Stefano Colombo, General Manager,

Montefarmaco OTC

"Montefarmaco’s portfolio covers the main segments of the self-medication market, including probiotics, ophthalmics, laxatives, painkillers and skin products."

Montefarmaco is one of the first OTC players in Italy. Can you tell more about its evolution? Montefarmaco OTC was founded in 1945 by my grandfather, Giovanni Colombo, and today we are proud to be a business led by the third generation of pharmacists. Back in the 1970s when the OTC segment came to prominence, we were amongst the first to convert our prescription portfolio into a non-prescription one, selling directly into pharmacies. At that time, my father had a very inspired vision that pharmacies would be playing a more important role in wellbeing, which turned out to be true. The new millennium was characterized by both organic and inorganic growth. By 2012, we started outsourcing our production. We believed this was a fundamental decision to make. Marketing and R&D are the mainstay of Montefarmaco, so we decided to focus on innovation. Today, we are supplying directly to 12,000 customers.

Could you share more details about your current portfolio and the main innovation areas? We are a small but specialized player in the consumer healthcare segment, including drugs, food supplements and medical devices. Our products enjoy leading market positions, and we showcase blockbuster drugs like Lactoflorene or Iridina. Montefarmaco’s portfolio covers the main segments of the self-medication market, including probiotics, ophthalmics, laxatives, painkillers and skin products. Given our legacy as a pioneer in the probiotics market, this remains our main focus, followed by eye drops, vitamins and minerals. From product development to commercialization, the company innovates in line with market needs and cultural dynamics. One of our best examples of beyond-the-product innovation is our MCap System packaging, a design 100% made and patented in Italy, 100% recyclable and user-friendly. This obtained the Oscar dell’Imballaggio “Best Packaging” award in 2020. I believe our innovation approach relies on our ability to stay curious and discover what is not yet on the market.

Last year, Montefarmaco acquired Swiss-based distributor of Polaroid hearing aids, Jordan Tech. What motivated this acquisition and what opportunities do you see in the OTC hearing aids market? We had been working with Jordan Tech for two years prior to the acquisition, becoming well acquainted with this market. Hearing loss is becoming more common as populations age, and this is a condition that disconnects the person from the surrounding world. Seriously impaired patients will clearly see a specialist, but there is a booming segment represented by people with mild hearing impairment who can simply walk into the pharmacy to buy hearing aids to amplify the sound around them. The Polaroid trademarked hearing aids offer a very good quality-price balance, and we are working with pharmacies to market these aids directly, creating a win-win-win situation for all parties: patients can enjoy a better quality of life, pharmacies have a means to draw people into the shop and to be close to an emerging consumer need, and we are tapping into a market of very promising potential.

What is Montefarmaco’s international footprint and what are your focus markets? Our internationalization took off more seriously since 2007, with a small subsidiary in Romania. Our focus has been on Europe, Russia and China, where we are present with trading subsidiaries. In Russia, we are already distributing through a local player and we are in search of additional partners. In China, we began our cross-border business in 2019 with a few product registrations. As populations age, there is a rise in chronic diseases and more attention is paid to prevention. Also, the purchasing power in these key countries is growing, which makes room for more sophisticated products, especially for those products with a “Made in Italy” label. Besides these two markets, we continue our scouting activity for potential partners in the Middle East and other European countries. Before the pandemic, we were also exploring the possibility of US expansion, but moving restrictions have put these plans on hold for now.

Could you summarize your future ambitions for the company? As a next priority, we’d like also do incorporate medical detailing into our business model. In order to do so, we are considering to purchase companies already active in medical detailing, in order to cover both promotional drivers: the pharmacist and the doctor. We have a new cosmetics product range called Ontherapy, with application for skin side effects as a result of oncological treatment. Finally, we aim to continue our international expansion and reach a target of 25% of our revenues coming from export markets.