Vicks Wakes Up Sleep-Aid Niche

ZzzQuil Appeals to Those Who Suffer From Sleeplessness But Are Reluctant to Take Prescription Drugs

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Over-the-counter sleep aids were snoozers for years, marked by slow growth and high private-label shares, made worse as leading brand Tylenol PM went into hibernation two years ago due to Johnson & Johnson's recall and manufacturing issues.

Now an offshoot of Procter & Gamble's Vicks NyQuil -- ZzzQuil -- has reawakened the category. Launched in July, ZzzQuil notched sales of more than $6.7 million for the four weeks ended Sept. 9, according to SymphonyIRI data excluding Walmart, club and dollar stores. That projects to annualized sales of more than $100 million in all channels, passing private label for category leadership almost overnight.

Helping are TV, print, in-store and digital marketing for ZzzQuil led by Publicis, New York, and the continued absence of Tylenol PM.

"Our research tells us that 25% of consumers suffer occasional sleeplessness, but only 15% buy within the category today," a P&G spokeswoman said. "Vicks feels strongly that we have a right to play and win in the category long-term."

Realistically, some folks were already taking NyQuil to get to sleep. And Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director for Datamonitor, sees ZzzQuil hitting a sweet spot, appealing to an aging population that experiences more sleep problems but may be reluctant to try prescription drugs.

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