Nielsen IQ: OTC pack size trends 2019-21

In this week’s blog, we share some insights and research from one of our partners, Nielsen IQ, on how purchasing patterns for OTC medicines have evolved in the US market over the past 2-3 years.

In 2019, prior to the Covid pandemic, all size ranges of OTC medications were growing 2-5%, with the larger packs slightly outpacing the smaller pack sizes. As the outbreak began, wellness concerns and “stocking up” behaviours increased, leading to accelerated growth rates of the largest sizes. In the back half of 2020, many shoppers were able use their stockpiled OTC medication purchases from earlier in the year.

Additionally, cold and flu incidence was low owing to less social interaction and the wearing of masks. As the vaccine has become widely available in 2021, normal activities are resuming but all OTC medication sales are down compared to the unsustainable growth of a year ago.

Source: Nielsen IQ. *Pain Relief, Upper Respiratory, Gastrointestinal, Sleeping and Alertness Aids.

The importance of extra large and super size pack sizes has increased consistently since the start of the pandemic. This growth traces across all the top OTC categories and to all forms of pain relief and sleep. The GI extra / super size gains are from liquids, while tablets are driving the CCA / upper respiratory growth.

The upsizing is also seen in shopping patterns. While there were 5 million less OTC medication shopping trips in 2020 compared to 2019, the number of trips in which shoppers purchased an extra or super large pack increased by 10.4 million (+3%), while smaller size trips were down to 15.4 million (-3%).

NielsenIQ Client Director Anna Mayo discussed Healthier Growth for OTC during our recent North American e-Conference 2021. If you were unable to join, contact us to purchase a recording of the session. Next on the agenda is our APAC e-Conference 2021 on 23 November. To find out more about either meeting, please contact elizabeth.bernos@NicholasHall.com.

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