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The Changing Role for Over-the-Counter Brands

Lanes’ Executive Chairman, Jonathan Groves, reflects on how COVID-19 has changed how we deal with colds, flus, and other common ailments as our health becomes our main priority.


The living room as the new waiting room

There is a new generation of people taking control of their health and we’re now more aware of self-testing and diagnosing rather than seeking advice from a healthcare professional (HCP). This has led to a wave of empowered consumers managing their own health.

Diagnosis and treatment without HCPs is now commonplace and happening daily amongst homes in the UK. As a result, the public are now using OTCs more than ever to offer relief to symptoms of common ailments. This opens the market to healthcare brands who can showcase their ability to effectively treat illnesses and clearly highlight the impact of their product.

The rise of the preventative patient

Consumers now look to OTC products to not only treat symptoms, but also to boost their immune system or provide ‘extra’ health benefits. This, in turn, has given rise to the ‘preventative patient’. Our research[1] showed that 70 per cent of consumers stated that, since the pandemic, they do their best to prevent the spread of common illnesses.

OTC brands that are able to make claims about relieving common ailments, supporting immunity and managing the first symptoms of ailments could look to benefit from this. Lanes Health recognised this as being important to consumers which is why we recently launched Pro Plus Fizz – an effervescent format with added vitamins provide a boost to energy.

The role of OTC products in a post-pandemic world

In an ageing population where new viruses and bugs evolve yearly, providing reliable and effective health products has never been more important.

Our research indicates that consumers hold expertise, trust and reputation highly when it comes to choosing branded products. In fact, the top three reasons a consumer chooses a product is because they know it works (43 per cent), it’s a product they trust (39 per cent) or it’s a product they’ve always used (36 per cent).

Familiarity is something particularly important to the 65+ category who stated that the main reason they buy a product is because they’ve always used it (48 per cent) compared to only 24 per cent of 18–24-year-olds.

At Lanes Health, we have built a trusted and loyal customer following for providing effective and reliable OTC products since 1930. Our continued investment into a portfolio of products has seen our business grow from strength to strength. This year we are proud to lay claim that our throat lozenge product, Jakemans, is the UK’s no.1 cough/throat lozenge brand[2]. Similarly, our heritage brand, Olbas, has this year, once again been declared as the nation’s favourite decongestant oil[3]. Olbas was also the fastest growing decongestant brand over last year’s winter season[4].

We also ensure that we are responding to our audiences’ needs by carrying out customer research and investing in new product developments. This year we launched a new sugar-free Jakemans lozenge in the classic Throat & Chest flavour in response to those looking to actively reduce their sugar intake. We have also added Olbas Patches to the Olbas family for those looking for natural ingredients to ease decongestion whilst on the go.

The lessons for OTC brands and manufacturers

  1. Invest in brands consumers know and love – make sure you’re investing in your products and keeping them at the standard your customers are accustomed to.
  2. Listen to your consumers and respond appropriately to their needs – carry out research on your customers and innovate products that respond to new desires and growing markets.
  3. Market more than the product features, sell the benefits – communicate the benefits and ingredients within your product, especially if they are natural.
  4. Treat consumers appropriately – communication needs to be tailored to consumers, providing information they will regard highly in a way that is easily digested.  
  5. Agility – brands need to move with the landscape and ensure they’re innovating in order to continue to grow.



[1]Research commissioned by Lanes Health and carried out by 3Gem – 2,000 UK respondents - September 2023

[2] Kantar Purchase Panel | 24 w/e 19th March 2023 | Spend Share | Cough/Throat Lozenges | Jakemans

[3] Circana Cold & Flu Decongestants, Volume Sales, 52 w/e 2 Sept 23, Total Market

[4] Olbas grows the fastest out of the top 3 brands (Sudafed, Vicks, Olbas by spend share) in Decongestants over the winter season of 2022-23 (24 w/e 19th March 2023). Source: Kantar Purchase Panel | 24 w/e 19th March 2023 | Spend | Decongestants | Olbas

2nd May 2024

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