The grocery sector is becoming a key outlet for holiday health shopping, with grocers outstripping pharmacies in the four key summer health markets. Ailsa Colquhoun reports

With the war in Iraq, the SARS epidemic and the ongoing threat of terrorist attack, it’s little wonder that consumers have been loath to holiday abroad in the past few years.
But, following several years of economic boom, average personal disposable incomes have risen by more than a quarter since 1998, according to Mintel, prompting rain-weary Britons to open those holiday brochures once more.
In a recent report on the holiday market, the analyst estimates more than 44 million overseas holidays will be taken this year, a rise of slightly more than 5% on last year.
Encouraged by the dollar exchange rate, far-flung destinations such as the Caribbean are fast becoming the holidays of choice, taking over from European favourites such as Spain. They are also luring people who usually holiday in the UK.
Grocers already recognise the value of associating themselves with the holiday market, as loyalty card link-ups such as Tesco’s with Avis and Nectar with online travel operator eBookers attest.
Aided by such activity and the public meanwhile switching to supermarkets for their general medicinal needs, grocery retailers are now key outlets for holiday health lines.
During 2004, over-the-counter medicine suppliers collectively applied for licences to switch summer medicine lines that were previously pharmacy-only on to the General Sales List.
These included Wasp-Eze Bites & Stings Spray, Benadryl Allergy Relief for hayfever and Procter & Gamble’s tummy trouble remedy Pepto-Bismol.
IMS Health’s PharmaTrend Offtake Report data for January reveals that, in both value and volume growth, grocers massively outstripped pharmacies in the four key summer health markets of hayfever and allergy relief, antidiarrhoeals, skin-cleansing products and bite and sting creams.
Suncare products, however, remain more of a challenge to grocers, which yet again have failed to topple Boots - whose Soltan brand remains the UK’s top-selling suncare brand - off its pole position as a summer remedies retailer [TNS Superpanel 52 w/e February 27, 2005].
The prospect of an improved summer this year will be welcome. Last year, on the back of just one hot week and improved consumer ‘sun-sense’, Sainsbury reported that sales of sunscreen put in their
biggest single increase for 10 years, with sales of medium and high-factor sunscreens up 10% and children’s sunscreen products one third.
Hot summers can also lead to an increased occurrence of people suffering from hayfever.
Volume sales soared 42.4% in the hayfever remedies sector, with a value increase of 2.7% [TNS 52w/e February 27, 2005], leading grocers to develop the range in terms of both brands and own label this year.
Asda says sales within the hayfever category rose more than 100% in its stores last year. The chain is developing its own-label hayfever offering further this year to include tablets and liquids.
Senior healthcare buyer John Shoesmith says: “The allergy area is the prime area where consumers are switching from pharmacy to grocery, largely through a greater understanding of the symptoms of and treatments for hayfever.
This is also driving them to trade out of the key brands into tertiary and own-label.”
This month, the chain also became the first grocery multiple to list the £9.99 Imutest range of home allergy-testing kits.
According to the manufacturer, Britons now spend an average £55m a year on self-diagnosis, a spend being targeted by the brand’s £350,000 marketing campaign for this year. In Asda, the range is being merchandised in the health and beauty aisles.
GlaxoSmithKline is to spend £4.7m on its hayfever portfolio this summer, in a campaign that will include television advertising and sponsorship, radio, press and London Underground posters.
At the same time, Pfizer has launched Benadryl Allergy Relief, which is a fast-acting grocery hayfever remedy that is designed to complement its existing One-A-Day grocery line.
A £3.5m promotional campaign running until the end of June aims to communicate grocery’s ideal positioning as an outlet for distress purchases, says senior brand manager Vivan Pinto.