HEALTH

Copper devices catch consumers’ eye

BY Michael Johnsen

In recent months, copper-infused compression devices have caught the attention of shoppers in the first aid aisle.

From socks to gloves to braces for the back, knee, ankle and elbow, these products are providing pain relief to thousands of weekend warriors and people with circulation problems.

(To view the full Category Review, click here.)

Marketers of these items — including Idea Village (Copper Fit Sleeves), Telebrands (Copper Hands) and Ontel Products (Miracle Copper socks) — said that the copper fibers woven into their products provide support for muscle stiffness, soreness and pain; reduce recovery time; and improve circulation.

According to recent IRI data, copper-infused supports from Idea Village, Telebrands and Ontel racked up a nearly $23.8 million in combined sales last year. While still only comprising a small portion of the $695.8 million muscle and body support devices market, these items have shown some of the strongest gains in the category.

“They are still not selling up to the typical category levels,” said Tabs Group founder and CEO Kurt Jetta, “ but they appear to be building an audience as their velocity improves month-by-month.”

In fact, he said, Copper Fit and Copper Hands are two of the four brands — Bell-Horn and Natures Pillows’ BeActive being the others — that have accounted for half of the growth in the sports bandages segment over the past three months.

Marketers of copper-infused first aid products note that the metal has a centuries-old reputation for providing positive health benefits, including strong evidence of powerful anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Copper recently was registered at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the first solid antimicrobial material. Copper-infused items wick sweat away from the body to prevent chafing and rashes, and because copper has strong antimicrobial properties, these products remove odors, the companies said.

Miracle Copper, for instance, said its socks combine two technologies — graduated compression and copper-infused fibers — to provide a host of benefits, including improving circulation, reducing swelling and relieving aches and pains.

The buzz surrounding copper-infused first aid products has led retailers and suppliers alike to step up their promotions for these items. During the first week of June, data complied by ECRM shows that Idea Village’s Copper Fit was the third-most promoted brand of elastic wraps, supports and braces.

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HEALTH

Ansell expands SKYN condom line

BY Michael Johnsen

ICELIN, N.J. — After revamping the look of its LifeStyles brand last summer to appeal to millennial shoppers, Ansell Healthcare has seen the line of condoms and sexual wellness products record consistent growth over the past few months.

(To view the full Category Review, click here.)

According to IRI, sales of Ansell’s Life-Styles and SKYN condoms increased 2.1% for the 52 weeks ended April 19. Sales of the company’s sexual enhancement devices rose 12.7% during that time.

The SKYN line’s intial launch nearly eight years ago helped revolutionize the male condom market by creating the category’s first-ever polyisoprene, non-latex product, the company said. Billed as one of the thinnest and most sensitive condoms on the market, SKYN has helped reshape the way consumers think about these products.

Last month, Ansell introduced SKYN Elite condoms and debuted a pair of personal lubricants under the SKYN name. The newest condoms are said to be 20% thinner than the brand’s original product, and the lubricants — the water-based SKYN Natural Feel and the silicone-based SKYN Maximum Performance — mark the company’s first foray into the lubricants sector. Marketers say both are non-sticky and fragrance-free.

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Sexual wellness products experience robust growth

BY Michael Johnsen

While products that help promote intimacy and sexual wellness have become drug store mainstays, there are mixed feelings about what the future holds for the category.

(To view the full Category Review, click here.)

According to IRI data for the 52 weeks ended April 19, drug store sales in the three product areas under the intimacy health umbrella — male contraceptives, female contraceptives and sexual enhancement devices — increased 6.7%. Sales in the closely related personal lubricants segment, however, fell 2.2% during the period.

While those who closely monitor the category remain upbeat about the future, they admit that the recent downturn in some of the market’s most-regognizable brands and the huge gains made by smaller lines is reshaping the category.

For instance, IRI data shows that sales from the three largest condom suppliers — Church & Dwight, Ansell America and Reckitt Benckiser — grew minimally over the past year, while condoms offered by Majestic Drug and Global Protection shot up by 54.4% and 16.8%, respectively.

“After a surge of interest and support from large manufacturers, interest in the category seems to have waned,” TABS Group founder and CEO Kurt Jetta said, noting that despite efforts to drive sales through new products, line extensions and wider distribution, category giants like Reckitt Benckiser and Church & Dwight have been unable to increase their sales in this area.

Rather, Jetta said, smaller players have seized on the opportunity to give shoppers fresh options that may represent the category’s future.

Meanwhile, other market watchers said the slow growth in condom sales is due to demographic trends and changes in people’s attitudes about preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

“Decreased use has hurt the condom category,” Kline Market Research industry manager Laura Mahecha said, citing recent data from Indiana University’s School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation that shows that Americans engaging in sexual activity only use a condom a quarter of the time.

“Condom use has declined as the incidence of AIDS has decreased and the once-deadly disease has become treatable,” she added.

For their part, suppliers continue to try and lure shoppers with new technologies and marketing campaigns. Among the most visible of these efforts has been the ongoing race to market the thinnest and most natural-feeling product, and aiming ads and promotions at women.

In May, for instance, the Female Health Co. unveiled plans to develop a line of women’s reproductive health products in support of its sole item — the FC2 female condom.

“There are inherent risks associated with being a single product company,” said president and CEO Karen King, “particularly when that product is subject to substantial volatility in customer purchasing patterns.”

FHC hopes to develop a line of products aimed at women who are dissatisfied with the side effects of hormonal birth control, and who feel that the traditional male condom offers less enjoyment.

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