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The coronavirus outbreak continues taking its toll on US consumer health industry conferences, among other business, entertainment and sporting events, as the industry's sales soar with consumers stockpiling in panic.

US industry trade groups on 12 March announced that the Dietary Supplements Regulatory Summit scheduled for 27 May in Washington has been postponed. The groups are negotiating with the host hotel to reschedule the summit on a date during the third or fourth quarter this year.

The event's postponement follows the delay or cancellation of other consumer health industry conferences during the past month due to concerns about spreading the Covid-19 virus with people from around the world attending the events. One of the cancelled events also was organized by one of the groups hosting the supplement summit, the Consumer Healthcare Product Association's annual conference scheduled 22-24 March in Orlando, FL. (Also see "Coronavirus Slams US Consumer Health Industry Event Schedules, FDA Meetings, Inspections" - HBW Insight, 10 Mar, 2020.)

Even as supplies from China are slowed or interrupted due to Covid-19's impact there, though, sales of some consumer health products are jumping as consumers respond to the public health threat.

With hand sanitizer purchases leaving store shelves and e-commerce sites empty, Neogen Corp. is among the suppliers reaping the rewards of soaring demand. The Lexington, KY, firm on 12 March said it is ramping up its inventory of hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, nitrile gloves and disinfectants.

Neogen said it developed its suite of biosecurity products primarily for use in agricultural markets and has found them effective for consumer use to stop the spread of disease. Its consumer products include Companion Hand Sanitizer 62% ethyl alcohol-based foaming sanitizer

"Products in our portfolio have been proven effective against viruses similar to Covid-19, and can be utilized to help stop the spread of disease when used in accordance with their labeled directions for use," said president and CEO John Adent in a release.

'Dr. Oz' Recommendation Resonates

In the supplement space, a tip from doctor and TV personality Mehmet Oz, "Dr. Oz," has helped spike sales of some products, says online retailer The Henderson, NV, firm says Dr. Oz has suggested consumers add supplements to their diets to boost their defenses against illness.

Oz, who has been criticized previously for making unsubstantiated health claims for vitamin, mineral and supplement products, apparently chose his words carefully to tout potential immunity benefits from supplement use. (Also see "Dr. Oz As Role Model? No Defense Against FTC Action On Weight Loss Claims" - HBW Insight, 8 Nov, 2016.)

"Supplements have never been shown to beat coronavirus, however there are some tactics that will slow down the progression of viruses in general. So ideas that work well generally are vitamin D, which you get from the sun, but this time of year you've got to take it as a supplement," BulkSupplements quoted Oz as saying on 9 March.

His recommendations, which included vitamin C, zinc and elderberry supplements and getting vitamin C from sources like leafy greens, salmon and berries, have helped sales, said BulkSupplements CEO Kevin Baronowsky.

"Our vitamin C and elderberry extract powder sales have skyrocketed in the past week and we are nearly out-of-stock.  Our raw material costs have almost tripled and we expect an industry shortage," Baronowsky said.

Those aren't the only products with sales climbing as consumers respond, according to a recent Nielsen Co. Retail Measurement Services survey. Sales growth for VMS products was in the lower half of the top 10 self-stable consumer packaged goods categories during a week in late February(see table).

Nielsen also recently reported a survey showed sales of supplements, tracking all US channels combined, were up 7.8% and unit growth 9.7% for the week of 16-22 February in comparison to the same period in 2019. (Also see "Coronavirus Disruption Likely In Supply Chain, Stockpiling Spikes Consumer Health Sales" - HBW Insight, 6 Mar, 2020.)

Across the US through 12 March, the number of people in the US diagnosed with Covid-19 was 1,215, including 125 from "travel-related" causes, 102 from "close contact" and the remaining 988 undetermined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC also said 36 deaths have been linked the virus, which has been reported in 42 states and Washington, DC.

On 11 March, the World Health Organization classified the Covid-19 outbreak, which has been reported in 114 countries, as a global pandemic. President Trump on the same day announced a 30-day ban on foreign visitors from most of Europe in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

Shelf-stable CPG Items Sales Rise With Covid-19 Concerns

Dollar Growth % Unit Growth %
Oat Milk
Fruit Snacks
Pet Medicine
Dried Beans
10.1 2.5
Energy Beverages
Bath & Shower Wipes
9.5 12.5
9 5.5
7.8 9.7
First Aid Kits
6.2 0.2
Source: Nielsen Retail Measurement Services, total US all Outlets Combined, one-week period ended 22 February, 2020

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