H1N1 warms up sales of homeopathic cold remedies

Michael Johnson

All of the awareness driven around H1N1 certainly has created plenty of activity in the cough-cold aisle.

By all accounts, it’s been a very busy first-half of the season for cough-cold manufacturers. Sales in the category grew 2.8% for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 29, according to Information Resources Inc. Given the size of the category, even that small lift represents $100 million in additional sales, lifting the overall cough-cold category to $3.6 billion across food, drug and mass (minus Walmart).

And manufacturers of homeopathic cough-cold remedies may have been the greatest benefactors—sales of Matrixx’ Zicam tablets were up 14.9% to $45.7 million. And within sales of cough syrups, both Boiron and Hyland’s cracked the top-10 list of cough syrup manufacturers with sales of $1.5 million (up 582.7%) and $1.1 million (up 180.5%), respectively. Overall sales including Walmart also were a little more substantial, one homeopathic manufacturer noted, as distribution increased from 350 Walmart locations last year to more than 3,200 this year.

“Since launching Children’s Oscillo, Children’s Chestal and Children’s Coldcalm in the fall of 2008, these items have risen as top sellers in a little more than one year,” said John Durkin, VP sales and marketing at Boiron.

And Similasan threw its homeopathic children’s syrup into the ring in October 2009 with the mass launch of Similasan Kids Cough Relief.

Coming out of last year when homeopathy products were positioned as the safe and effective remedy to relieve a child’s cold in light of concerns around the safety of allopathic over-the-counter medicines, homeopathy products didn’t make much fanfare over already-substantiated claims that their solutions reduce the duration of the common cold (in the case of Matrixx’s Zicam) or the flu (in the case of Boiron, Hyland’s and Similasan). And while no responsible cough-cold manufacturer attached any kind of H1N1 messaging to their advertising, they didn’t necessarily need to.

“Homeopathic cough-cold medicines have experienced a substantial increase in sales and market share in the last two or three years in the United States,” said Dale Nepsa, president of Hyland’s. “Much of this increase has been in the pediatric sector due to concerns for safety and efficacy of some allopathic brands. More recently, concerns surrounding the H1N1 virus, along with a shortage of vaccine, have had a positive impact on the trial and sales of homeopathic OTC offerings.”

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