The research organisation valued market at $4.1bn (€3.1bn) and believes this figure has risen in recent years driven by increased illnesses during the winter months and a growing preference for over-the counter (OTC) remedies.
Smoking bans in the US, UK and Western Europe are also believed to have led to quitters turning to throat sweets and breath fresheners.
According to Leatherhead, the medicated confectionery category accounts for almost half of the functional confectionery segment.
Product ranges have increased in recent years to include sugar-free sweets fortified with vitamins and minerals and new ingredients from herbs and plant extracts.
Leatherhead Food Research analyst Jonathan Thomas told ConfectioneryNews.com: “I expect the market to develop further over the course of the coming years, mainly because of the continued consumer trend towards self-medication and the rising popularity of OTC remedies.”
The US is the largest market for the category, followed by the UK and Germany, according to Leatherhead.
Japan is also seen as an emerging market for the segment and tends to be where innovation for the category emanates.
Asked whether it would be a risk for firms to invest in a category that would seem only to enjoy an upsurge during cold periods, Thomas said: “Demand does tend to rise during the winter months due to the heavier incidence of colds and coughs, but there would seem to be scope for the market to expand during other times of the year.”
“Perhaps the hay fever season in spring/summer may create opportunities for products which provide some relief to sufferers from this condition,” he said.
Leatherhead puts Kraft Foods as the market leader in medicated confectionery. Its Halls brand alone accounts for 20% of the global market and its entire cough sweets portfolio commands around half of the total market.
“Although companies such as Kraft are expected to retain their market dominance due to the widespread popularity of brands such as Halls, I would expect to see the presence of pharmaceutical/healthcare companies to increase,” said Thomas.
One pharma company already controlling 50% of the UK market is Reckitt Benckiser with its Strepsils brand.
“Many of these companies may shift towards value-added/functional consumer products given the growth rates observed in this market, especially since a wider choice of ingredients are now being used in the manufacture of medicated sweets,” continued Thomas.
Mars also has a presence in the category with its Lockets and Tunes brands, which enjoys a strong presence in the UK.
Other smaller companies include Swiss firm Ricola and Lofthouse of Fleetwood with its Fisherman’s Friend brand.