Insights and Trends

What happened to cold & flu remedies this winter?

Over the 12 weeks to 24 January, cold and flu products such as cough liquids, decongestants and cold treatments saw sales slump by 49% compared with January 2020, the biggest decline for the sector ever.

This is a decline of £67 million in cash terms, as just 24% of the UK population purchased a cold and flu product this season, a decline of 8.4 million shoppers year on year.

Kantar’s figures come with an explanation. With many of us working from home, and schools and non-essential retailers remaining closed, the number of people we came into contact with was much lower than usual. Alongside social distancing measures, this could have limited the spread of common winter bugs.

In addition to social distancing, over the past year we’ve seen a huge rise in sales of hygiene products such as liquid soap and hand sanitiser (up 129%) and disinfectants (up 77%), again limiting the spread.

We’ve also increased our protection against colds by taking more vitamins than ever, with 49% of the population buying the category. Sales of Vitamin D supplements are particularly strong, having increased 89% as consumers look to boost their immune system in light of the pandemic.

March 2020 also saw a large number of consumers stocking up on cold and flu remedies in anticipation of the first national lockdown. This meant sales during this time were unseasonably high, up 22%. Lots of this stock hasn’t been used up.

Looking ahead, with consumers continuing to prioritise health and hygiene and with many of us still working from home, it’s likely that sales of winter remedies will not return to previous levels for quite some time.

Mental health catching immunity as the pandemic priority

A whitepaper by Irish nutrition company Kerry, Understanding Consumer Drivers in Beverages, examines the key health priorities that will drive the functional beverage market with 2,662 consumers across the UK, Germany, Poland and Spain.

When asked about the health concerns that have become more important since the emergence of Covid-19, 59% of respondents cited immunity while 50% said mental health is now a priority. The research has also indicated that consumers prefer beverages with natural ingredients.

“We believe that the functional beverage category will gain traction as lifestyle consumers tune into an expected surge in new product launches with many targeting more holistic attitudes towards health, diet and lifestyle,” says Breda Kelly, Kerry’s Nutritional Beverage Lead for Europe and Russia.

“Our consumer research shows that there is a growing demand for products that address a broad spectrum of health concerns, but in particular immunity and mental health support. While immune health is top of mind at the moment and is the most important health concern since the onset of the pandemic, younger age groups are worried about body-mind wellness and their mental health, meaning that there is an opportunity to create products to address these concerns.”

Women report higher anxiety and depression than men

While more men died from Covid-19, women’s wellbeing was more negatively affected than men’s during the first year of the pandemic. That’s a clear conclusion from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Women were more likely to be furloughed, and they spent significantly less time working from home and more time on unpaid household work and childcare.

At the beginning of the UK’s first lockdown in March 2020, women spent 55% more time than men on unpaid childcare. However, this difference is smaller than in September and October 2020, when women spent 99% more time on unpaid childcare than men.

Additionally, a significantly greater proportion of women (67%) than men (52%) home-schooled a school age child in late January and early February.

In April and early May 2020, around one in three women (34%) reported that their wellbeing was negatively affected by home-schooling a school age child compared with only one in five men (20%). By late January and early February 2021, it was taking a greater toll on both women (53%) and men (45%).

“The pandemic has created a huge amount of anxiety for so many men and women, but has also helped us identify what we want to achieve in life, how much our loved ones matter and how limited our time here ultimately is,” says Keisha Shah, founder of the Milton Keynes-based educational resources provider, Teddo Play.

“What matters at the end of the day is family, friends, relationships, our health and financial goals — everything else is just noise. Due to the pandemic, we have been able to see and appreciate the simpler things in life, and have learnt to be more considerate and kinder to others. Covid-19 has served as a reality-check on our super-busy lifestyles, which for so long have been a rat race with no real destination.”

Natasha Caton of Northampton-based permaculture community farm, Sol Haven, teamed up with Northampton Hope Centre to make vegan meals for homeless people in the town. “During the first two months of the pandemic we thought, right, lets re-charge, re-think and strategise, and we needed to as our income had taken a serious hit,” she says. “Making between 70 and 120 meals a week of home-cooked and home-grown food really helped us to know we were making a difference and touching base with people.”

Trudy Simmons, founder of London-based The Daisy Chain Group, says: “It’s been an anxious and overwhelming 12 months for so many but as a community of women entrepreneurs, we have leant on each other for support, encouragement and that all-important motivation to keep going. The strength of our community has helped our members through the challenges of changing, growing and in some cases losing their businesses, often with no help or support from the Government. The pandemic has been brutal but it has brought out the best in many people, too.”

Women sniff a deodorant problem

Staying fresh and clean during lockdowns has been a tale of two halves according to research from Mintel – while soap sales doubled, sales of deodorants have continued to slump.

Almost three in 10 (28%) deodorant/antiperspirant users have applied them less frequently since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Worry over the use of chemicals in deodorants is deterring usage among women, with 20% not using deodorant due to concerns that it is bad for their health. Overall, more than a third (35%) of deodorant users are interested in buying deodorants formulated with natural ingredients, while 34% are interested in deodorants with plastic-free packaging.

Already in decline, the outbreak of Covid-19 has exacerbated the downward trajectory of the market, with deodorant sales falling an estimated 7% in 2020 to £369 million, down from £394 million in 2019. Sales are forecast to decline a further 5% in 2021 to £352 million.

However, sales of soap doubled in 2020 as Brits splashed out £392 million on keeping their hands squeaky clean, up from £197 million in 2019. Hand sanitiser has proved to be an absolute essential during the pandemic, with usage rising to 73% in 2020, up from just 41% in 2018. What is more, eight in 10 (82%) of hand sanitiser users are now using it more frequently.

Data commissioned by health and beauty brand specialist The Pull Agency has revealed that almost three-quarters of UK consumers (71%) don’t think brands and retailers are doing enough to make their beauty and personal care purchases more sustainable. They also identified plastic waste as the main culprit – around half (46%) see it as the biggest sustainability challenge facing the industry.

Why 6m Brits buy CBD

A survey of 2,000 adults found that nearly one in five (17% of adults) say they have purchased a food supplement, product, or a treatment containing cannabidiol (CBD) or cannabis extract from a pharmacy, health store or online source in the last year. This compares to 11% over the previous year.

Professor Trevor Jones, Chair of the European Medicinal Cannabis Association, says: “The increase in demand for CBD is not being driven solely by a desire to improve general health and wellbeing, as would be the case with a ‘novel food’ supplement. Rather, it is being driven by patients who are looking to ease symptoms for conditions and disabilities such as chronic pain, MS, autism, and anxiety.”

HFMA Health of the Nation – the key trends

Health Food Manufacturers’ Association data as of December 2020:

Full details:

Getting out more

A study of 2,000 Brits reveals connecting with nature is among the top three benefits to come out of lockdown (24%), after spending more time with family (31%) and having more free time (26%).

The research and a list of beautiful and biodiverse green spaces was commissioned by natural cosmetics company, Weleda, to celebrate its 100-year anniversary and reveals the vital role of nature in keeping the nation’s spirits lifted throughout the Coronavirus pandemic.

A third (34%) say going out for walks helped them cope with lockdown restrictions and 28% find the great outdoors relieves the stress of the pandemic.

Over half of Brits (58%) who worked from home spent more time outside during lockdown, compared to pre-pandemic. Almost half (46%) now get out into nature at least four times a week. Once lockdown is lifted, two thirds (66%) say they want to spend even more time outdoors.

The list of green spaces can be found at

Read earlier Insights here...