Aging Boomers Will Drive OTC Growth

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Aging baby boomers continue to show their influence on OTC categories. As this powerful consumer group ages, marketers face a challenge as to how they can best position products in categories that have typically been associated with elderly consumers.

Experts say that boomers may find themselves needing products they once associated with their parents, but they do not want to feel like their parents when they purchase them. "I know I do not feel like my parents' 50," said Bob Doyle, senior vice president of Information Resources Inc's (IRI's) Healthcare Solutions Group. "I am hearing that 50 is the new 20?50 does not feel old anymore."

Amy Kasza, an industry writer and researcher with Hamacher Resource Group, said that products are being marketed to aging boomers in a way that allows them to continue to feel youthful. One category that Kasza sees benefiting from updated marketing efforts is incontinence products.

"With boomers moving into seniorhood, and younger folks as well showing more interest in incontinence products, that demand driver is causing manufacturers to swing their advertising from ?sorry that you need these products, but here's what we have for you'to ?you don't have to sacrifice your active lifestyle just because of an incontinent condition,'" she said.

Kasza said packaging changes and shifts in advertising that incorporate younger images and a hipper approach, rather than making them feel embarrassed, are bringing more users to the category.

"It is not so much about age as it is about attitude," said David Spangler, vice president-international and assistant general counsel at the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. "Marketers are treating aging boomers as the active people they are."

Finding Youthful Ways to Market Products for Seniors

The approach also has played a big part in the success of the personal lubricant category. "Manufacturers have done a good job marketing the products with a playfulness rather than a clinical approach," said Kasza. "It is something you might expect to see in advertising targeted at younger consumers, but it is really striking a chord with older consumers as well."

IRI's Doyle agrees. "J&J [Johnson & Johnson] introduced a K-Y warming gel and Touch Massage 2-in-1 Warming that really brought personal lubricants out from behind the counter and out into the open," he said. "These products are becoming more mainstream, as women age and are not willing to be embarrassed about the side effects of aging."

The incontinence and personal lubricant segments are not outpacing the OTC category as a whole. Calcium supplements and vitamins/ minerals also continue to show growth as boomers fight off signs of aging.

"Aging boomers want to recapture their youth," said Kasza. "They want to feel good and are looking for a holistic approach to wellness." Expect more interest in supplements targeted at specific conditions and specific age groups, such as prostate health or postmenopausal wellness.

Potential Women's Health Switches

The real story in the women's health segment of the OTC market may be in potential Rx-to-OTC switches on the horizon, said Steve Heffner, publisher at Kalorama Information, a New York-based market research firm. "Potentially large switches are Detrol, for incontinence, and Actonel, Evista, and Fosamax for osteoporosis," he said. "Switches in women's health can be more attractive to marketers than switches in other therapy areas."

Ms. Sax is a freelance writer based in Chevy Chase, Md.

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