Bayer drafts 'Community' star to launch cult-favorite hangover cure in U.S.

Bayer, gunning for the world lead in consumer health, is bringing a product to the U.S. that already has a cult following overseas: a dissolvable orange disc that transforms a plain glass of water into one of the world's preferred hangover elixirs.

Berocca, chock-full of B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc and sometimes caffeine--picture Red Bull plus One A Day--has already won the favor of imbibers in Australia, South Africa, England, Korea, France and elsewhere around the globe, Bloomberg reports. Now, the German pharma is determined to help it catch on in the States.

It'll appear on shelves in stores like Safeway, CVS, Walgreens, Wal-Mart and Target, the news service reports, and to get the word out, Bayer's got an ad campaign featuring "Community" star Joel McHale as an overhyped, Berocca-obsessed motivational speaker named Brock Spedwell.

As a narrator explains in one commercial, Spedwell is the only person who can accurately expound on Berocca's benefits--mental sharpness support and physical energy support. "He has been called energizing, electrifying and unaware of personal boundaries, and now he's here to explain one product that does two things," the narrator says, as a demented Spedwell does tricks on a stage in front of adoring fans.

"We looked at the market and saw multivitamins at one end and energy shots at the other end," Laura Pinkett, Bayer Healthcare's senior brand manager for Berocca, told Bloomberg. "We felt like there was a great opportunity in this white space in between."

After shelling out $14.2 billion for Merck's ($MRK) consumer health unit last spring, Bayer is hoping Berocca can help vault it ahead of its consumer health rivals in a competitive space. The field has gotten increasingly competitive over the past couple of years, with Big Pharma peers like Sanofi ($SNY) beefing up their OTC offerings and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Novartis ($NVS) last year agreeing to set up a market-leading consumer health joint venture.

But the company has reason to believe Berocca's U.S. presence can contribute to its cause. British and Australian expats have been having their friends smuggle the tablets over for years, and Bayer has already responded to stateside demand. It set up a couple years back, Bloomberg reports, and in 2012 Duane Reade helped it conduct a limited retail test.

- get more from Bloomberg
- watch the Berocca ad

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