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Coke corrals curious NASCAR fans to loyalty site

BY Jenna Duncan

ATLANTA Coca-Cola teamed up with and mobile service information company ChaCha to create a trivia campaign that led participants to the Coca-Cola loyalty Internet site, MyCokeRewards.com.

On the Jumbotron at the Brickyard race track in Indianapolis, prior to the Allstate 400 NASCAR race on July 27, Coca-Cola asked cellular phone users to text in trivia questions related to the race with the answers to be provided by the ChaCha service. Once a player received the answer via text message from ChaCha, he or she could then click to the MyCokeRewards Web site where the participant could view NASCAR prizes, such as hats and t-shirts available by redeeming Coke rewards points.

More than 100,000 trivia questions were received during the campaign, and of that total about 5.2 percent of cell phone users clicked through to MyCokeRewards.com, the companies said.

Coca-Cola and its marketing affiliates also said that they are now considering more ways to incorporate ChaCha and its text messaging services into the company’s marketing.

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More consumers turning to drug, convenience stores for groceries

BY Jenna Duncan

WASHINGTON Sources across the country, and in the capital city, have reported that more consumers are shopping at their local convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven, and such drug stores as CVS, to buy grocery staples. In many U.S. regions the ease of location and sometimes better prices are enticing more people to buy everything from canned beans and soups to quarts of milk and fresh fruit—even pancake syrup—at local drug and convenience stores.

In its latest annual report, CVS showed that general merchandise sales—into which grocery sales are folded—accounted for 15 percent of its business. While the drug store chain does not market itself as a grocery store, management does hand-select items according to neighborhood. And, in response to growing demand, CVS has made efforts to expand its selection of staple food items, such as bread and milk, sources have reported.

In many places, reports have stated, the move to convenience and drug shopping for groceries is largely a result of simply having more locations in an area. In the Washington, D.C. region, for example, the Washington Post reported that there were 416 7-Elevens and 190 CVS stores in an area where only 32 Whole Foods grocery stores operated.

The Washington Post over the weekend reported on one 7-Eleven franchise owner in Arlington, Va., who was responding to the trend by stocking his store with basic cooking items such as cooking oil, salt and sugar, to match the demand. More people were coming in for chips, crackers, gallons of milk and budget beers, the Post observed.

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Anti-smoking legislation loophole gives tobacco makers 21 months for new products

BY Jenna Duncan

WASHINGTON A loophole in the new anti-smoking bill will provide tobacco companies a 21-month window to introduce products to the market prior to federal approval, reports for the weekend stated. Several advocates have complained that the window goes against the reasoning behind adopting the bill, which will for the first time allow federal public health authorities the power to regulate tobacco.

HR 1108, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, passed in the House August 6 by a vote of 326 to 102, granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) greater authority over tobacco makers. However, some critics have said that the 21-month “escape clause” built into the bill will allow companies to push new tobacco products in the next year and three quarters, before the FDA is prepared to begin regulating.

According to the language of the bill, the loophole clause applies only to “substantially equivalent” [very similar] new products compared to items already on the market at the bill’s introduction in 2007.

According to industry professionals and HR 1108 critics, tobacco companies often launch different versions of nearly identical formula cigarettes while working to expand their market. Critics said that companies that are right now developing these new items would simple speed up their marketing to launch them between now and the 21-month deadline.

Others have said that they are simply thankful for a compromise between the major tobacco makers in the country and anti-smoking advocacy groups. A spokesman from U.S. tobacco giant Philip Morris USA said that the bill speaks for itself and offered no other comment from the company.

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