Exclusive: Store brand cough and cold sales skyrocket in 2021

Data shared by Catalina show private brand sales in cough and cold are way up compared with dollar sales in 2020 and 2019.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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Catalina shared exclusive data with Store Brands that highlighted steep gains this year in private label cough and cold product sales and other OTC products, as consumers have a renewed focus on their health amid an emerging flu season and ongoing pandemic.

Catalina dipped into its Buyer Intelligence Database to identify how specific national brands had been faring in 2021, compared with last year and the year before, peak pandemic periods. For Store Brands, the shopper intelligence firm shared how private label products performed during this same period Sept. 1 - Nov. 10 each of those years.


The findings do show some differences between own brands and national brand performance, but one thing’s clear for both groups and that’s a heavy rise in purchases of cough and cold products. Private label cough and cold products increased in dollar sales 53.9% vs. 2020, while down 6.4% in 2019. The numbers show a renewed focus on caring for a cold and cough season that bumped up in 2021 as opposed to during peak pandemic days with lockdown, heavy mask wearing and social distancing.

By comparison, national brand performance was up 61.8% in dollar sales this year compared to a year ago. The brand Mucinex ranked as the top brand seeing a 94% uplift in sales 2021 vs. 2020.

On the national brand side, Catalina identified a surge in immunity-boosting products, up over 14% vs. 2020 and up 86.7% vs. 2019, and in sleep aids up 12.9% vs. 2020 and up nearly 45% vs. 2019. The analysts said the immunity-boosting products and vitamins highlight consumers fighting a cough and cold season and that a bump in sleep aids show consumers still dealing with restless nights as the pandemic wears on.

Those numbers didn’t quite line up from a private label viewpoint: immunity-boosting products dipped 5.6% vs. 2020 and were up 41.7% vs. 2019, and sleep aids dipped 5.2% vs. 2020 and up 10.7% vs. 2019.

Store brand sales of external analgesics and eye care products, however, showed much larger gains that national counterparts. The private brand external analgesics sales jumped nearly 26% in 2021 vs. 2020 and leaped 66.8% compared with 2019. National brands only increased sales by 5.5% this year vs. 2020 and 23.9% compared with 2019.


In eye care, store brand sales climbed 21.8% in 2021 vs. 2020 and increased 12% vs. 2019, and in nasal sprays and asthma remedies climbed 15.6% this year compared with last year and up 4.1% vs. 2019.

The Catalina report did say that nearly half of consumers have shown disloyalty to their favorite OTC remedies during this time, but brands such as  Mucinex, Afrin, Nature Made, Natrol and Icy Hot have continued to post strong sales gains.

Catalina CMO Marta Cyhan said marketers of OTC products can capitalize on new demand of these products, both private brands and national brands. “It starts with knowing your audience and tailoring your outreach to them with messaging that is both personal and relevant,” she said.