Cold, cough and flu sales are spiking

The data from Numerator also reveals that Loblaw, Metro and Costco are growing category share.


Cold, cough and flu sales have been climbing over the last year.

According to weekly data from Numerator, cold, cough and flu sales are up 25% compared to a year ago but down 21% compared to two years ago. This suggests that Canadian consumers overall are still not getting as sick as during a “normal” pre-pandemic cold flu season due to pandemic safety measures, but have been getting more sick than in the first year of the pandemic.

The uptick could be attributed to slightly less restrictive measures this year compared to the previous year, as well the Omicron variant, which exhibited symptoms closer to a typical cold in many people who caught it.

And the trend line is continuing upward. In the most recent week tracked – Jan. 17 – cold, cough and flu household penetration spiked 51.1%, after a long period of steady week-over-week increases. The buy rate, at $24.61, is up marginally (3.3%) from a year ago, after being down when lockdowns began.

When it comes to categories, pain relievers are showing consistent sales growth, the only category to show growth this year vs. last year, as well as in 2021 vs. 2020.

Despite the boost, adjacent categories remain tepid. Tea is up a mere 1% versus a year ago, while facial tissue, hand and body lotions, and stocks and broths remain down compared with a year ago.

According to the Numerator data, drug, mass retailers, club retailers and discount channels are capturing more cold, cough and flu-relieving trips.

Meanwhile, Loblaw (including Shoppers Drug Mart), Metro (including Jean Coutu) and Costco captured a slight increase in their share of cold, cough and flu purchases compared with a year ago, while Walmart and Circle K have lost some ground.

According to federal government flu-watch data ending February 5, influenza activity across Canada decreased in recent weeks and remains low for this time of year.