Build a healthy cough and cold category that drives incremental sales throughout the year

6 strategies to sell and soothe.
Michelle Warren
Editor, Convenience Store News Canada
Michelle Warren profile picture
Medication for sore throat, flu, runny nose, influenza, cough: medicine syrup, nasal spray, pills, capsules, drugs.

While last year’s cough, cold and flu season was relatively mild due, in no small part, to social distancing brought on by the pandemic, as people get back to in-person routines, the 2021/2022 season will require a different approach, one that is expected to drive new opportunities for the convenience channel in the cough and cold category.

“As the economy continues to open up and shoppers return to pre-COVID activities, we are predicting a strong cough-cold season,” says Jan McCallum, senior business development manager - North America for Ricola Canada. “Cough, cold and flu incidence data is already indicating an uptick in people getting sick. Ricola will participate in the cough and cold season with full activation and is also experimenting with an everyday business for voice care.”

Mask wearing means talking louder, which can take a toll on the vocal cords, causing irritation, sore throat or dryness. Plus, with returns to work and school, people will be talking more.

Research shows 50% of cough drop usage occurs out-of-home, as consumers look for solutions on-the-go. With that in mind, c-stores would do well to prepare for an increased demand for throat lozenges. 

C&G accounts for almost $10 million in retail sales, worth approximately 13% of the total category.

“Winning in gas and convenience is integral to our overall growth strategy for our company, and thus a priority for us. Our brand health relies on bringing new consumers into the brand and increasing HHP [household penetration]—if we do this correctly, we grow the category for our retail partners,” says McCallum, adding: “We are relatively new to the channel and working on ways to grow our current offers everyday, not just in season.  We have also seen shoppers trade up to larger sizes in a COVID environment and this trend is continuing.  As such, we are looking at what this could mean for pack sizes in the gas and convenience channel.”

In turn, Ricola is offering Extra Strength Menthol in bags and stick format, while also introducing Menthol Centres Honey Lemon and a sugar free version of its popular Lemon Mint.

For convenience and gas operators, the cough and cold category represents a valuable way to trigger impulse purchases and build incremental sales.

 “Customers looking to combat a cold, clear up nasal congestion or just use as an everyday mint truly appreciate the ease of purchasing relief from their corner store,” says Fisherman’s Friend marketing manager, Voula Papadakos, who is optimistic about the strength of the category. Fisherman’s Friend is tapping into taste buds with the upcoming launch of its newest flavour, Sugar Free Orange Spice, which combines soothing properties and bold flavour.

Halls also has an exciting year of innovation planned to drive sales and spark recovery for the cough lozenge category, says Michael Goodman, gum, cough & candy lead for ​​Mondelēz Canada. “As the leader of the category, we have always tried to bring new products and solutions to the market that best meet the needs of consumers and drive category growth.”

The company recently introduced Halls Minis; a new portable cough solution in its two top flavours, Cherry and Honey Lemon, designed to help consumers take relief anywhere. 

Traditionally, September through March are the top months for cough and cold product purchases, but with the right merchandising and messaging, the category has year-round potential to drive incremental sales for convenience and gas.

6 smart strategies

    1. High visibility

    Use impactful displays, point-of-sales materials and danglers to grab attention and trigger unplanned purchases.

    2. Location matters

    Customers often buy impulse, which means cough SKUs do well close to the cash, particularly the top shelf, where shoppers expect to find them.

    3. Secondary displays

    Strategically position items next to top-sellers, like water, coffee, tissue and other pharmacy-related items, including masks.

    4. Bigger benefits

    Tap into the latest nutrition trends, such as low or no sugar, with innovative SKUs and flavours.

    5. Tried and true

    Ensure best-selling brands and SKUs are always in stock in a variety of flavours and package types for wide appeal.

    6. Leverage sales reps

    Tap into their expertise and tools, from planograms and new product information to merchandising advice and POS materials.