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McNeil Consumer Products Co. is about to try and rouse the over-the-counter kids analgesics segment with the introduction of Motrin Suspension.

The kids segment, a fraction of the total $2.7 billion analgesics category, has seen no major new-product introductions since 1960, when Johnson & Johnson's McNeil brought out Children's Tylenol. Today, that brand just about owns the segment.

Now, McNeil has won recommendation for approval for Motrin Suspension from Food & Drug Administration advisory committees. Final confirmation is expected shortly from the agency.

McNeil owns the rights to Upjohn Co.'s Motrin brand name for pediatric ibuprofin products, and it's not alone in wanting to stir up the children's segment. Right behind is American Home Products Corp., which recently submitted an application for the OTC switch of its pediatric ibuprofin formula of Advil.

"The adult business is getting awfully crowded, and everyone is scraping for new sources of revenue and line extensions," said Glenn Reicin, an analyst at Morgan Stanley & Co., New York.

As category growth has slowed, "companies are using innovation in targeting new consumers through new product forms and new uses," said Don Stuart, partner with consultancy Cannondale Associates, Wilton, Conn.

While overall analgesics sales were up 4.5%, No. 1 brand Tylenol dipped 2.4% to $836.5 million, for a 31.2% share, for the 52 weeks ended April 30, according to Information Resources Inc. Third-ranked Advil's sales rose 7.9% to $343.5 million and a 12.8% share; Motrin IB, in seventh, had 1.6% higher sales of $88.5 million and a 3.3% share. Private label was second with sales of $575.1 million, up 5.2% for a 21.4% share.

Michael Shinall of the Meridian Consulting Group, Westport, Conn., estimated the children's segment at 11.4% of all analgesics sales, or more than $230 million.

Citing an April study on efficient product assortment for the General Merchandise Distributors Council Educational Foundation, Mr. Shinall said retail profits were higher for children's analgesics and that stores should be eager to carry more brands.

Paul Kelly, president of Silvermine Consulting in Westport, called it a "fairly small segment but a growth area."

Johnson & Johnson declined to comment on marketing details for Motrin Suspension or Children's Tylenol. The marketer spent $11.86 million last year on Children's Tylenol, according to Competitive Media Reporting, down 8.7% from the previous year. Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York, handles McNeil consumer products. Advil is handled by Young & Rubicam.

Children's Tylenol has little competition. Aspirin is a non-player due to parental concerns about its relation to Reye's syndrome after a study by the Centers for Disease Control in 1984. Schering-Plough Corp.'s well-known St. Joseph aspirin brand dropped out shortly thereafter and is now targeted at adults with heart conditions.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s acetaminophen product for kids, Tempra, marketed by Mead Johnson, suffered a 22.9% drop in sales to $9.4 million, for a 0.4% share. CMR showed no media spending in '94 for the product. A spokesman said the company is "reassessing its plans" and will assign the account to an agency in the second half of 1995.

Because of the strength of Children's Tylenol and the lack of activity in the segment, it may take awhile to change consumer habits.

"People are very, very conservative about what they give their kids, even if people take ibuprofin themselves," Mr. Kelly said. "I would bet it will be a relatively slow build for Motrin and will take a good year of detailing and getting doctors on board. It may be difficult to unseat Children's Tylenol, but it will probably eventually reflect ibuprofin vs. acetaminophen's growth over the years.'

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