Efficacy is the main motivator for buyers, notes McCallum. “Cold and flu products must be effective and work quickly. They also need to be convenient and should taste great.” And to keep the sales momentum going, Ricola will be returning to price promotions and displaying products in Q4 of this year after supply constraints and high demand during and post-COVID. “We have 360-degree consumer activation of digital, TV and social influencer generated content at the highest spend levels in our category,” she adds.
Sales of Fisherman’s Friend have rebounded over the last year as consumers are getting back to more normal routines, says Voula Papadakos, marketing manager. The latest offering, Orange Spice, launched in 2020, continues to be supported with distribution and consumer communication.
She agrees that efficacy is the top draw for OTC cold and cough items. “It continues to be the number one priority,” she says. “Fisherman’s Friend is well known for its efficacy and has a variety of flavours to meet the demand.”
Mondelēz reports strong growth for the Halls brand post-pandemic: 2022 was a record-breaking year and the brand is continuing to grow this year, but the pace has slowed as the category returns to normal seasonality (September to March). Halls is already in market with new products, including Halls minis Watermelon and Halls Vitamin C Strawberry Lemonade, launched in June 2023.
“Consumers are still looking for cough, sore throat and nasal congestion relief during the peak season from September to March; however, there’s also a rise in consumers looking for vitamin C/immunity products to prevent symptoms before they get worse during the spring and summer,” explains brand manager Spoorthi Srinivasa.
To support sales, she suggests c-stores make the shopping experience easier and target younger consumers (who under index in cough drop consumption) with displays, promotions and high-visibility shelf placement. As well, she says cross promotions with complementary categories, such as cough syrup, hand sanitizer and vitamins, would help increase basket size.
At convenience and gas, there’s a new player vying for space and market share. The Bentasil brand has had a loyal following in Canada for nearly 40 years, focusing on the drug and grocery space. However, when Regal Confections acquired the Tosuta International in November 2021, the sugar-free lozenge brand was part of the deal.
“Just this year we have been trying to penetrate C&G,” says Sheldon Davis, senior vice-president, sales & marketing for Regal. “It is a strong performer and a unique item: high quality and made in Italy. The category is important to us because it gives us another area to play in.”
Bentasil comes in a convenient and compact resealable pouch to maintain freshness and eliminate the need to wrap every lozenge. Its soft texture allows it to be chewed or sucked to help soothe sore throats and clear blocked nasal passages. The most popular flavour is Eucalyptus, says Davis, adding the range includes Blackcurrant, Honey-Lemon, Cherry, and Orange with Vitamin C.
He recommends operators boost visibility with secondary displays in high-traffic areas: “30% to 40% of cough and throat lozenges are sold in shoulder seasons like September or April. So be ready and in-stock. The cough and cold season across Canada is a long one.”
Among all brands chiming in, there is a consensus that having inventory on hand is essential and that being in front of store is the ideal location. Whether it’s a planned purchase or an impulse buy prompted by a throat tickle or a sniffle, shoppers will be reaching for quick relief.