomb, it became immediately apparent that their sights were set on becoming a more dominant player in the consumer healthcare space.

The most recent behemoths include GlaxoSmithKline’s merger with Novartis Consumer and Bayer Consumer’s acquisition of the broad brand portfolio of Merck Consumer. It will undoubtedly allow both to fortify already strong foundations in the consumer healthcare market. But I also suspect it could lead to smaller brands or non-strategic brands spun off to create collateral gains for others.

So, what’s on the horizon?
More mergers, acquisitions, and strategic partnerships to be sure! Don’t be surprised to see a flurry of acquisitions as Procter & Gamble begins culling up to 100 consumer brands from its portfolio. And perhaps we’ll see the nation’s largest acquisitions in the overall healthcare space in recent times: Pfizer gobbling up AstraZeneca and Valeant acquiring Allergan. Time will surely tell.

Hamacher Resource Group vice president Dave Wendland, a 20-plus-year retail industry veteran, is a popular presenter and discussion facilitator available to speak at corporate and association events on a variety of retail-related topics. HRG is a research, marketing and category management firm specializing in consumer health care at retail. Product manufacturers, healthcare distributors, retailers, technology partners and others rely on HRG for strategic and creative solutions to help build their business. Learn more at

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