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OTC Goes Online: 11 OTC Brands Succeeding on Amazon

May 10, 2016
Ryan Jepson
Written By
Ryan Jepson

In this post, Profitero explores two categories new to our Amazon FastMovers —Vitamins and Pain Relief.

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are not the most natural fit for eCommerce. Treatments for acute conditions tend to have a sense of urgency; free two-day shipping is convenient, but someone with a headache or sore throat needs a remedy now. But the rapid and continued growth of Amazon and its “endless aisle,” economically viable price-to weight ratios in OTC medicines, and the power of on-site retail search means that more shoppers are researching and buying OTC medicines online.

In parallel, vitamins and supplements are a large and growing industry—and eCommerce is playing a meaningful role. The regimented nature of vitamins makes subscription programs like Subscribe & Save a natural fit, helping shoppers stay compliant and brands lock in their loyalty.

In this post, I rank the categories’ top brands and analyze each category’s particular dynamics and opportunities on Amazon.

What we found:

  1. Sunbeam (Jarden Consumer Solutions) and Biofreeze led the Pain Relief FastMovers list in March 2016
  2. Nature Made (Pharmavite) and Now Foods topped the Vitamins FastMovers list
  3. Prime Pantry is an untapped opportunity for these best sellers
  4. These categories have room to grow with Subscribe & Save

Let’s dive in.

OTC Pain Relief: Sunbeam heating pads, Biofreeze gels top the FastMovers 100

Sunbeam (Jarden Consumer Solutions), with 9 FastMovers, and Biofreeze, with 8 FastMovers, took the top brands spots in March 2016 in the Pain Relief category on Amazon.

pain relievers

The top brands reflect the broader product composition of this best sellers list of Amazon.

Sunbeam had a monopoly on heat pads in the best seller rankings: all nine of its FastMovers were heating pads and wraps, three of which were ranked in the top 10 FastMover spots. No other heating pads appeared on the FastMovers 100.

Biofreeze, on the other hand, sold topical pain relieving gel, spray gel, and roll-on gel – and filled that category’s niche.

Advil and Kirkland Signature, tied with Hyland’s for the #3 brand spot with five FastMovers each, won the pain relief pill space with ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin. The presence of Kirkland Signature—Costco’s private label—underscores the rise of Amazon’s marketplace and the competitiveness of 3rd-party sellers. Here’s more on the challenge of competing with 3P sellers at Amazon.

The best sellers in this Amazon category also highlight the sometimes puzzling nature of Amazon’s taxonomy. Though all of these products are intended to relieve pain, it’s unlikely that Advil brand managers consider Sunbeam or Biofreeze competitors in the “pain relief” category. This is why, when working with clients to analyze sales and share at Amazon, Profitero maps their products and competitors’ products to a more familiar category hierarchy. (Read more about our alliance with Nielsen here.)

Vitamins: Nature Made and Now Foods top the FastMovers 100

Nature Made (Pharmavite) led the Vitamins FastMovers 100 in March 2016 with nine products. Now Foods was close behind with eight FastMovers.


In this category, Vitamin D3 supplements were most popular, followed by Vitamin C. There were 24 product title references to “D3” and “D-3,” 14 references to “Vitamin C,” six references to “B12,” and four to “B Complex.”

For Vitamins FastMovers in particular, there appears to be a threshold for the minimum acceptable star rating: only three FastMovers had a star rating below 4.0. Given the nature of these products, a higher bar makes sense.

Amazon program eligibility: opportunities with Subscribe & Save and Prime Pantry

amazon program

Subscribe & Save (S&S) is an appropriate selling program for many products in these categories, which lend themselves to regular, repeated purchasing at relatively predictable intervals. 100 daily multivitamins will run out in 100 days, for example, and a subscription can ensure that your vitamins are waiting on that shopper’s doorstep at the right time.

However, these categories lag similar categories in S&S eligibility. Both Pain Relief and Vitamins were eligible for S&S at relatively high rates—36% and 37%, respectively—but well behind Health & Personal Care overall (50%).

Prime Pantry appears to be an untapped resource for these best sellers, as well. Only Pain Relievers had any Prime Pantry products (3), despite the eligibility of everyday essentials like vitamins and ibuprofen for the service.

Pain Relief FastMovers were eligible for Prime at a slightly higher rate than the median category (78% vs. 72%). The Vitamins category, at 72%, was in line with Health & Personal Care (72%) and the median category (73%).

The visibility of Amazon programs for food and consumables like Subscribe & Save, Prime Now, and Fresh is poised to increase over the coming months as Amazon positions them more prominently among its online properties. More detail on the shifts here.


  1. Stand out with Subscribe & Save: Subscribe & Save makes sense for many products in these categories, but only 36%-37% are currently eligible.
  2. Consider Prime Pantry as an option for some of your products, such as single-count vitamin bottles and OTC pain relief. Despite being eligible for Pantry, no Vitamins best sellers and only three Pain Relief best sellers were sold on the service.

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