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CVS Gets Serious About Stress Relief Products

The drug chain is expanding its "Calm & Comfort section" featuring weighted blankets, aromatherapy and anxiety-reducing supplements.

CVS Health Corp. is expanding its over-the-counter health and wellness aisles to include more products for stress relief.

The new “Calm and Comfort Wellness” section, launched in 2019 and said to be rolling out to 4,500 of the pharmacy chain’s doors, includes products such as weighted blankets, supplements and essential oils to improve mood, sleep, nutrition and “cognitive health.” This month, it is adding several more items to the mix.

“CVS wants to make proactive health and wellness more accessible and convenient for our consumers,” a spokesperson for the retailer told WWD, adding that over 300 stress-relief products were added to the chain’s assortment in 2019.

New products “Calm and Comfort” section includes products such as Natural Vitality Calm magnesium, Natrol Relaxia supplements that promote anxiety relief, a new stress-relief supplement brand from Procter & Gamble called Stressballs, and a slew of items such as weighted blankets under the CVS Health private label brand.

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The retailer’s reset is happening in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has arguably left consumers stressed and seeking solutions. Just this week, CVS Health released data that indicated consumers are filling fewer new prescriptions, which executives warned could mean they are not visiting doctor’s offices for routine check-ups or treatments as frequently as they were before the global public health crisis.

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However, IRI data from March indicates that consumers are shopping for supplements in droves, and products promising to relieve stress and anxiety are no exception. For instance, melatonin, a $639 million category, grew 38 percent in one week.

One brand launching May 15 into 3,100 CVS doors as part of the “Calm and Comfort” section is R3Set, a stress-relieving supplement brand from a trio of former Bayer executives — Barton Warner, Harris Rabin and Dr. Eric First.

R3Set, which launched officially in April at Target in 50 doors and on, consists of two core supplements — Calm, for general stress relief, and Unwind, which promotes better sleep. They retail for $19.99 each.

The brand’s products are made with natural ingredients such as L-theanine, ashwagandha, and valerian root. First, who leads the brand’s research and development team, said the brand aims to use natural ingredients that have been the most thoroughly researched.

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At a time when consumers are more interested than ever in natural alternatives to many widely distributed consumer products and have a deeper understanding of how stress affects the body, chief executive officer Warner saw a gap in the mass market for natural stress relief. “In all of our roles [at Bayer], we heard the consumer talk about stress. There’s a clear connection between stress and chronic disease,” he said.

Warner continued that natural stress relief brands are not new to the market, but they are primarily sold through specialty retail or direct-to-consumer. A mass retailer with a stake in health care, like CVS, may provide the credibility consumers are looking for when purchasing a health-related product.

“There’s a pendulum swing back,” said Warner. “[Consumers see] retailers like Target and CVS as being curators of the best supplements.”

Industry sources expect R3Set, which was mostly self-funded with help from some angel investors, could reach $5 million in retail sales in its first six months on shelves.

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