It's Not Always About The Price
By Jason J. Nichols, OD, MPH, PhD, FAAO
Before I get into the substance of this month's column, I think it's important that I remind you that we are not in the business of endorsing or promoting products or product categories. In fact, I doubt we will ever see a onesize-fits-all product for the masses in the contact lens industry. That's why we need a broad portfolio of products to manage our patients. Whether it's materials, lens designs or care products, these diverse offerings will allow almost any patient to successfully wear contact lenses.
That being said, I think it's important for us to think about the daily disposable modality just a bit. A recent article in Time magazine (“Pod of Gold,” Oct. 17, 2011) discussed the exponential growth of Nestlé's Nespresso coffee business. Nespresso is a single-serving espresso machine that is reportedly Nestlé's fastest growing brand worldwide. The single-serving, 4-g pods cost 55 cents each, translating to $62/pound equivalent pricing (for non-coffee drinkers, the price of a pound of Starbucks coffee is around $10). The gross margins associated with this product are around 85 percent, which is remarkable for what might translate to a four or five-minute convenient coffee-drinking experience!
How does Nespresso relate to daily disposables? Well, as we've reported in Contact Lens Spectrum, the market share for daily disposable contact lenses in North America is among the lowest in the world—no greater than 15 percent—while it's more than 30 percent worldwide on average. Through Contact Lenses Today (Oct. 9, 2011 to Oct. 23, 2011), we've done some research about factors associated with the decisions to fit or not fit patients in daily disposable contact lenses. Clearly, “Cost” is the primary reason why practitioners do not fit this modality, yet ability to “Optimize Ocular Health” is the primary reason why practitioners fit the modality. Granted, daily disposable lens wear might translate to a $1 to $2 per day lens-wearing experience, a bit more than the 55-cent Nespresso experience, but given the perceived ocular health benefits, isn't a dollar or two worth the full 14 hours of wearing time and health compared to a cup of coffee? Something to think about as you drink yours while reading this editorial.