Best-selling OTC products of 2008


A retailer's review of best-selling OTC categories, including digestive health, vitamins and supplements, and eye and ear care.

Key Points

On average, 40 percent of today's front-end pharmacy sales comes from items that did not exist five years ago. Hundreds of new health, beauty, and wellness (HBW) products reach the market each month, amounting to thousands of new items every year. Retailers know these new products are important, but with so many to evaluate, it could take weeks to sift through them all.

Probiotics have been widely accepted in mainstream markets, and sales show no sign of slowing. Their popularity continues to rise across several categories, including digestive health, vitamins/dietary supplements, and feminine care. Phillips' Colon Health is one new p robiotic supplement showing high rankings. The success of probiotic supplements is partly due to its natural ability to replenish good bacteria and promote regularity.

Vitamins/dietary supplements

Multivitamins are among the strongest sellers in the vitamins/dietary supplements category. In fact, 85 percent of people who purchase from the category rely on a multivitamin. It is no wonder that manufacturers are keeping the segment fresh by introducing new forms, such as the popular Disney Multivitamin Gummies by Knox, and by heavy promotion of gender- and age-specific products. In 2008, Bayer Healthcare launched the only teen multivitamin that is gender-specific. Sales have proved that the concept works, as the One-A-Day Teen Advantage for Her and Him ranked seventh and eighth of 156 new items we reviewed in the category during 2008.

New scientific research and mainstream media coverage often dictate which single-use vitamins will be popular in any given year. In 2008, the media focused on vitamin D. Their reports contributed to 1000 IU vitamin D by Nature Made ranking among our top five new products in the category for 2008.

Another breakthrough for the category occurred when One A Day became the first major multivitamin brand to market an over-the-counter prenatal vitamin, further empowering women to take control of their health.

Eye /ear care

Consumer use of artificial tears is an important driver of sales in the eye/ear category. Artificial tear use is typically prompted by eye dryness, often caused by allergies or weather. In fact, more than 60 million Americans suffer from dry eyes, creating a niche audience with considerable spending power. Drugstores remain the consumer outlet of choice for eye/ear care purchases. Growth in the eye/ear care market has been heavily influenced by new technology. The tear segment has benefited from new gel products, such as those from Systane, Blink, and Optive. Such products act as drops

do but protect eyes as a gel does, providing long-lasting relief. Other new products, such as Refresh Eye Itch Relief, do not contain decongestants, which can cause redness from overuse.

Effective category management

A good category management program for retail pharmacies will offer planograms that showcase new items in an endcap format that will attract customers' attention to the hottest sellers. Endcaps are the second-best shopped area after the checkout display.

Well-rounded category management programs also include competitive pricing, the right placement, and clever promotions. Managing your category according to these guidelines can produce a 10 percent boost in sales, a 3 percent increase in profit margin, and a 15 percent reduction in inventory.

JENNIFER JOHNSTON is with Hamacher Resource Group, Inc. (, a provider of category management, marketing communications, and retailing strategies to the health, beauty, and wellness industry.

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