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With masks coming off, cold medicine sales surge

Brian Hartz

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Catalina headquarters in the Carillon Office Park in St. Petersburg.

As state and local governments across the country have eased Covid-19 restrictions, including mask mandates, sales of over-the-counter cold and cough remedies are on the upswing, according to new data released by Catalina, a St. Petersburg-based shopper intelligence company.

The 2020-21 flu season “was virtually nonexistent,” the company stated in a news release, citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. With so many Americans sheltering at home, social distancing, wearing masks and practicing good hygiene, the transmission of common colds and coughs also plummeted, leading to a sharp decline in sales of OTC treatments.

However, according to Catalina’s Buyer Intelligence Database, a resource that captures up to three years of purchase history across the United States and more than two billion Universal Product Codes, flus and colds are back.

For the four weeks ending June 12, 2021, sales of cough and cold remedies for children shot up 564 percent compared to the same period in 2020. Vaporizer sales were up 151 percent, cough and cold remedies sales jumped by 80 percent and cough drops/throat lozenges moved at a 48 percent higher clip.

Also, as people emerge from quarantine and spend more time outside, allergy symptoms are on the rise, Catalina found. For the four weeks ending June 12, 2021, sales of allergy/sinus relief products rose by 19 percent overall, with Mucinex sales surging 151 percent and Sudafed up 116 percent.

“In addition to knowing what products are being bought, Catalina is able to look at 38-plus years of deterministic data to determine the type of audiences most likely to put specific brands in their baskets,” Catalina Chief Marketing Officer Marta Cyhan said in a prepared statement. “For the retailers and OTC brands we serve, we are able to build custom audience segments and tap into more than 700 pre-built, syndicated audience segments to effectively reach potential buyers — ranging from category loyalists seeking symptom relief to immune booster seekers more interested in preventive measures — with promotional messages and coupons to trigger purchases.”

One category that saw a sharp decline in sales is home health testing kits — a classification that includes face masks and facial coverings. According to the CDC, some 65 percent of adult Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and it seems many are venturing out without masks on. As a result, sales in the home health testing category dropped 62 percent over the four weeks ending June 12 compared to the same period in 2020. A year ago, with the coronavirus pandemic in full effect, sales in the category were up 176 percent, according to Catalina’s database.

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