Creative line extensions and new niche products kept OTC segments interesting for pharmacists this past year, a year that lacked significant Rx-to-OTC switches and new studies that might cause huge sales spikes in the vitamin/mineral and supplement category.
Oral Care Shines in 2001
Oral health care proved to be one of the most dynamic health and beauty categories of the year. Consumers are engrossed in having brighter smiles, and tooth-whitening products have become stars of the category. ?Consumers are more interested than ever before in whiter teeth,? said Richard Price, DMD, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. Professional whitening procedures have been on the rise, but at-home formulas continue to attract consumer attention.
Last year saw one of the most successful launches in the whitening segment to date?Crest Whitestrips. Procter & Gamble introduced the whitening kit to the retail market in May, after offering it to consumers through the Internet since January of last year. As a result of its Internet presence, Whitestrips had created a buzz before the product was ever launched in stores. Once the whitening kits hit the retail market, consumers were not deterred by the $44 retail price tag or the prospect of wearing hydrogen-peroxide clear plastic strips on their teeth for 30 minutes twice a day. Crest Whitestrips have been an unqualified success.
Competitor Colgate launched its own entry in the whitening market in the first quarter of 2001 as well?Colgate Total Plus Whitening toothpaste. Backed with plenty of advertising dollars, the toothpaste was a key introduction in the category last year.
Brushes were also a big factor in the growth of the oral care category. Although Crest?s SpinBrush was not technically a new introduction, after Procter & Gamble bought the product last year, the company?s advertising and promotional dollars took the power brush to new heights. Procter & Gamble also expanded its reach early in 2001 with line extensions aimed at adults. Not to be outdone, Colgate debuted its own power brush, Motion. Both brushes, with a retail price tag of under $10, have made it easy for consumers to embrace technologically superior oral care products. The products have also pushed sales nearly 30% ahead of last year?s in the dental accessory/tool category, according to Information Resources, Inc.
The often-sleepy breath freshener category got a jolt from a powerful new introduction from the Warner-Lambert Consumer Group of Pfizer, Inc. Cool Mint Listerine PocketPaks oral care strips introduced not only a ?must-have? new product to the market, but a unique new delivery system to the category. The oral care strips, which made their debut in October, are a translucent, ultrathin film that dissolves instantly on the tongue. Convenient and easily dispensed, the product boasts the ability to kill germs rather than merely mask bad breath as gums or mints do. This truly innovative product has been very well received.
Vitamins Are Still Active
The vitamin/mineral and supplement category continues to be active. ?Although the vitamin category is continually declining in growth, with just 1% to 5% growth expected over the next few years, products that are targeted to specific conditions will be the area that grows the category,? said Kyle Lentz, HBC industry analyst for Hamacher Resource Group.
In 2001, Osteo Bi-Flex?s new soft fruit chews were a strong launch. ?Glucosamine and chondroitin products continue to be popular with consumers,? said Lynn Dornblaser of New Product News. Hamacher?s Lentz added that, in a category that is becoming saturated, products that offer something different, such as new forms of delivery, will drive the growth going forward. Lentz said that Centrum Chewables are expected to be a strong introduction for this year.
Vitamins and supplements targeted to women?s health were also a bright spot in the category. Soy, which had been a key growth area in the past year, is not the only segment showing gains. ?We are seeing an increase in sales of products containing black cohash,? said one pharmacist. He added that, in his stores, much of the category?s growth is driven by advertising.
Concerning children?s vitamin products, licensing has a big impact on the category. Lentz said that Bayer?s One-A-Day Kids Scooby Doo Multivitamin line, which includes Scooby Doo Complete and Plus Calcium and was released in October, has been a strong introduction that is expected to gain even more momentum once the Scooby Doo feature film is released in June of this year.
Topical Analgesics Get a Boost
With glucosamine and chondroitin products so popular in the supplement category, it is not surprising that new topical analgesics were also popular introductions in 2001. The pain relief category, although still a relatively small OTC category, has gotten a boost from new delivery options and new product introductions. Demographics will also give a boost to the category. With the aging of the baby boomers, bodily aches and pains are a frequent?and often chronic?ailment among consumers. Another key market for the products is the so-called ?weekend warriors,? who toil at their desks all week, only to overdo their athletic workouts on the weekends.
Topical analgesic patches that provide consumers with a new delivery option continue to be popular. Patches, with formulations that typically include camphor and menthol, are greaseless, odorless, and thin enough to wear under clothes. The patch products appeal to younger users just beginning to experience the need for such products, along with older customers looking for new topical analgesic solutions.
One particularly strong introduction last year was Chattem?s Icy Hot Extra Strength Patch, which contains 5% menthol. The latest introduction to the pain relief category is Procter & Gamble?s ThermaCare line, introduced in the first quarter of 2002. The line of air-activated therapeutic heat wraps includes two sizes of back wraps as well as wraps for menstrual cramps and neck and arm pain. Analysts expect the line to do well; Procter & Gamble expects sales to top $100 million.
Other Key Introductions
Manufacturers put a new spin on several line extensions to create a handful of interesting introductions in 2001.
Hamacher rated Johnson & Johnson/LifeScan?s Ultra Strips 100 as the best new introduction of 2001. The OneTouch System and its accompanying strips, which make routine blood glucose monitoring far less painful for patients, performed extremely well at retail. Advances that address consumer needs will continue to drive the category in the future.
In the laxative category, GlaxoSmithKline introduced Citrucel in a caplet form, a line extension that ranked as a product standout in Hamacher?s annual review of new products. Hamacher?s Lentz said that he expects Novartis? new Benefiber Fiber Supplement?a taste-free, grit-free, sugar-free laxative that dissolves completely in soft foods and liquids?to have a huge impact on the laxative category. That product was introduced in January 2002.
In the analgesic segment, Bayer added calcium to its Adult Low Strength Aspirin Pain Reliever 81-mg product, which is taken to help fight heart disease. ?Aspirin has benefited from its positioning as a supplement, and adding calcium is just another benefit that further positions the low-dose aspirin as a daily supplement,? said Nicholas Hall?s Cummings. The product was introduced in early 2002. If consumers react favorably to the dual benefit, it is likely that other products may follow in bundling benefits.
Bayer launched Alka-Seltzer Morning Relief in August 2001, a product line extension that is specifically targeted to fight the morning headache and fatigue that can be the result of a long night.
McNeil launched Monistat 1 Com-bo Pack, a product that contains a suppository as well as vaginal cream, in November. ?The product offered consumers something new in terms of convenience and quick treatment,? said Cummings.
Thus, several line extensions and new niche products contributed much to the OTC market in 2001. In addition to those in oral health care, vitamins and supplements, and topical analgesics, new introductions in the diabetic testing, laxative, and analgesic categories were significant.