Unilever still seeking expansion in CHC

Pressure has been building on Unilever over the weekend, with Nelson Peltz’s activist hedge fund Trian Partners reportedly taking a position in the UK group’s shares, adding to the challenges facing CEO Alan Jope. The Unilever boss is already facing brewing shareholder discontent after its attempted takeover of GSK Consumer Health, and now confronts a fierce activist fund known for demanding streamlining and governance reforms at consumer goods groups including P&G, Sysco and Mondelez.

Following a third unsolicited bid for GSK’s Consumer Healthcare business last week, Unilever brought forward an update setting out its strategic direction. An extensive review by the Board to reposition Unilever’s portfolio into higher-growth categories concluded that the FMCG player’s future strategic direction lies in “materially expanding its presence in health, beauty and hygiene”. The company added that consumer health was a “highly complementary category, with good potential for synergies and a number of routes to build scale”.

As our CHC New Products Tracker tool indicates, the priority brand for Unilever over the past two years has been supplement Olly, which has been expanded beyond its initial US launch market into the key growth market of China. Unilever has also invested in NPD for fellow supplements SmartyPants and Liquid I.V., since acquiring both brands in 2020, as well as Derma brands Vaseline and Lifebuoy, and there is clear scope for Unilever to expand its CHC portfolio further both geographically and in terms of category focus.

Nicholas Hall’s Touchpoints: Unilever’s latest offer for GSK CH, received in December 2021, was for a total value of £50bn (US$68bn), which the GSK Board unanimously concluded “fundamentally undervalued the business and its future prospects”. Following the publication of Unilever’s strategy update, it initially looked like the company would make a sweetened offer. It stated: “GSK CH would be a strong strategic fit; 45% is in oral care and VMS — categories in which Unilever already has presence and substantial capabilities. OTC would be an attractive adjacent category, with the ability to combine Unilever’s consumer and branding expertise with GSK CH’s technical OTC capabilities.”

However, Unilever faced a growing backlash from investors, with its shares falling and ratings agency Fitch warning it could downgrade the company’s “A” credit rating if it proceeded with the deal, which would likely raise debt. A few days later, the company announced: “We note the recently-shared financial assumptions from the current owners of GSK CH and have determined that it does not change our view on fundamental value. Accordingly, we will not increase our offer above £50bn (US$68bn).

Unilever has laid its cards on the table though and will no doubt be on the lookout for another CHC target. Meanwhile, GSK maintains that the “focus remains on executing the proposed demerger, which is on track to be achieved in mid-2022”, although analysts note that the MNC may consider a deal worth around £60bn (US$82bn). It remains to be seen whether other suitors, potentially thought to include Nestlé and private equity, will make a move.

Innovation trends by region will be analysed in the latest edition of Innovation in CHC from CHC New Products Tracker. This report will also take a look at delivery format trends, offer the Top 100 innovations from 2021, as well as innovation by leading marketers. To pre-order your copy and save with the pre-publication discount, or for further information, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.

Nestlé targets doubling of e-Commerce sales by 2025

By 2025, Nestlé expects to nearly double its e-Commerce sales to 25% of group total by significantly increasing its digital marketing spend, reports Reuters. The size of the investment was not disclosed. In Q1-3 2021, Nestlé sales were CHF63.3bn (US$68.3bn), with e-Commerce, which grew 17.2% in that period, reaching 14.1% of total sales. On the back of the success of DtC sales of products such as Nespresso coffee pods (Nespresso.com) and Purina PetCare (Purina.co.uk), the company will use a similar model. Speaking at a virtual investor summit, Executive VP Bernard Meunier said markets such as USA, Europe and China would drive growth. 

Nicholas Hall commented: This is high ambition by Nestlé, bearing in mind that many of its brand leaders are available very widely through retail outlets. Whether its CHC business can also reach this level internationally is a moot point, but in its favour Nestlé competes mainly in the VMS sector, where there are lower regulatory hurdles governing e-Commerce in more conservative countries, so maybe it is a fair ambition. And why not, when we ourselves forecast that e-Commerce will hold a 23% share of the entire global CHC market by 2030?

e-Commerce has had an amazing ride in the past ten years, with very few headwinds and the Gulfstream equivalent caused by the Covid lockdown, but the latest news from China implies that this trend may not continue in such a dynamic way in future. To quote from the unusually downbeat Alibaba: “The extremely high growth that China’s overall e-Commerce market has experienced in recent years is getting harder to maintain following government crackdowns on internet retailing this year.” Perhaps the e-Commerce sector has reached the inflexion point of all growth sectors when additional revenues have to be created rather than assumed.

Among the other top CHC players, the ratio of e-Commerce sales is generally on a par with Nestlé. In Q3 2021, Unilever and Reckitt announced that e-Commerce now accounts for 12% of group net revenues, while at GSK it represents 7% of sales. However, during a recent earnings call, Consumer Healthcare CEO Brian McNamara noted that in Q1-3 2021, e-Commerce had grown in the mid-20% range, adding: “Our ongoing investment in digital capabilities continues to position us well for growth in this key channel.” With online shopping clearly appealing to consumers and continuing to grow in popularity even as lockdowns ease, it is likely other companies will have similar targets to Nestlé’s in mind.

We are pleased to announce that the next title from Nicholas Hall’s Reports will focus on Herbals & Naturals. You will be able to review the latest trends, developments and sales, look at pure herbal & natural categories, along with products within topical analgesics, cough remedies, sleep aids, plus much more. To pre-order your copy and save up to GB£2,100, or for further information, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.

CHC Adjacencies Fuelling Digital Marketing Innovation

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A new report from Nicholas Hall examines effective digital marketing strategies for consumer health players and the fast-growing online channel for OTCs. In this week’s blog, we examine which consumer healthcare categories, brands and companies most fully embraced social media marketing in 2019, and summarise the report’s findings.

Given the tight regulations surrounding the promotion of registered OTC medicines on social media, it’s no surprise that the subcategories where we’ve recorded the most digital marketing activity in 2019 – using our OTC New Products Tracker tool – were adjacent categories in Lifestyle OTCs, VMS and dermatologicals. Cannabis / CBD recorded the highest number of innovations backed by social media promotion in 2019, followed by lip care and probiotics.

Of the Top 20 brands that recorded the highest number of innovations in 2019 backed by social media promotion, lip care products Eos (Eos) and ChapStick (formerly Pfizer, now GSK) were at the top of the tree. For example, Eos Vampire Kiss was supported by an Instagram campaign in the run-up to Halloween. CBD companies such as Hilo, CBDfx and Ignite – the latter backed by professional poker player and social media celebrity Dan Bilzerian – have also used digital marketing in 2019 to support their new products. Among VMS brands, Irwin Naturals, Zarbee’s Naturals (J&J) and Olly (Unilever) were all well-supported on social media, especially Facebook.

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Below are some of the findings from the new Nicholas Hall report:

  • It is vital that approaches to digital marketing are differentiated across digital and social media channels
  • Most consumers trust social media for healthcare advice, making an engaging social media strategy critical
  • Rapid adoption of digital technologies and evolving shopping behaviours are transforming e-Commerce into a key channel in consumer healthcare
  • Consumers will generally shop where it is most convenient, so understanding where they are shopping online is vital
  • Mobile is consumers’ constant companion so all content should be accessible on mobile devices
  • Since the virtual shelf is infinite, standing out from competitors online requires orchestrated brand communication

Comment from Ian Crook, Managing Editor, Nicholas Hall’s Reports: When considering how to target consumers via digital channels, marketers must note that different demographic groups use different social media platforms, and in diverse ways. Content consumption is diversifying just as audiences are broadening; the modern consumer leads a very busy life and can be easily distracted, posing challenges to effective engagement. Fostering consumer connections is vital, and whichever means of communication is used – live streaming, chatbots, social media messaging, etc – interacting with consumers is essential. Marketers cannot win everywhere or invest in all platforms, so choosing the appropriate medium is an important step in planning an effective digital campaign.

The new report features many more findings, backed by relevant case studies, including a look at consumer influencers, the benefits of a direct-to-consumer strategy, the digital strategies of the OTC Top 10, as well as the differing regulatory situation for online sale of medicines across markets, plus much more. To purchase your copy of Digital Marketing & e-Commerce, or for more details, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.

Natural & Organic a focus for M&A and innovation

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Continuing our series of blogs on the 10 Infinity Zones for future CHC growth recently outlined by Nicholas Hall, in this edition we take a closer look at natural & organic products. This is by no means a new trend, but it’s certainly one increasingly on the radar of multinationals, as exemplified by J&J’s recent purchase of Zarbee’s Naturals.

Among herbal & natural cough remedies, Zarbee’s has been gaining share on rivals such as Little Remedies, Hyland’s and Chestal, while also growing faster than most medicated OTC cough remedies. Another growth driver in the US market is Maty’s all-natural and organic range, including honey-based cough remedies, while Unilever recently bought Olly Nutrition, another range of VMS products with a strong emphasis on natural ingredients, such as the 10 phytonutrients in its Super Foods Multi line.

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A+P for most herbal & natural products often emphasises the importance of quality standards and – increasingly – organic and responsibly-­sourced ingredients. In China, the No.1 probiotic brand Biostime (Health & Happiness for Institut Rosell) is promoted on the basis of the organic sourcing of its ingredients, while marketing involving brand ambassador Juliette Binoche also emphasises the natural heritage of the brand.

According to OTC New Products Tracker, the number of launches that include the word “organic” either in their branding or list of ingredients is growing fast, with 246 innovations in 2018 vs 168 in 2017 and just 81 in 2016. Over half of these products are unsurprisingly classified as vitamins, minerals & supplements, however there is also a growing number of “organic” Lifestyle OTCs, especially among medical cannabis products, sedatives & sleep aids and stimulants.

Last chance to pre-order Nicholas Hall’s New Paradigms for CHC 2019: Over the Horizon, written by Nicholas himself! Examine each aspect of the CHC industry in 20 chapters, with a focus on major issues including Regulation, Pharmacy Point-of-Care, M&A, Switch and much more. Nicholas will also unveil the “infinity zones” he has identified as being crucial to the future growth of the industry. In addition to this, you can upgrade your purchase to include a customised in-house presentation or webinar with Nicholas for an additional GB£10,000. To find out more or to place your order, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.