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Drug stores will keep busy with extended allergy season

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Whoever named the genus to which ragweed plants belong “ambrosia” had a terrific sense of irony. The name, derived from Greek, refers to the food of the gods, but the plant is more like punishment from the gods, considering that it’s the main culprit in seasonal allergies.

(THE NEWS: Allergy season to last longer this year. For the full story, click here)

But while allergy sufferers are dreading the more than two-week extension to ragweed season, it’s great news for retail pharmacies, which now have more time to sell large volumes of over-the-counter drugs for allergies, one of the top categories in the drug store. That’s not surprising when one considers that according to one survey cited in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study, at least 10% of the U.S. population is ragweed sensitive. And with Claritin and Zyrtec alone generating more than $390 million during the 12-month period ended in March, the extended season is likely to drive the category even further.

What’s more, because allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine, such as Claritin-D, are kept behind the pharmacy counter, pharmacists likely will find themselves kept busy amid a chorus of coughs and congestion from customers with questions on how to mitigate their misery.

And coming just in time is the OTC switch of Sanofi-Aventis’ Allegra, which hit store shelves last month, bringing another major allergy product line to market. According to Kline Group analysts, the Allegra line is expected to reach $100 million in sales and increase until it approaches $200 million in three years. The Food and Drug Administration approved a version of the drug made by India-based generic drug maker Dr. Reddy’s Labs this week as well. But branded OTC drugs still can sell even in the face of generic competition, as the high sales figures of Claritin and Zyrtec illustrate.

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Giant to host Field Trip Factory’s Dietitian Summit

BY Allison Cerra

CARLISLE, Pa. — A health-and-wellness conference that brings together retail dietitians and nutritionists has tapped Ahold USA and its Giant Carlisle division as the event’s retail host.

Field Trip Factory’s third annual Dietitian Summit, which strives to generate awareness about the food industry’s commitment to consumer health, will be held next month at a Giant Super Food store in Willow Grove, Pa. About 40 retail dietitians and nutritionists are expected to attend the three-day conference.

Ahold USA and its supermarket banners, including Giant, provide customers with various health-and-wellness offerings, including an exclusive nutrition labeling system and Passport to Nutrition, a Web-based program designed to educate kids on nutrition and living healthy lifestyles in a fun and interactive way.

"We are very excited to work with Field Trip Factory to offer this to retail nutritionists across the country," said Shirley Axe, Ahold USA health-and-wellness manager. "Hosting the 2011 Dietitian Summit is a wonderful opportunity for Ahold USA to share and demonstrate our own health-and-wellness programs to others within the industry."

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Donations for Fresh & Easy’s Shop for Schools program nearly double

BY Allison Cerra

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Fresh & Easy said its third annual fundraising program for schools garnered more than $1.3 million.

For every $20 spent at a Fresh & Easy store from Sept. 15 through Dec. 31, 2010, participating schools in the retailer’s Shop for Schools program received a $1 donation. In addition to collecting receipts, registered schools also could participate in Shopping Nights, which provided an opportunity to raise even more money.

Shop for Schools was launched as a pilot program in spring 2009, raising more than $130,000 for schools in California, Nevada and Arizona. Fresh & Easy brought the program back in fall 2009, raising another $670,000 for local schools.

Fresh & Easy said it will bring the program back in the fall.

"Shop for Schools is much more than just a fundraising program — it is a great way for us to connect directly with parents and teachers to work on the issues that are important for our neighbors," said Fresh & Easy CEO Tim Mason. "We are thrilled to see such an increase in participation and interest in the program this year, and we know next year’s program will be a success with even more partnership with our neighbors."

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