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Kroger recognized for company’s commitment to employee health and wellness

BY Michael Johnsen

CINCINNATI — Kroger was recognized recently for the company's commitment to employee health and wellness by both the National Business Group on Health and the American Heart Association, the grocer announced Wednesday.
 
"Kroger is committed to giving our associates the tools to improve their health in both big and small ways," stated Theresa Monti, VP total rewards. "We're making great progress in improving our health, and these awards recognize our efforts both individually and as an entire company. Our success in becoming a healthier workforce directly improves our personal and work lives, which also benefits our customers."
 
The National Business Group on Health recognized Kroger as a first-time gold winner for the 2014 Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles awards. This award recognizes the best workplace well-being programs for employees and their families, both in the United States and globally.
 
For the second consecutive year, Kroger received the American Heart Association's Platinum-Level Fit-Friendly Worksite recognition. The company has been recognized for its initiative in such areas as offering employees physical activity options in the workplace, providing or increasing healthy eating options at the worksite, and demonstrating measurable outcomes related to workplace wellness.
 
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Walgreens Boots Alliance will invigorate front-end performance of U.S. store base post-merger

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens Boots Alliance will be emphasizing improved front-end margin contributions across its U.S. Walgreens store base once the merger is complete, mirroring the peformance of its U.K. store base Boots, in an effort to counter margin pressures from the pharmacy side of the business. 
 
"The pressure on the pharmacy is a global issue," Stefano Pessina, executive vice chairman Walgreens Boots Alliance, told analysts Wednesday morning. "Everywhere in the world the margins of the pharmacy are under pressure," he said. "Twenty years ago, Boots, as you know, was making its money on the pharmacy — so 75% of the profit of Boots was coming from the pharmacy. Today, 75% comes from the front of the store. Are the pharmacies losing money? Not at all. They are still very profitable in Boots because the margin has suffered, but of course they are selling much more, so they are still very profitable."
 
To combat restricting margins, Boots developed the front of the store into what it is today — one of the premier shopping experiences in the United Kingdom. 
 
"There's real opportunity in the front of our store," said Greg Wasson, president and CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance."[Boots'] operating margins are significantly higher than what ours are, and that's primarily as a result of that front-end business. So we do think that there is opportunity to drive operating margin out of our front-end business," he said. "I feel confident with what we've been doing so far, the proof points we've seen that there's opportunity there. … If we look across the Pond to the Boots model, we have some similar opportunities at the front end of our store." 
 
"This is what will happen in the United States," Pessina said. "I can assure you that after the merger, we will have a step up in the margins of the front of the store. You will start to see it growing from next year on. … We have clear plans for it."
 
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Applegate cuts down on lunchbox prep with new kits

BY Ryan Chavis

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — In an effort to save parents some much-needed time in the morning — and maybe a chance to sneak an extra cup of coffee — Applegate announced the debut of Half Time lunch kits. The kits are available at such retailers as Target, BJ's and Safeway, and contain three brands from the natural and organic channel: Applegate, Stonyfield and Annie's.

“With Half Time, parents don’t have to compromise between convenience and quality because we’re combining the three trusted natural and organic brands that are already in their refrigerators and pantries,” said Neil Leinwand, Applegate SVP marketing.

Applegate Half Time is available in three varieties: turkey & cheese, ham & cheese and bologna & cheese, all available for a suggested retail price of $4.99. Additionally, all kits include Applegate natural meats and cheese, Stonyfield YoKids Squeezers Strawberry Organic Lowfat Yogurt and Annie’s Homegrown Buttery Rich Crackers. Each kit also comes with either Annie’s Bunny Graham Friends or Annie’s Organic Berry Patch Fruit Snacks, the company said.

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