Most people take general painkillers to treat cold and flu symptoms and the majority are happy to consume cheaper own-brand products. So says Mintel in its latest OTC (over the counter) Analgesics and Cough, Cold and Flu Remedies report. That said, there will always be some people who will only take Nurofen or Panadol, and these big brands do help signpost the category in-store.While we are coming up to peak cough and cold season, Stephen Davies, controller for convenience at GSK, which makes Panadol and Beechams, advises retailers to offer a well-stocked range of OTC medicines all year round, as people suffer from summer colds and allergies outside of the traditional seasonal peaks.

"There are, however, key fluctuations in demand across the year, with October onwards seeing the strongest sales on cold and flu treatments," says Davies. "Retailers therefore, are advised to stock up early to ensure that their customers are confident that supplies will be available from their local store when the bugs strike." He advises retailers to move their OTC offering out from behind the counter, to the shop floor, and to stock up early in the season: "This will build shopper confidence and reassure them that they will be able to access treatments when they fall ill.

"Pain relief is another year-round requirement, with UK consumers looking to avoid lengthy waits for a GP appointment. OTC offerings therefore work well as impulse purchases for those looking for quick relief without the fuss," he adds.

Olbas brand manager at Lanes Health, Nikki Banwell, says that although growth of OTC cold and flu remedies over the past year has been relatively slow, nasal decongestant products have seen value growth for the second consecutive year (+3% IRI data).

The Olbas range includes the original oil product as well as a nasal spray, inhaler, pastilles and an Olbas for Children product.

Both Banwell at Olbas and Davies at GSK advocate driving impulse purchases through cross-merchandising complementary products such as tissues, lip balms and medicated confectionery.

"Retailers also need to ensure that their fixture is fully restocked following the busy Christmas period, as January and February are key seasonal periods for cough and cold remedies. A fixture that’s easily navigated, well sign-posted and easily accessible will stand retailers in good stead," says Davies.

When it comes to medicated confectionery, branded lines hold their own think Fisherman’s Friend, Halls and Lockets.

The convenience and wholesale channels have contributed 45% of all sales of Fisherman’s Friend in 2019 so far the largest contribution of any channel. And the good news for retailers is that the brand’s sales continue to grow in this channel, up by 2% so far this year, as shoppers use Fisherman’s Friend for relief from the symptoms of hay fever as well as coughs and colds.

Jon R White, area business manager for Fisherman’s Friend in the UK, says: "We are finding that our brand is increasingly becoming a year-round proposition, so there is clearly a great opportunity for convenience retailers to capitalise on this as we move into the cold and flu season. He advises retailers to keep track of the level of incidents of coughs and colds to ensure they are stocked up at the right times, as the category is naturally sensitive to incidence rates. "Shoppers are often ditching higher-value items in favour of more cost-effective remedies, and our lozenges provide an effective solution," he explains.

"Fisherman’s Friend has extremely high consumer loyalty within the UK, due to the brand’s iconic heritage and the ’cult-like’ following of the UK’s best-selling flavour, Original Extra Strong, which contains more menthol than competitor brands," says White.

Fisherman’s Friend’s latest flavour, Spearmint Sugar Free, will be launching in the convenience channel in time for winter 2019. In other retail channels the flavour is already proving popular with its rate of sale, suggesting it will soon become the brand’s second best-selling variant behind Original Extra Strong.

new products

Number one decongestant oil brand Olbas (IRI data) is ideal for dual siting with other cold and flu products such as tissues, to increase and maximise sales.
Mars Wrigley, the company behind the Lockets brand, has a dedicated range of eye-catching pos to help retailers make the most of their medicated confectionery sales and encourage customers to buy on impulse.
New from the Halls brand is Halls Proactive with Vitamin C. These are sugar-free sweets with added Vitamin C to support the immune system before the onset of coughs and colds. There are two citrus flavours Orange and Pink Grapefruit which come in a handy re-sealable bag.
Mintel singled out Jakemans as the only medicated confectionery brand to see any significant growth in sales in the year to February 2019. The brand will be backed by a media spend of around £1.9m in the 2019/20 season. The campaign will include TV advertising from November.
Fisherman’s Friend will be backed by a heavyweight campaign featuring a combination of digital, social media and PR activity, as well as trade promotions and sampling. This will include the brand returning to TV screens from October through to March 2020.