COVID-19 & Consumer Healthcare

COVID-19 & Consumer Healthcare



By IRI and Kline

The unprecedented crisis of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, which began in March 2020, has affected the U.S. population in profound ways that seem to change daily. With shelter-in-place orders, schools, colleges, restaurants, lodging establishments, office buildings, some industrial facilities, recreational facilities, and many non-essential government facilities closed, and a unique recessionary/boon economy (for some) ensued. Much of this patchwork mixture of experiences continues as the U.S. experiences a resurgence of the virus.

How has this impacted consumer healthcare practices and product sales patterns? What will the future bring? In this short paper, we assess the possible impact on the consumer healthcare market, a space with which both Kline and IRI are deeply familiar, having tracked the industry for decades. We’ve looked at the impacts of COVID-19 on the consumer healthcare market, defined as nonprescription or OTC drugs, dietary supplements, and devices used by consumers to manage their health.


  • While the forced lockdowns resulted in a recessionary period that was unusual, it’s been mitigated somewhat by stock market rallies, stimulus spending by the government and consumer stockpile spending on essential items, including many self-care categories.
  • The consumer healthcare market has grown 6.6% through September 6, 2020 year to date versus the same period in 2019, about three times the pre-pandemic growth rate. The increase in 2020 has been driven by strong double-digit growth for nutritional supplements, sleeping aids, and select respiratory and analgesic items.
  • Within the dietary supplement segment, consumers have boosted the use of multivitamins to maintain wellness. The respiratory and analgesics categories are also growing at faster-than-normal rates as consumers loaded their pantries with these products earlier in the year, anticipating that they might get sick. 
  • Certain consumer healthcare product categories have greater private sales growth rates and penetration versus the consumer healthcare industry average during this period, including vitamins/supplements, antacids, thermometers and blood pressure kits.

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