Over-the-Counter Brands Prepare as Cold & Flu Season Begins
As the cooler fall weather finds us spending more time indoors, Americans are bracing for the arrival of the seasonal flu. Overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic over the past two years, the typical cold and flu season runs from early October to mid-May in the U.S. and marks a key drive period for brands whose products offer symptomatic relief to consumers.
How severe will the 2022-23 U.S. flu season be? For clues, epidemiologists often look Down Under.
Since Southern Hemisphere seasons are reversed, Australian flu indexes serve as indicators of the levels and severity the U.S. might experience. With flu cases currently surging in Australia for the first time since before the pandemic, it’s a warning for consumers and brands to be prepared.
Demand for OTC and Household Flu Products
Regardless of whether the flu season will ultimately be mild or severe, early fall is when cold and flu product categories begin to see sales increases. Last year’s flu season was lighter than anticipated, but Adult Flu Remedy (+65%), Adult Cough and Cold Syrups (+84%), Decongestant Remedy (+53%), and Cough and Cold Remedy (50%) all posted significant sales lifts year over year.
Unfortunately, Australia’s flu season hit kids ages 5 through 9 the hardest, followed by children under 4 and teenagers. Additionally, young children are the most at-risk population to get the flu since they have had less opportunity to develop immunity to the virus—especially over the past few years with pandemic-related lockdowns. As American students returned to in-person classes last year, Children’s Cough and Cold Remedy (+84%) and Decongestant Remedy for kids (+64%) experienced corresponding lifts in sales.
Hand Sanitizer, always an essential category for back-to-school and flu season, actually posted a 28% decline in sales last year but for logical reasons. After skyrocketing early-pandemic demand saw retailers forced to ration the disinfectant to curb panic buying and out-of-stocks, category sales had nowhere else to go but back to more normal consumption rates.
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Source: Quotient internal sales data, 10/3/21-5/15/22 vs. 9/27/20-5/22/21