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Winter Is Coming: How Americans Prepare for Cold/Flu Season

December 8, 2017

Despite warmer-than-usual fall temperatures in many areas of the U.S., winter is undoubtedly coming—and with it comes the cold and flu season. With this in mind, shoppers are likely starting to see signage throughout in-store pharmacies encouraging them to schedule or simply walk-in for their annual flu shot, and the aisles selling cough/cold medicines will see more frequent shoppers during the colder months.

For those consumers that get a tickle in their throat or a runny nose before they have a chance to visit an in-store retail clinic or a physician for their annual flu shot, there are a multitude of options available on retail shelves to treat cold and flu symptoms. More than half (59%) of annual over-the-counter (OTC) cold flu medications were purchased between November 2016 and January 2017, according to Nielsen retail measurement sales for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 26, 2017. Dollar sales grew 7% during the 2016/2017 cold and flu season, compared to the 2015/2016 period.

When it comes to OTC cold flu medications, products with a label claim around coughing grew 11% in dollar sales compared to the prior cold/flu season while products without the claim grew only 4%. But some consumers are looking for more than functionality in their cold/flu OTC medications; they’re also paying attention to transparency claims in the OTC aisle. Though OTC cold/flu products with a natural claim only grew 2% in dollars, those free-from artificial colors and flavors grew 74% compared to the previous cold/flu season.

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