58th AESGP Annual Meeting - Interview with Jurate Švarcaite

AESGP Director-General tells in an interview with El Global where the self-care industry is after COVID-19.  Article translated from Spanish.

“The Self-Care industry is back on the growth path after some difficult years”

At the gates of the next Annual European Meeting of the Self-Care Industry, to be held on June 7 and 8 in Madrid, Jurate Švarcaite, Director-General of the Association of the European  Self-Care Industry (AESGP), answers questions from El Global about the main market trends, consumer behaviour and sustainable self-care products, among other issues.

Question. Should European citizens worry even more about their self-care?

Answer. Self-care is central to how we live our lives today. When we don’t feel well, we worry about letting down those who depend on us, missing important life events or work. Going to see a doctor isn’t always necessary or convenient, especially when we feel we can take care of it ourselves.

Collectively in Europe, we self-manage 1.2 billion minor ailments by taking non-prescription medicines. This saves our health systems 34 billion euros and allow them to deliver care to those who need it the most. If we would be prepared to self-care even more, or if we had more self-care options available, we could further save 17 billion euros that could be better invested in strengthening our health systems.

Q. What will the AESGP annual meeting offer interested parties?

A. First of all, this Annual Meeting of the European Self-Care Industry is a unique opportunity to connect with professionals from self-care companies, authorities and health professionals and patients, mainly. I think that, after two years of virtual meetings, we couldn’t wait any longer to, in person, share our experiences and learn from each other. Secondly, the committee in charge of the congress has prepared a very interesting program, which will allow attendees to stay at the forefront of some trends that affect the consumer health sector.

Q. What aspects are essential for the Self-Care industry to stay ahead of trends?

A. I think all of us want simple and effective self-care solutions that get us back on track quickly after a minor ailment. We also need medicines and self-care products to always be available mainly in the pharmacy. As an industry, we are concerned about the environment, and we are working to reduce our environmental footprint. Today people are more aware than ever to maintain their well-being and want to be healthy and have a good quality of life. In response to this, the industry has launched new products, complemented by digital services. I believe that our industry is exceptionally good at listening to the needs of our consumers, as well as meeting society’s expectations. This guarantees continuous growth,

We will analyze all these issues at our 58th Annual Meeting. Meetings like this, where Industry leaders get together to discuss trends and policies, are essential to staying ahead of them.

Q. What are the key market and business trends that are transforming the landscape of the self-care industry?

A. Digitization and sustainability have an impact on the whole society and present challenges, but also opportunities that cannot be ignored when building our strategies. The consumer health industry is one of the most regulated, and regulations are increasing, making this a critical success factor for our companies.

Q. How has consumer behaviour in self-care products evolved after the pandemic? Is it going back to pre-pandemic consumer trends?

A. I believe that COVID-19 has further accelerated awareness of the value of self-care and is now a main part of our health routines. We also now put more emphasis on prevention, whether it’s quitting smoking, improving our nutrition or engaging in physical activity. At the worst moment of the pandemic, we have abruptly become aware that our health systems were subjected to high pressure and occupation, and that we all have to do our part so that health resources are reserved for the people who need them most. We also see an increase in e-commerce sales, a trend that seems to be here to stay and is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic numbers.

Q. What solutions and strategies are proposed by the AESGP to deal with the uncertainties that arise in the industry in unstable times?

A. The AESGP brings together the self-care industry in Europe. Together we are finding a way to navigate a complex environment and evolve in close collaboration with public administrations and stakeholders, including our suppliers and healthcare professionals. Today it is impossible to find solutions working alone.

Q. Where is Europe in the innovation of sustainable self-care products?

A. The European Union has set itself the goal of becoming the first carbon-neutral continent and has presented a package of measures called the “EU Green Deal” to achieve it. Even before this, we have seen a paradigm shift in the way our industry acted. We see carbon-neutral manufacturing plants, reduction of non-recyclable materials in product packaging, etc. I think we are all committed to doing everything we can to ensure our planet is in better health, and it seems that European countries are leading this way.

Q. How can you get the most out of environmental labelling in the European Union?

A. We know that consumers want to play their part in sustainability, and they do so by making “green” choices. Environmental labelling is an opportunity for companies to communicate to their consumers the sustainability of their practices and products. At the same time, we must be careful that it doesn’t turn into greenwashing. We hope that the new European legislation on this will be practical and allow companies to communicate sustainability messages that are useful and guide consumers’ product choices.

Q. What role does advertising play in supporting the Self-Care Industry?

A. Advertising informs citizens of all the self-care options available to them, especially when a new indication or instruction for use of a medication or self-care product is available. In this case, advertising is key to discovering these novelties and their availability, mainly in the pharmacy. Advertising also helps educate citizens about the responsible use of self-care products and when they should consult a healthcare professional.

Q. Is the advertising of Self-Care products regulated in Europe to be ethical and responsible? Is there any point of improvement in this sense from which the AESGP influences?

A. We believe that advertising in general terms is ethical and responsible, and companies use it to go beyond promoting their brand, seeking positive behaviour change. We look, for example, at a self-regulatory practice that is underway in Spain. The anefp Seal is one of the best practices in our industry and demonstrates the willingness to go even further than what is required to guarantee good advertising. From the AESGP we promote these good practices among the different countries.

Q. What short and long-term challenges does the Self-Care Industry have?

A. The main challenge is to remain competitive and innovative while navigating today’s complexities and overcoming challenges, and there is no easy answer to this. At the AESGP we bring together companies and countries to discuss, learn from each other and build alliances so that the best solutions can be found. We strongly believe that by working together with regulators and stakeholders we can continue to thrive and deliver innovative self-care solutions to European citizens.

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