Durex owner Reckitt Benckiser has reported double-digit growth in condom sales after couples celebrated a relaxation of social distancing rules around the world.
Reckitt said demand for condoms and sexual health products was particularly strong in China, where Covid has all but vanished, but rose in many countries as lockdowns were eased and people from different households were allowed to meet again.
The consumer goods behemoth posted overall like-for-like sales of £3.5bn in the third quarter, up 13.3pc from a year earlier as it continued to benefit from booming demand for Dettol and its other cleaning products due to the Covid crisis.
This strong sales performance beat analyst expectations and means Reckitt now expects revenues to rise by at least 10pc this year, better a previous forecast of high single digit growth.
Laxman Narasimhan, chief executive of Reckitt, said: “We've had a few quarters where we've had a challenge with [Durex], largely because of social distancing and the lack of social interaction.
“My sense is this is a business that will continue to grow and it's a business that you know as a human need and the human desire, so I think it's going to play itself out over time.”
Sales at the FTSE 100 firm’s hygiene division jumped 19.5pc to £1.5bn for the period, driven by strong demand for Air Wick air fresheners as workers look to spruce up their new home offices.
Health product sales were up 12.6pc to £1.2bn, which Reckitt said was largely powered by strong sales of Dettol products such as antibacterial spray and wipes.
However, Mr Narasimhan admitted that the global birth rate is likely to fall next year due to widespread anxiety over the pandemic and the consequences of lockdowns. This could have a knock-on effect on its baby formula business.
The company said: "There is also evidence that birth rates will be further lowered in coming quarters as a result of behaviour changes related to the pandemic.
“This is expected to have an impact on market growth for our infant nutrition business in 2021.”
Sales within Reckitt’s nutrition arm rose 4.1pc to £806m in the third quarter as the crisis boosted demand for vitamins, minerals and supplements. But sales of its infant formula products were the same as a year earlier.
Mr Narasimhan said there had been a small amount of stockpiling by shoppers in certain parts of the UK where restrictions have been tighter in recent weeks, but added that he has not yet seen a dramatic shift in consumer behaviour.
He said: “I think consumers have learned to trust more than products will be available.
“My sense is, not that anybody wants a lockdown, but if there was to be selected lockdowns then I think consumers are better prepared for it, as are our customers.”
Reckitt shares rose 1.6pc in morning trade to £73.10, valuing the company at £52bn. They started the year at £52.