Diplomatic Immunity

Retailers hunt for the right place on shelves for preventative vitamin products.

Abbey Lewis, Editor in Chief, CSProducts

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An Upward Trend

According to LaManna, data from 2012 and 2013 shows that there has been a 19% to 20% increase in the vitamins and nutrition category. And Convenience Valet’s own data shows an increase in sales of 18% in the Super Orange Emergen-C SKU, and a 10% increase in the tangerine-flavored SKU year over year since the company began marketing the product three years ago.

“There is this trend for what I call stay-well or better-for-you products. It’s not a fad. When we have the space and it’s justified, I will consider taking one or up to three underperforming SKUs in a store and putting one to three SKUs of this category in,” LaManna says. “Category management isn’t brand management; it’s doing the best for that category.”

Manufacturers of both products expect to ramp up their focus on the c-store market, too. Now that sales are solid and trending upward in food, drug and mass, repackagers and manufacturers can turn their focus to this industry; the dedicated, heavy users of these stay-well and immunity-boosting products also shop at c-stores, and the application is a natural fit.

“As we have done with our food, drug and mass accounts, we will continue to expand distribution with multiple flavors and locations throughout the store by providing an alternative to high-sugar and caffeinated beverages,” Pfizer’s Moye says.

Some repackagers are taking this inevitable upturn and using both brands to diversify their offer further. Convenience Valet’s LaManna says the company began distributing the Airborne products within the past 18 months and is altering the flavor profile and delivery method from Emergen-C to change things up a bit.

“We do not attempt to establish a brand; we just identify trends and look for opportunity gaps,” he says. “EmergenC in 10- and 30-packet boxes has been a leading seller in a major drug store for years and it appears in their ads about 20 times a year. Consumers know the brand, the product and the benefits. It is an established brand. … We started working with Airborne, another excellent, wellrecognized and accepted brand.”

As the category continues to grow, one thing experts can agree on is that there is a place for immunity products and boosters within the c-store realm.

“They certainly have their place in a hierarchy of items,” LaManna says. “Our data, our results, show that they do have a place.”  

On the Up and Up

In data provided by Lil’ Drug Store Products, annual sales in the vitamin category (in which these products fall, according to Paul Rossberger, vice president of sales and marketing for Lil’ Drug Store Products) are up 26.2% from one year ago.

  • Within c-stores, the vitamin category enjoyed more than $104 million in annual sales.
  • The vitamin category moved up in ranking to become the sixth-largest subcategory in convenience HBC.
  • The vitamin category is made up of multiple subcategories, primarily liquid  vitamins and minerals, which account for 56% of sales. This subcategory includes Emergen-C and Airborne products; mineral supplements (male supplements, energy or nutrients such as potassium, ginseng, etc.), with 37% of sales; multivitamins, 6%; and single- and double-letter vitamins (vitamin C, D3 caplets, etc.), 1%.
  • Emergen-C as a brand, supplied by Pfizer, ranked No. 22 in top vitamin-category brands.


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