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Survey highlights prevalence of seasonal mental health issues

BY David Salazar

PHOENIX — For about 45% American adults, the holiday season isn’t quite as filled with joy as one might expect, according to a new survey from the University of Phoenix’s College of Social Science. The survey found that nearly half of those surveyed have experienced sadness or depression in the fall or winter holiday season. 
 
Among those who said they’d been affected, about 44% said it was due to personal grief, 43% cited loneliness and 38% pointed to financial strain, with 41% of the total group saying they’ve witnessed family and friends dealing with seasonal sadness and depression. And 66% of those surveyed noted that mental health is a very or extremely serious issue, with 67% saying they’ve had personal experience with it. 
 
“An overwhelming majority of Americans recognize that mental health is a serious issue and many have personal experiences with mental health issues, and those feelings often intensify during the festive time of year,” the school’s dean of faculty, Tammy Woody, said. “Those prone to mental health issues such as depression or anxiety can be more vulnerable to seasonal triggers such as the financial and emotional stress that can accompany the festive time of year, which makes awareness and access to treatment critically important from November through January.”
 
Woody noted that though seeing family and friends can be beneficial for some, that is not the case for everyone, with 22% of those surveyed saying they seek counseling for family issues, and 24% seeking professional help for relationships. She said that it’s important for those suffering to acknowledge that it’s OK to express their feelings, stay active both mentally and physically, try new things, and reach out if they feel they need to. However, the survey found several barriers that people encounter when considering reaching out. 
 
For 68% of those surveyed, financial limitations are the main barrier to getting counseling, with 32% being concerned about its effectiveness and the same amount concerned about access to health insurance coverage for counseling. Thirty-one percent are concerned about social stigma and 29% are reluctant to face their problems. 
 
The survey was conducted by Harris Poll among 1,014 adults between Sept. 28 and Oct. 8. 
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Costco’s U.S. comps see slight increase in Q1

BY David Salazar

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Costco on Tuesday reported its sales for the first quarter of the 2016 fiscal year, showing only a modest 2% rise in U.S. sales over the same quarter in FY15. The company’s net comparable U.S. sales rose to $26.63 billion from $26.28 billion last year. Excluding the effects of gasoline price deflation and foreign exchange, its sales were up in the U.S. 6%. 
 
For the entire company, including international business, comparable sales were down 1%, with the largest decrease in Canada, where comps were down 9%, largely due to the effects of foreign exchange and gas price deflation, as Canadian sales were up 9% when those factors are excluded. 
 
Net income was $480 million, down slightly from last year’s $496 million in income. Costco plans to open one new warehouse before the end of 2015.
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Virtual product labels start to hit shelves

BY Mike Troy

WASHINGTON — Consumer packaged goods companies eager to keep pace with shoppers’ desire for product ingredient transparency have embraced a major initiative branded as SmartLabel.
 
SmartLabel is the name given to an initiative spearheaded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) that is designed to give consumers easy access to detailed information on ingredients and hundreds of other product attributes, such as whether food items contain ingredients from genetically modified sources.
 
The SmartLabel isn’t a label at all, but rather a digital solution to satisfy shoppers thirst for more information about product ingredients than could ever fit on a label. For example, each individual product participating in the SmartLabel program will have a specific landing page that contains detailed information. As is the case with the nutrition facts box on food packages, all SmartLabel landing pages are organized in a similar format, with a consistent look across products, whether the consumer is looking at a gallon of ice cream or a gallon of laundry detergent. Shoppers will access the landing page by scanning a QR code on the package, using a web search such as through Google, Yahoo or Bing, going to a participating company’s web site, or eventually through an app.
 
“People want more information and are asking more questions about products they buy, use and consume, and SmartLabel puts detailed information right at their fingertips,” said Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). “SmartLabel is a modern technology that will change how people shop and will help them get answers to questions they have on the products they purchase when they want that information.”
 
More than 30 major companies have committed to taking part in the transparency initiative with a few products trickling onto shelves in late 2015 and early 2016. SmartLabel is expected to really gain traction later next year and by the end of 2017 an estimated 30,000 products are expected to participate in SmartLabel. Within five years, GMA estimates that more than 80% of the food, beverage, pet care, personal care and household products that consumers buy will be using SmartLabel.
 
“People's relationship with food has changed dramatically and consumers now want to know more about their food, such as where it came from and what went into making it,” said J.P. Bilbrey,chairman, president and CEO The Hershey Company and chairman of GMA’s board of directors. “SmartLabel creates a way for consumers to get unprecedented access to information about what is in their food.  This is what real food transparency is about.”
 
In addition to Hershey, Unilever is among the 30 major company’s supporting the initiative.
 
“As more and more consumers are looking for responsible and sustainable brands, SmartLabel can link consumers to information about how a brand integrates sustainability into its products’ ingredients and lifecycle,” said Kees Kruythoff, President of Unilever North America. “SmartLabel is an important tool for brands to provide more product information, helping build trust with consumers who are increasingly mobile and online.”
 
In addition to Hershey and Unilever, other CPG companies committed to using SmartLabel include, ConAgra Foods, Hormel Foods, Campbell Soup Company, Knouse Foods, Land O’Lakes, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Nestle, J.M. Smucker Co., Kellogg Co., General Mills, McCormick & Co., Bimbo Bakeries USA, Bruce Foods, Bumble Bee Seafoods, Ferraro USA, Flowers Foods, Reily Foods Co., Rich Products, Sunny Delight Beverages Co., Tyson Foods, Ahold USA, Topco, The WhiteWave Foods Company, Pharmavite, Clorox, Colgate and Procter & Gamble.
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