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Proactive consumers drive probiotics market

BY Barbara White-Sax

American consumers long have been proactive when it comes to health issues. The trend is driving functional foods—particularly probiotics. A recent survey by General Mills revealed that 9-out-of-10 women have become committed to their digestive health in the last five years, and 8-out-of-10 prefer to regulate their digestion through foods.

New product introductions support the finding; last year, 231 new probiotic-containing products were introduced, according to market research firm Datamonitor PLC, a big increase from the 34 introduced in 2005.

“As with any functional food, interest is driven by boomers,” said Ramin Ganeshram, chief food strategist at Iconoculture. “There’s an increased number of consumers who associate overall health with gut health. Increased interest in gluten-free foods also relates to that.” Ganeshram said probiotic drinks are the segment that has exploded.

“Americans are increasingly interested in maintaining or improving their health and wellness, and are looking for foods to help them in their quest,” said Michael Neuwirth, a spokesman for Dannon. “Consumer interest in probiotics has been spurred by the specific clinically proven benefits of products like Activia.”

Dannon in 2006 introduced DanActive, a yogurt product that has been clinically proven to help support the immune system when the body’s defenses are challenged. In 2007, the company introduced Activia, a yogurt product clinically proven to help slow intestinal transit. Dannon has continued to add line extensions, such as light versions of Activia and DanActive, Activia drinks and Activia Fiber.

Melissa Abbott, senior group analyst for The Hartman Group, credited Dannon with bringing the category mainstream. “Dannon did a fabulous job of educating the U.S. consumer about good bacteria,” she said. “Any mainstream grocer’s dairy cabinet is now flush with so many different kinds of yogurts, and consumers are moving away from cloyingly sweet products to tart yogurts with active cultures.” Other mainstream products also have made a mark on the category. General Mills introduced its own probiotic yogurt, Yoplait Yo-Plus, in August 2007. The company recently introduced a new blueberry acai flavor.

The category is expanding to nondairy-based drinks and drinks targeted to children. Lifeway Probugs is marketing an organic whole milk kefir drink for kids that is high in protein and calcium, contains inulin for optimum calcium absorption and has 10 live cultures to promote gut health. Nondairy drinks also are gaining momentum. Pepsi’s Naked brand has had a probiotic juice smoothie in two flavors on the market. Whole Foods and Costco carry the product. GoodBelly is another fruit-based shot that has been introduced in the last year.

Cultured probiotic drinks containing kombucha, a culture of microorganisms that has been used since ancient times, are showing signs of growth. “GT’s Kombucha was the first mass brand on the market, but we’re seeing more entries in this area,” Ganeshram said.

Manufacturers also have been adding probiotic benefits to cereals. Kellogg’s Kashi launched a probiotic digestive wellness cereal called Kashi Vive in 2006. CVS also stocks Kraft’s Live Active chewy probiotic granola bars on its shelves. “There’s a lot of probiotic enhancement in cereals and bars,” Ganeshram said. “Packaged foods are a good point of entry for many consumers.”

While category growth has slowed compared with recent years, during which category growth ranged from 5% to 11%, there still is upside for the category. Drug retailers have been slower to bring the products into their mix, and they may be missing an opportunity.

“Cooler space allocation is the first priority,” Neuwirth said. “Appropriate signage to adequately inform shoppers about the specific benefits of a product or a category of products is equally as important, since this continues to be an emerging segment and consumer education is absolutely imperative.”

Drug retailers have unique opportunities to merchandise the category near the pharmacy. Kim Harbinson, a spokesperson for General Mills, said that doctors often recommend probiotics to patients who are taking antibiotics, since antibiotics can be a cause of creating an imbalance of friendly and unfriendly bacteria in the gut. The pharmacy is a perfect adjacency for these products. “Single-serves are the way to go, since purchases can tend to be on the spot,” said Hartman’s Abbott.

Retailers might locate probiotic drinks in a stand-alone cooler near other functional foods, such as omega-3-enhanced cereals. Educational information to better inform consumers on the benefits of these products is essential for making these sections work.

Retailers who understand how to tap into the “era of consumer MD” can see strong growth in this and other functional food categories, said Ganeshram. “Consumers are increasingly looking to relieve their own symptoms,” she said. “Especially in this economy, they are looking to vitamins, supplements, functional foods and the advice of their pharmacist to fill in for a doctor visit in many cases.”

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Kroger to serve as exclusive supermarket sponsor of Fiesta Atlanta ’09

BY Allison Cerra

ATLANTA Kroger will serve as the exclusive supermarket sponsor of Fiesta Atlanta ’09, an outdoor Cinco de Mayo festival celebrating Latino culture, music and food.

Fiesta Atlanta ’09 takes place on Sunday, May 3 at Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. For Kroger, the partnership represents the company’s commitment to the Hispanic community.

“We are very excited and looking forward to Fiesta Atlanta,” said Glynn Jenkins, director of communications and public relations for Kroger’s Atlanta Division. “Kroger has always made exceptional efforts to serve the Hispanic community and joining this celebration is another commitment to our Hispanic customers.”

Atlanta’s largest Hispanic outdoor family festival, Fiesta Atlanta attracted over 40,000 attendees last year. This year’s event will once again feature authentic food from many Latin-American countries, arts and crafts, sponsor displays with many free product samples and continuous live musical performances by national and local recording artists.

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AARP cites big jump in Rx prices

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK A report by AARP indicated that prices for branded drugs have increased at a rate outpacing the rate of inflation by more than six percentage points.

 

The report found that manufacturers’ prices for branded drugs increased by 9% last year, compared with the general inflation rate of 3.8%. Meanwhile, prices of generic drugs decreased, on average, by 10.6%.

 

 

Generic drugs have already grown significantly over the years, accounting for 69% of all prescriptions dispensed in the United States, but 16% of money spent on prescriptions, according to IMS Health. In 2007, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the average price of a generic prescription drug was $34.34, compared to $119.51 for a branded drug.

 

 

Price increases for branded drugs significantly higher than the overall rate of inflation, mixed with the recession, are likely to drive more consumers to generics. According to AARP, nearly a quarter of all older Americans skip medication doses because of the cost, while other studies have shown that many Americans facing economic hardship don’t have prescriptions filled at all.

 

 

At the same time, many branded pharmaceutical drugs – not to mention biologics – don’t yet have a generic version. This could create difficulties for elderly and other patients who may be able switch to medications that are cheaper, but different from what they take, or who take biologic drugs or newer drugs that have no equivalent on the market.

 

 

The Generic Pharmaceutical Association said the report indicated that generic medicines are “the right choice for better health.”

 

 

“During these difficult economic times, it is truly disturbing to hear reports that our nation’s seniors cannot afford their prescription drug costs,” GPhA president and CEO Kathleen Jaeger said in a statement responding to the report. “No one should be forced to choose between putting food on their table and paying for needed medicines.”

 

 

Jaeger also said the report illustrated the need for a regulatory pathway for biosimilars.

 

 

“It’s time to do right by our seniors and all Americans struggling with healthcare costs by approving legislation that brings safe, effective and affordable biogeneric medicines to patients sooner rather than later,” Jaeger said. “GPhA also strongly believes that increasing funding for FDA would ensure the more timely approval of generic medicines, increasing the opportunity for consumers to save immediately.”

 

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