Trends come and go, but when they stick, Walgreens takes notice. By studying internal data, as well as data from market research companies like Mintel, the Walgreens Retail-owned Brand (private brand) commercialization managers was able to forecast what consumers will be clamoring for this year.
“We’ve tapped into our customers’ needs and desires and are specifically working on bringing more innovation to our Walgreens-owned brands portfolio so we can provide health and wellness products at great value,” says Luke Rauch, Walgreens chief merchandising officer and senior vice president. “Walgreens has a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in health and wellness, and our merchandising team is especially knowledgeable of what to put on our store shelves.”
Here are the 10 trends the Walgreens team is watching in 2023:
1. Keeping immune systems boosted
Getting sick makes life more inconvenient, so we’re doing our best to ward off germs before they invade our immune systems. Mintel’s 2022 Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements Market Report shows that customers want to take preventive measures to avoid getting sick and do so in a way that benefits their whole self. Walgreens is developing or purchasing products to meet this shift every day.
“Anytime I can put zinc, vitamin C or elderberry into products, it’s beneficial,” says owned brand commercialization manager Carissa Castonzo. “Whether it’s for sleep, like melatonin, or digestive health or pain relief, if we can incorporate an immune-boosting ingredient into a traditional medication, supplement or remedy our customers are already taking, we will do it.”
2. ‘Dr. Me’
Owned brand commercialization manager Tom Johnsen describes a trend he’s observed that he calls “Dr. Me,” which basically means that people are trying to take care of themselves, or rely on caregivers, at home, for as long as they can.
“We have a rapidly aging population, people are living longer, and they’re trying to delay moving into a nursing home,” Johnsen says. “This opens up a whole different set of needs from a consumer products perspective.”
As of 2020, more than one-in-six Americans were responsible for the daily care of a loved one, according to a study by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving. And that number has increased as families took their loved ones out of long-term care facilities during the pandemic. Johnsen says an increase in products like medical gloves year over year, even outside of the pandemic, supports this trend.
3. Ingredients found in nature
Down with dyes, added sugars and chemicals. Bring on clean, recognizable ingredients we might find in our pantry. Younger shoppers in particular are growing more critical of ingredients in traditional over-the-counter products. Instead, they are seeking out more herbal and botanical additives, with an increase in usage from 13% to 25%, according to Mintel. Turmeric, a natural anti-inflammatory that can assist with gastrointestinal flare-ups or even pain relief, is now incorporated into some topical ointments at Walgreens. Honey, a “superfood” that contains propolis, a substance derived from beeswax and pollen, can both boost immunity and offer relief, such as with throat lozenges.
4. Clean ingredients, please
In addition to ingredients found in nature, customers are also looking for transparency in ingredient lists and clean ingredients. According to Mintel’s latest vitamins report, one-third of customers say they consider ingredients when looking for ingestible products. Walgreens is offering more options that are dye-free, sugar-free and free of artificial ingredients.
“The trend is, ‘I’m looking for something that’s better for me that doesn’t contain anything that’s unnecessary,’” Castonzo says. For example, Walgreens Free & Pure vitamin line was developed with this trend in mind and makes four promises: no artificial flavors, no synthetic colors, non-GMO and gluten free.
5. Sustainable products
Among the many threats facing the globe, climate change stands out as an especially strong concern, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey. As it fuels a global conversation about action, sustainably sourced and made products will continue to be in demand in 2023, says Andrea Collaro, senior director of owned brand management and product development. According to IRi market research, 77% of consumers believe sustainability is important when shopping for products, up from 69% in 2021. In addition to putting the “how to recycle” tile on our owned brand product packaging that can be recycled, Collaro says Walgreens is putting more sustainably made products on its shelves, like bamboo toothbrushes, vegan face masks and hairbrushes made with recyclable plastic.
“Customers are willing to put in the extra effort to find sustainable products,” she says.
6. Relieving mental stress and increasing focus
In reviewing Google’s trends related to mental health searches, it’s no surprise that the highest-ranking related topics are “pandemic” and “social media.” It’s an increasingly digital world, and one where COVID-19 continues to impact lives and, consequently, mental health. Distractions abound and can be hard to ignore, especially for those still adjusting to altered work or school environments.
The 2022 Personal Care Consumer Market Report from Mintel assesses that 40% to 43% of consumers born after 1980 are making purchases to support their mental health. Products like Brain Health Gummies help mental focus, and capsules with ingredients known to improve mental sharpness and memory retention are growing in popularity.
7. Getting the Zzzs we need
We’re tired. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to feel properly restored, energized and healthy. But busy schedules, screens and lasting impacts from COVID-19 have made stress management tougher on consumers and sleep more fleeting. Increasingly, younger consumers are in search of over-the-counter sleep support, reports Mintel. Luckily, dye-free melatonin is one solution Walgreens offers for our dozing drought.
8. Symptom relief without another pill
When it comes to pain relief, people are looking for alternatives to ingestible medications.
“Some people don’t want to put more medicine into their bodies,” says Kim Webb, senior manager of owned brand commercialization. “They’re looking for something they don’t have to ingest.”
And data from Mintel’s 2022 OTC Pain Management Report backs this up. Topical over-the-counter pain relief products—like lidocaine cream—are on the rebound as consumers have started to get back to their pre-pandemic routines and increase their activity. Castonzo also notes an increased interest in devices that help relieve pain like the Walgreens Percussion Massager.
This same trend is popping up in cold symptom relief, too. There was a huge jump in use of air purification devices, like humidifiers, between 2018 and 2022, according to Mintel’s 2022 Air Treatment Report. Webb says customers are buying humidifiers as well as products like nasal strips and topical cough suppressants to fight off cold symptoms. Walgreens continues to work on non-ingestible alternatives in other areas as well, including a pair of glasses coming this spring that you can wear to fight motion sickness symptoms.
9. More post-op support
Whether you’re recovering from a C-section or a knee replacement, chances are you won’t get enough supplies from the hospital to take care of your wounds at home for the duration of your recovery.
“Patients are getting sent home with only one or two days of post-op supplies, and that wasn’t always the case,” says Johnsen.
Walgreens works with various hospital suppliers to make sure the company is carrying the most prescribed products for post-op recovery like gauze, tape and antibacterial ointments. Plus, Walgreens is working on upgrading some standard wound care supplies like a dressing with silver alginate, which Johnsen says helps reduce bacterial growth and only needs to be changed every seven days.
10. Sickness isn’t seasonal anymore
Have you started feeling congested and weren’t sure if it was COVID-19 or seasonal allergies? Or even worse, was your household hit by the ‘tripledemic’? While we can at least predict the flu, COVID-19 isn’t following the same seasonal pattern—meaning any new symptom we experience can be a cause for alarm. Falling sick remains disruptive to our daily lives and ability to work, and it’s imperative to get diagnosed quickly and accurately as we enter the third year of the pandemic. Walgreens offers flu testing in stores, including COVID-19 and flu testing that can be performed at the same time at 5,000 locations. Additionally, COVID-19 tests can be delivered 24-hours a day for timely and accurate self-diagnosing.