External analgesics rub consumers the right way

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
BRANDSALES*%CHANGE VS. YEAR AGO
Icy hot$69.510.2%
BenGay34.8-3.8
Private label32.58.8
Aspercreme16.6-4.7
Salonpas12.52.1
Tiger Balm11.413.6
Biofreeze7.322.7
ActivOn5.4-29.6
Stopain5.2-3.8
Neuragen PN4.95.0
Bikini Zone4.619.4
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
BRANDSALES*%CHANGE VS. YEAR AGO
Thermacare$50.810.3%
Private label50.621.4
ThermiPaq6.127.2
Ace6.1-9.2
ThermalOn3.7204.7
Cryo-Max3.4-7.0
Bed Buddy3.3-45.3
HotHands 22.819.5
Kaz SmartTemp2.61.3
Be Koool2.510.7
Theramed2.3-13.0
TOTAL$153.06.1%

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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