Ricola keeps its efficacy push going outside of cold season

The lozenge brand is thinking about other reasons people get a sore throat to continue building share in a declining category.

Ricola Menthol Centres Super Bowl-main

The cough drop category is slumping thanks to the pandemic, so Ricola is using the Super Bowl to boost its latest, stronger product, even at the tail end of cold and flu season.

Alok Ummat, director of marketing for Ricola Canada, says the Swiss-based brand is learning more about the distinctions between North American and European consumers – focusing on product benefits has been more effective than brand-led creative here. According to Ummat, the shift to higher efficacy products like its Extra Strength Ricola (launched in 2019) and its latest SKU, Menthol Centres, is resonating with customers.

The creative – the first to run during the big game for a brand that frequently activates around it – focuses on Ricola’s new Menthol Centres throat-coating product, positioning it as soothing and effective cough and sore throat relief. Ummat says adding the game to its existing TV spend was attractive to the brand, as in a pandemic year it didn’t come with as heavy a price tag premium.

Historically Ricola has activated around cough and cold season, but consumer insights reveal more year-round demand than anticipated: 30% of people rely on them for relief beyond coughs and colds, Ummat says. “We are on this path to be an everyday cough drop you can take with severe coughs or a simple tickle,” explains Ummat. “This category is not as seasonal as you’d think, 40% of cough drops are sold in shoulder seasons like April and September.”

The spot, running during both the U.S. and Canadian Super Bowl broadcasts, is produced by New York-based Burns Group, and is being supported with a push on social media by FUSE Create, that focuses more on the non-cold occasions, like soothing your throat after cheering during a big game. Ricola is also giving away gift cards for licensed NFL football apparel on its Facebook and Instagram channels. Rosedale Strategy handled the PR.

Over the last few years, Ummat says Ricola share has gone from 13% to 20%, and household penetration from 6.4% to 11.4%. He claims growth is coming at the expense of market leader, Mondelēz’s Halls. While Ummat concedes that the cough drop category overall is down 17% over the last 52 weeks – people staying home and taking extra health precautions due to the pandemic may be having an impact on the spread of cold and flu this year – Ricola has continued to grow its market share slightly.

As the brand looks to the future, he says a big challenge Ricola faces is to create a business model for new channels, as the cough drop segment, like every category, has been shaken up thanks to COVID. Ummat says it’s putting a lot of dedicated resources into better understanding the ecommerce model, and admits it’s just getting started and is probably a little bit late to the game.