The 2013-2014 cough-cold season has been characterized as a moderate season with $7.5 billion in sales across total U.S. multi-outlet channels for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 26, according to IRI. Like last year, the season peaked around the New Year with a 4.6% incidence of influenza-like illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, above the national baseline of 2%. But the 2012-2013 season peaked at an almost 6% rate of ILI.
And the 2013-2014 season was approximately five weeks shorter than the prior season. This year, ILI reached above the national baseline in week 48, peaked in week 52 and fell below the national baseline in week 9 of 2014. Last year’s season stretched from around week 47 of 2012 to week 13 of 2013.
The net result was a slight uptick in cough-cold sales for the trailing 52 weeks. Sales of cough-cold tablets were up 2.2% to $4.2 billion, and liquids were up 4.3% to $1.1 billion.
Sales of flu relief and multisymptom solutions have been trending particularly well this season. There were several new product launches that helped drive some of that growth, including Bayer’s new Alka Seltzer Plus and Reckitt Benckiser’s Mucinex Fast Max line extension. Also making a return to shelves was McNeil’s allergy mainstay Benadryl.
Prevention also has played a strong role for the season. Tracked within liquid vitamins, Pfizer’s core Emergen-C brand generated $109.6 million in sales, up 17.3%; Emergen-C Immune Plus added another $17.2 million in sales, up 37.5%; and Reckitt Benckiser’s Airborne franchise generated $10.5 million across its shot format, up 46.5%, while Airborne effervescents were up 14.7% to $110 million in sales.
The recent launch of Chattem’s Nasacort Allergy 24HR nasal spray, the first nasal corticosteroid to reach the market, is cause for excitement for what is expected to be a strong spring and summer allergy season. Analysts peg Nasacort’s annual market potential at $200 million.
Springtime allergy season was delayed a few weeks this year, having kicked into high gear in early April as opposed to late March due to a 2013-2014 winter characterized by extremely low temperatures and heavy snow storms.
“Theoretically, the colder it is, the more delayed the pollen season may be,” Myron Zitt, former president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, told DSN. “[But] global warming, with higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air, predisposes ... a longer pollen season and significantly heavier pollination — higher pollen counts.”
That means once the spring allergy season arrives, with tree pollens predominating, incidence may seem heavier than ever. In addition, there are more allergy sufferers. According to ACAAI, 23.6 million Americans were diagnosed with hay fever in the last year. The prevalence of allergies is surging upward, with as many as 30% of adults and up to 40% of children having at least one allergy.