Catalina Reports Impact of ‘Tripledemic’ on Sales of Over The Counter Flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Remedies

Catalina data insights show sharp increase in OTC flu and RSV treatment unit sales as prices rise.

ST. PETERSBURG, FL, Dec. 21, 2022 – The U.S. “tripledemic” is in full swing causing unit sales of over the counter (OTC) treatment categories to rise by as much as 69%, according to Catalina’s Shopper Intelligence Platform. New COVID variants, an early and more serious flu season, plus a sharp uptick of respiratory virus infections (RSV) contributed to OTC cough, cold, RSV, and flu symptom-related products climbing an average of 19% for October-November 2022 compared to the same period a year ago. These categories were outliers to the overall OTC category, which fell 3% for the same period.

Cough, Cold, Flu & RSV Treatment Categories Average
Price Change
Units change
Year Over Year
ADULT COUGH & COLD +11% +39%
CHEST RUBS +5% +15%

*Source: Catalina Shopper Intelligence Platform, Oct-Nov, 2022 vs. Oct-Nov, 2021

Shoppers mostly stick to brand names to fight 'tripledemic' symptoms

The average price for these categories rose 12%, trending higher than the overall U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) at 7% for November 2022. Overall, inflation and related price increases have had little impact on virus product categories. The percentage of units sold that are private label decreased slightly for several OTC categories compared to the prior year. Exceptions are Children’s Analgesics and Children’s Cough & Cold, which saw slight increases for private label during a period when several news organizations have been reporting shortages around the country, likely fueling a small flurry of panic buying.

In looking at Google Trends, searches pertaining to flu and respiratory virus infections started to increase significantly in October, mirroring unit sales of potential treatments and remedies. Interestingly, searches related to COVID were relatively flat as sales within the at-home testing kit/face mask category dropped 45%.

“Sales of home COVID testing kits may have dropped as consumers become less vigilant about spreading the virus and the federal government continues to provide free home kits. Following the large social gatherings that accompany yearend holidays, Catalina expects to see an uptick in kit purchases when an expected surge in cases follows in January,” said Sean Murphy, Chief Data & Analytics Officer at Catalina. “While RSV rates have started to fall, the flu season is expected to last through February 2023, so the overall ‘tripledemic’ will continue to have an impact on OTC shopper behavior well into the New Year.”

About Catalina
Catalina is a leader in shopper intelligence and highly targeted in-store, TV, radio, podcast and digital media that personalizes the shopper journey. Powered by the world's richest real-time shopper database, Catalina helps retailers, CPG brands and agencies optimize every stage of media planning, execution and measurement to deliver $6.1 billion in consumer value annually. Catalina has no higher priority than ensuring the privacy and security of the data entrusted to the company and maintaining consumer trust. Catalina has operations in the United States, Costa Rica, Europe and Japan. To learn more, visit or @Catalina on Twitter.

Media Contact:
Wally Petersen/Catalina