Five of the Top 6 global CHC marketers have now reported their Q1 2021 results, and the clear common theme is a difficult start to the year as a result of the downturn in cough, cold & allergy sales. Global No.1 GSK reported that Consumer Healthcare sales were down 9% as a direct result of the year-on-year “pantry-loading” comparison, including accelerated purchases across all categories driven by the pandemic, combined with a historically weak cold & flu season. GSK’s Respiratory Health portfolio was down 42% in Q1, with Theraflu and Robitussin declining in double-digits, and Contac hit by a high single-digit fall, all adversely impacted by a lower cold & flu season.
Global No.2 J&J reported that Consumer Health worldwide operational sales were down 2.9%, primarily driven by negative prior-year comparisons related to Covid pantry loading in Q1 2020, mainly in OTC products, which declined by 14.8% in Q1 2021 as a result of lower cough, cold & flu incidences. This was partially offset by growth in Listerine mouthwash, Johnson’s baby care products, international skin health / beauty products and Nicorette sales outside the USA.
Sanofi’s Consumer Healthcare sales decreased by 7.3% in Q1 2021, primarily reflecting the weak cough / cold season, as well as a high base for comparison in Q1 2020 and divestments of non-core products. Allergy fell by 6.2%, while Cough & Cold sales were down 59.4% in Q1 2021. This heavy decline was offset by gains for Digestive Wellness (+14.6%), Physical Wellness and Mental Wellness (+18.8%) products. In USA and Rest of the World, growth of the Digestive and Mental Wellness categories partially offset lower Cough / Cold and Pain sales, but in Europe CHC sales fell by 19.3% in Q1.
Reckitt Q1 2021 net revenue was up 4.1% (like-for-like), and e-Commerce was +24%, accounting for 13% of total net revenue, driven by increased investment. Health fell 13.0%, reflecting a volume decline of 14.2% and price / mix improvements of 1.2%, as overall price growth was offset by relatively higher trade investment in North America. The OTC portfolio fell by just under 40%; in addition to challenging comparatives owing to significant pantry-loading in March 2020, this reflects an exceptionally weak cough, cold & flu season – estimated to be around 90% lower than the prior year – resulting in declines for Strepsils, Nurofen and Mucinex.
P&G’s Health Care organic sales were up 3% in Q1 2021, while Personal Health Care organic sales fell by mid-single digits, primarily owing to pandemic-related increases in consumer and retailer inventories in the base period and a weaker than average cough, cold & flu season. Representing 14% of global sales, e-Commerce sales increased by around 50% fiscal year-to-date, with no noticeable change in shopping trends in the quarter. CFO Andre Schulten said in an earnings call that a portion of the impact of commodity cost challenges in the next fiscal year would be offset with price increases in the baby care, feminine care and adult incontinence businesses, which will go into effect in mid-September 2021.
Celine Waller VP, DB6 comments: The poor CHC results reported were set against a robust performance in Q1 2020 when consumers were stockpiling ahead of lockdown restrictions (J&J’s OTC business increased operationally by 25.8% in Q1 2020!) and we expect that they will improve as the year goes on. However, 2021 is expected to be affected by a very weak cough / cold season as lockdowns (still in effect in many markets), social distancing, hygiene measures and mask-wearing continue to suppress incidence of respiratory illnesses, while there are some doubts about whether the high consumption levels of disinfectants and immune-boosting supplements can be sustained. As such, we have lowered our expectations of CHC growth in 2021 to 2.3% in the retail market. However, as highlighted in the P&G results, the 2020 boom in e-Commerce sales is continuing into the current year and we forecast that combined CHC sales in all channels will come out at a respectable 4.0% in 2021.
We are pleased to announce that our annual bestselling report, Nicholas Hall’s CHC Yearbook 2021, is now published digitally! You can analyse key players’ performance, hot topics, global retailing, the Top 15 markets and much more! Print copies will follow soon. For more information, or to order your copy, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.