Batteries for health devices boom

The growing senior market is fueling the sale of hearing-aid batteries and specialty batteries for health and fitness devices.

For the 8 million active hearing-aid wearers, batteries are a must and are frequently replaced since they typically last between three and 30 days depending on the type of device used. “The consumer is going through these batteries very quickly and is handling them more frequently than any other type of battery, so they are really tuned into performance,” said Ann Rule, marketing manager at Rayovac. Consumers are brand loyal to a point, but are willing to change brands based on recommendations, she said.

Maintaining a strong in-stock position is crucial to the segment’s success. The four sizes of batteries used in hearing aids — 10, 13, 312 and 675 — correspond to color codes to make it easier for consumers to find what they need, but all of those products need to be well-represented. “You want to make sure that if these consumers are in your store, they know you are in this business,” Rule said.

“Offering a variety of package sizes is important, since some consumers purchase month-to-month, and many more are moving to larger sized packs like 16-count and 24-count, which on average will last them about two to three months,” said Carrie Johler, brand manager of specialty batteries at Energizer Holdings.

In light of consumers trading up to larger packs, Energizer has concentrated on minimizing in-pack leakage. Energizer Hearing Aid batteries now offer Power Seal technology to protect devices from damaging leaks and is promoting a “No Leaks Guarantee” on all Long Lasting Energizer Hearing Aid batteries, Johler said.

Ramon Velutini, brand manager for Duracell North America agreed that consumers are purchasing larger packs and said they tend to carry spare batteries with them. “Duracell offers a unique and sturdy to-go pack,” he said. “Some consumers    also say that replacing batteries is a key frustration point for them because of the difficulty they have changing them. For this reason, Duracell has the Easytab, which is the longest tab in the market, making it easy for consumers to change.”

Price and on-shelf promotion are effective ways to reach this customer. “Consumers have largely been trained to expect promotion in this category, so inclusion in circular ads, couponing and promotion are effective,” Johler said.

In some particular channels, Velutini said, excessive couponing has proved to decrease category value. “We work continuously with retailers to have the correct promotional plan that maximizes not only unit sales, but also dollar sales,” he said.

Education also is important to the 8 million active hearing-aid wearers. “This consumer group is savvy. They are looking for information not only on batteries, but also on hearing health in general, so there’s a real opportunity for the pharmacist to form a relationship with the patient based on recommendations,” Rule said.

The popularity of health and fitness devices is driving the coin lithium segment of the battery category. “This is in large part due to the aging population wanting to monitor their health, and to the boomers wanting to stay fit. Another growth driver is the continued miniaturization of devices and the need to fit battery power into smaller spaces,” Johler said. In the specialty battery category, multipacks represent two-thirds of the total volume, she said.

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