HEALTH

Antacids drive dollars as PPIs open to store-brand competition

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — Last month, the last of the branded proton-pump inhibitors was opened to store-brand competition as Perrigo brought a Nexium 24HR equivalent to market. Speaking with analysts, Perrigo president and CEO John Hendrickson expected private label to grab at least a 25% share of the $300 million in Nexium 24HR sales. “It’s been three years without having a store-brand equivalent to Nexium,” Hendrickson said. “We have the other PPIs in our portfolio, but not that.”

That doesn’t bode well for the gastrointestinal tablet category, which was relatively flat with a slight decline of 0.6% to $3.2 billion across multi-outlets for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 13, according to IRI. No more PPIs are expected to switch, which means that growth pipeline is no longer available.

GSK Consumer Healthcare’s Tums antacid business has historically performed counterintuitively to the category. With each new antacid advancement that’s brought to market — from H2 blockers to PPIs — sales of the immediate-relief calcium carbonate antacid continue to grow. And this year is no exception, sales of Tums totaled $70.5 million for the period, up 25.5%, while sales of the premium-positioned Tums Smoothies were up 10.6% to $55.9 million.

Sales of McNeil Consumer’s Imodium AD tablets were up 48.9% to $41.6 million in the period. Late last year, McNeil successfully defended its Imodium AD patent against store-brand competition.

Reformulation sparks sales resurgence
Bayer also is realizing a sales resurgence of its Alka-Seltzer brand in the digestives aisle, following a reformulation of the brand that was introduced this spring. Sales of the brand were up 53% to $25.9 million. “The reformulation is based on the consumer trend moving toward single-indication products, [treating] upset stomach and heartburn,” Andre Schmidt, U.S. medical affairs VP for Bayer Consumer Health, told Drug Store News.

The liquid side of the gastrointestinal business looks more promising. Overall, sales of $1 billion were up 2.1%, with brand leader Miralax up slightly by 1.2% to $201.5 million and Pepto Bismol up 5% to $93.1 million.

Long-term brand building
A brand to watch is Prestige Brands’ recently acquired Fleet line of laxatives. Sales of Fleet tablets were flat for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 13, with $25.4 million, and the Fleet liquid formulations were down slightly by 1.5% to $20.5 million. But the brand is about to get an infusion of advertising and support from its new parent. “Its overall business performance in our first full quarter of ownership was in line with our expectations, and included strong 7% revenue growth,” Ron Lombardi, president and CEO of Prestige Brands, recently told investors. “Our priorities for Fleet are now shifting into long-term brand building and incremental supply chain opportunities,” he said. “Fleet was in a bit of a better shape in terms of the things that they had in their pipeline when we acquired the business, but we’re going to come at it with a much longer view and a much bigger investment opportunity than the previous owners.”

 

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10 Truths of OTC No. 3: Technology is a double-edged sword

BY Sara Jones and Nick Vaus

Truth 3: OTC purveyors face the double-edged sword of technology, both threat and opportunity

Digital technology is one of the most disruptive and productive developments in human history. The pace of change is astonishing. The tricorder, once something out of science fiction, is now at the advanced prototype stage. From hardware processing speed to proliferating social platforms, the implications are profound for all aspects of human life, including healthcare.

Virtually all traditional, non-tech businesses are playing catch up. OTC is no different and possibly worse — many brands still don’t even have effective static websites, let alone other digital innovation and engagement.

Several technologies loom over OTC. The most obvious is the smartphone. Smartphone penetration is approaching 100% in younger consumers aged 18-44 according to Nielsen, and it’s even 68% in the over 65s. Questions remain over their efficacy, but thousands of health smartphone apps are available, from mental health and sleep tracking to Rx medication adherence and dosing.

Morever, smartphones can provide a holistic view of an individual’s health through hubs like Apple Healthkit and Google Fit. What’s really important is the way that these companies can leverage the resulting data. Research is one thing, but Apple and Google are also incredibly consumer-savvy and already have partnerships with medical institutions such as the U.K.’s NHS, health insurance companies and research hospitals. It’s not fanciful to envisage an entirely new model of healthcare, with the patient and healthcare provider communicating directly on a 24/7 basis via their smartphone hub and wearables, then purchasing any relevant products and services online. This could totally bypass most occasions when people venture into drug stores.

Add to that personalized healthcare. Genome sequencing now costs under $1,000, and a person’s genes can be linked with personalized, specific treatment. Currently playing in Rx and hospital medication, privately funded start-ups like Helix are also planning mass-market consumer products. Helix foresees a world where consumers can choose the best painkiller, birth control pill and even fitness routine based on their DNA profile.

This future is not yet here, but it’s most definitely coming. Some day very soon consumers may well ask Siri or Alexa “What should I do for my headache?” And the answer is very unlikely to be “go to a store and buy branded product 'x.'”

What can OTC brands do in response to this? OTC is in the business of self-care, not technology, but smart partnering is vital.

Some businesses are already on the case. GlaxoSmithKline and Propeller Health have a ‘smart inhaler’ for drug adherence that also detects each usage, location and surrounding air quality, giving insights into asthma attack triggers. Sanofi has teamed up with Verily Life Sciences (owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet) for Onduo, a diabetes management platform. It’s not yet known what this will be, but it’s hard to imagine that Sanofi-branded diabetes-relevant products won’t be part of it.

In a world where technology is driving more and more human behaviors, being in the mix is essential. Otherwise, the technology businesses, in partnership with far cheaper generic options, may well beat branded products to it.

Over the last 20 years, DewGibbons + Partners has helped design some of the world’s most iconic and successful OTC brands, resulting in a deep appreciation of the visual and physical cues — and regulatory limitations — in the self-care and OTC marketplace. The need to challenge those cues and limits is becoming far more frequent.

This is the third in a 10-part series from Sara Jones and Nick Vaus of DewGibbons + Partners, which has worked for the last 20 years to help design iconic and successful OTC brands. The series, “10 Uncomfortable Truths that OTC has to deal with to survive and thrive in the 21st century,” will publish weekly and feature in the DSN Health and Wellness newsletter every week.

The first truth was recognizing there’s a problem in the first place.

The second truth unveiled that OTC medicines are more often in the brand-building business as opposed to the pharmaceutical business.

Next week's truth reveals the OTC consumer's true health focus – it's not about getting better; it's about being better in the first place.


Sara Jones
Partner and client services director, DewGibbons + Partners
Sara runs DewGibbons + Partners alongside NickVaus, and heads up the client services team, leading branding and communications programmes for household names in OTC and health care. She’s always had a bit of a secret passion for OTC branding. Her Grandma was a pharmacist in London’s West End, leaving her with an abiding curiosity about active ingredients and how medicines work. She’s (in)famous for reading patient information leaflets cover to cover. Email her, follow her on Twitter  or connect on LinkedIn.

Nick Vaus
Partner and creative director, DewGibbons + Partners
As well as running the agency with Sara Jones, Nick leads the studio in providing solutions that are innovative, creative, economic, and effective. Powered by Beautiful Thinking – a unique combination of right and left brain thinking that seamlessly binds together strategy, design and brand communications – he ensures that his clients’ businesses, brands and consumers are at the heart of each and every brief. Email him, follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

 

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Kroger explores wellness pathways at inaugural natural foods innovation summit

BY Michael Johnsen

CINCINNATI — Kroger on Thursday hosted its first natural foods innovation summit, in partnership with 84.51°, here with keynote speaker Joy Bauer, the founder of Nourish Snacks and the health and nutrition expert on NBC's "The Today Show."

"Kroger is proud of the role we've played in making natural and organic products more affordable and accessible to America," stated Jill McIntosh, Kroger's VP of natural foods. "This category was a $16 billion business for us in 2016, and today's company-produced expo is an innovation platform that allows us to continue to expand our natural foods product portfolio by partnering with emerging brands on micro and macro levels."

Top trends in natural foods are holistic health, convenience and sustainability. Consumer insights show that customers are adopting a 360-degree approach to health and wellness, including greater consumption of natural foods to prevent illnesses. A growing number of customers are seeking healthier on-the-go snacks and meals, and nutritional drinks are increasingly becoming meal replacements.

Kroger's team of buyers continuously look for regional purchasing opportunities that allow the company to expand its product portfolio for customers, stimulate the local economy and enhance product freshness. Sourcing locally also supports the company's sustainability commitments, including Kroger's Zero Hunger | Zero Waste initiative launched last month. Recently, Kroger joined the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a membership-based collaborative of like-minded companies striving to advance sustainable packaging.

"Kroger is leading the way to redefine the food and grocery customer experience as one part of our Restock Plan announced yesterday in New York at our annual investor conference. Customer lifestyles are evolving, and as America's grocer, we understand the importance of carrying relevant products at affordable prices that are meaningful to the nearly nine million customers we serve daily in our family of stores," McIntosh added.

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