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FMI: Price tops on supermarket shopper minds

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK —The recession and an aging population will change the way Americans shop at supermarkets and their in-store pharmacies, but it also will create some new opportunities for supermarkets to combine their resources to promote health and wellness and attract increasingly pennywise consumers.

According to the Food Marketing Institute’s “Supermarket Pharmacy Trends Report 2009,” the economy has altered people’s reasons for choosing the primary supermarkets at which they shop. In 2007, 10% of consumers based their decisions on how clean and neat the store was; in 2008, however, that figure had dropped to 6%. Meanwhile, the percentage of shoppers who chose based on low prices increased from 31% to 37%.

Purchasing behaviors have shifted as well. Half of consumers are making fewer impulse purchases, and nearly as many (45%) are eating more leftovers, while 44% are eating fewer luxury foods. Another 44% are opting for private-label products.

“These trends will likely linger despite [the duration of the] recession and grow more important again or mutate in the future,” the report noted.

But while more consumers are taking price into consideration, they’re also concerned about their health.

FMI expected that baby boomers will exert their influence on supermarkets with a greater demand for health-and-wellness products, as well as vitamins, supplements, nutritional enhancements and nutraceuticals. This opens a lot of opportunities for pharmacists.

“Pharmacists practicing in the supermarket setting have a unique opportunity to help patients blend their food, nutrition and medication need,” FMI VP pharmacy services Cathy Polley told Drug Store News. “The pharmacist not only helps the patient with their prescription and over-the-counter medication needs; they also help them make wise choices in every aisle of the store to prevent complications or better treat their chronic disease.”

Polley cited a growing trend of pharmacists and nutritionists collaborating to offer store tours and cooking classes, especially for people with specific disease states, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and celiac disease, which prevents the body from processing gluten.

According to the FMI report, 51.7% of member companies offer in-store tours, while 94.8% offer blood pressure monitoring, 48.3% offer health-focused recipes and 41.1% offer diabetes training.

A desire to eat healthfully is common among consumers, with 89% showing a concern about healthy eating. But while 44% say they could be “somewhat” healthier, and 13% say they could be “a lot” healthier, many cited time and money as barriers to eating well.

Because of this, the report said, nutrition is an “in” for retailers. Slightly more than half of consumers (53%) get their nutrition information online, while 34% get it from their doctors. But less than a quarter get it from grocery stores. Meanwhile, while 19% cited doctors as their most trusted source of nutrition information and 18% cited the Internet, just 4% cited grocery stores, while 28% cited no particular source as outstanding.

A number of chains have begun adopting nutritional rating systems in their stores, such as the NuVal system adopted by Price Chopper, Hy-Vee and mass merchandiser Meijer, which assigns foods a numeric score based on nutritional content.

Such systems could prove just as useful today as before the recession because, according to the FMI report, majorities of customers cited a desire to lose or maintain weight or fend off illness as drivers when making food-purchasing decisions rated to health, and the numbers didn’t change between 2008 and 2009.

The combination of food and pharmacy could help out an industry that accounts for 40% of dollars across all channels, except for 14.9% of prescription dollars, with virtually all prescription-buying households shopping at supermarkets, but 74% of them buying prescriptions through other channels, according to the FMI report.

“As competition from mail-order and chain drug stores continues, in-store activities have evolved from mere shelf tags into interactive opportunities for consumers,” Polley said. “Everything from cooking demonstrations, sampling and nutrition counseling and diabetes education that involve pharmacists and dieticians are available to shoppers today. Maintaining an edge on in-store activities that help consumers navigate the abundance of health-related information can often bring customers to the pharmacy.”

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Hy-Vee celebrates the other white meat

BY Alaric DeArment

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa A lot of people complain about pork barrel spending, but not Midwest supermarket chain Hy-Vee.

October is National Pork Month, and the West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee announced Friday that sales of the meat have increased more than 25% over October 2008. The chain said it was on track to increase pork tonnage by more than 30%.

 

“With pork prices the lowest they’ve been in more than a decade, we’ve focused our marketing efforts on promoting pork as a great value for consumers,” Hy-Vee assistant VP meat operations Kenan Judge said in a statement. “Today’s shopper is looking for nutritious, economical meal ideas, and pork perfectly fits the bill.”

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Patients prefer new diabetes drug Victoza over its competitor, survey finds

BY Alaric DeArment

MONTREAL A new diabetes drug satisfied patients more than its competitor, according to a study funded by the drug’s manufacturer.

According to data on 379 patients who took the Diabetes Treatment Satisfaction Questionnaires, presented Thursday at the 20th World Diabetes Congress and published in medical journal The Lancet, patients taking Novo Nordisk’s drug Victoza (liraglutide) perceived less abnormally low or high blood sugar levels — known respectively as hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia — than those taking Byetta (exenatide), made by Eli Lilly & Co., Amylin Corp. and Alkermes.

Victoza is approved in Europe, but Novo Nordisk is still waiting for approval from the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.

“Liraglutide has shown here in a convincing study that it is associated with less nausea, less perceived hypoglycemia and definitely higher patient satisfaction compared to exenatide,” principal investigator Wolfgang Schmidt said in a statement. “Patient-reported outcomes data is an important extension of the efficacy data. If a patient is satisfied with his or her treatment, then they are much more likely to really stick to the treatment over the long term, which is necessary in Type 2 diabetes.”

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