Autumn has arrived in the northern hemisphere and along with dramatic shades of yellow and orange comes a less welcome change with the arrival of the annual cold and flu season.  Mintel Global Market Navigator (GMN) predicts that the British will cough up £521m on over the counter cold remedies this year and the Americans will spend and eye watering $2.5bn.
In the UK, 30 million adults suffered from colds in 2008, driving demand for tissues and antiviral remedies and is expected to rise in 2009 in line with the swine flu pandemic. Indeed, some 17% of Brits claim they are often ill with coughs and colds and more than nine in ten have purchased antibacterial beauty and personal care products in the last 12 months. In addition, an estimated 26 million adults have purchased antibacterial hand wash in the 12 months, making this the most popular germ-killing product alongside antibacterial cleaning products and fresheners. Mintel research also shows that as many as 14% of us worry about germs in our home.
According to the World Health Organisation, the swine flu pandemic has meant an early start to the autumn and winter influenza season. Many countries have now stopped counting individual cases, particularly for those with mild symptoms and many individuals have chosen to simply treat themselves at home. Indeed, swine flu is not expected to have a major impact on the increasing trend of self-medication in the UK. Mintel GMN shows that the value of the cough, cold and throat remedies market has been increasing slowly but steadily in both the UK and the US. In the United Kingdom, the market rose in value by 3.2% in 2005, 3.5% in 2006 and 3.2% in 2007 to reach £521m in 2008. Last year the market increased by 4.2% and is expected to continue to expand at around that level going forward to increase 7.9% by 2013. It is a similar story in the United States where the market has been growing at a steady 1.7% since 2007. However, Mintel GMN shows that the US market is more volatile.
Diana Nhan, Senior Market Analyst at Mintel said:
“These figures demonstrate interesting differences between the US and UK markets. There was a significant 13.4% spike in the value of the US market during 2005, coinciding with extensive media coverage of avian flu. In 2009, swine flu has also received extensive media exposure and more worryingly is already present in every US state. Consequently, I would not be surprised to see a similar trend-busting increase in US market value for 2009 and the early part of 2010. “
“Meanwhile, the British seem to have a more consistant approach to treating colds and flu, with steady increases year on year. That said, the market has still seen a phenomenal 70% growth since 2005, highlighting the fact we do still like to fight off germs with over the counter remedies. “Diana adds.
Mintel GMN goes on to reveal that in the US cold, allergy and sinus tablets represented 11.5% of the OTC market in 2008 and cough remedies 4.1%. In contrast, it seems Brits place more faith in tablets, with cold and flu decongestants representing 49% of the market and cough remedies representing 22%.
Looking around the world, Mintel GMN highlights some significant cultural and geographic differences. Poland is similar to the UK and United States with cough medicine representing just over one fifth of the OTC market at 22.9%. In China the figure rises considerably to 30.8% of the OTC market, which is in stark contrast to Finland and Russia where cough medicine accounts for just 7% and 6.2% respectively.
However, in terms of attitudes it seems UK residents are not all concerned over germs. Some 27 million adults subscribe to the philosophy that some germs can be good for you. A further 39% (13.7 million adults) say these days we are too obsessed with germs. And almost a quarter of us (26%) don’t give much thought to germs.
Indeed, belief that these days people are too obsessed with germs is enough to put off 2.5 million adults from buying antibacterial products. Meanwhile, despite being more likely than men to wash their hands several times a day, women typically adopt a more relaxed approach to germs. Almost seven in ten women, compared to just over half of men, think it is good to have exposure to some germs.

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