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USDA study: Ragweed season now 16 days longer

BY Michael Johnsen

BELTSVILLE, Md. — A U.S. Department of Agriculture study published in March in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that ragweed season is almost 16 days longer than it was in 1995 due to changes in the first frost line of the fall in North America. The first frost steadily has been creeping northward and later into the year, lead researcher Lewis Ziska wrote.

That’s 16 more days of allergy relief sales — especially good news for Chattem as it shepherds its recently switched Allegra antihistamine through its first year. “We will make very, very massive investments in terms of advertising and promotion, and we are in fact very confident, and even optimistic, that in a very, very short [time] we will reach sales levels [as high as] the two leading products in this field,” boasted Hanspeter Spek, president of global operations for Sanofi-Aventis, a few weeks before the actual launch at the beginning of March.

Though Allegra is not expected to reach the sales heights of $200 million-plus like its two second-generation antihistamine predecessors, Claritin and Zyrtec — which generated $222.5 million (up 5.4%) and $169.1 million (up 11.6%), respectively, across food, drug and mass (excluding Walmart) over the 52 weeks ended March 20, according to SymphonyIRI Group data — an incremental $100 million-plus to OTC allergy sales is not out of the question.

An extended ragweed season is advantageous for all allergy remedies, however. “For much of geographic North America, there are three distinct plant-based aeroallergen seasons,” Ziska wrote — tree pollen in the spring, grass pollen in the early summer and weed pollen, including ragweed, in the summer and fall. At least 10% of the U.S. population is ragweed sensitive, and an increase in ragweed pollen exposure could, in turn, increase allergic sensitization.

There are 17 different species of ragweed in the United States. These plants are most common in the rural areas of the East and Midwest, but are found throughout the country. A single ragweed plant can release as many as 1 billion grains of pollen over the course of a single season.

In northern areas of the United States, ragweed pollen release begins in early August and peaks by early September. An early frost in late September often shortens the ragweed season in northern areas. In the southern United States, the ragweed season begins later in August and continues through October. In Florida, there actually are some species of ragweed flowering during the winter and others that potentially flower year-round.

The study found the further north you went, the further extended the ragweed season became. In Georgetown, Texas, and Rogers, Ark., the season actually retract

ed by three to four days between 1995 and 2009. But in Papillion, Neb., which is 41 degrees north of the equator, the season extended 11 days to mid-October; in LaCrosse, Wis., which is almost 44 degrees north, the season extended 13 days (also ending now in mid-October); and in Fargo, N.D., almost 47 degrees north, the season has been extended 16 days to late September.

The USDA study found in two locations in Canada, both further north than 50 degrees latitude, the ragweed season has been extended by as many as 27 days from the 1995 season to the 2009 season.

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Ohio store helps consumers lead a ‘Safe & Ready Life’

BY Michael Johnsen

MILFORD, Ohio — While there’s little chance a tsunami or the gale-force winds of a Hurricane Katrina will ever come crashing through this Cincinnati suburb, John Vota’s Safe & Ready Life store provides home and family safety solutions, along with emergency supplies and services to help prepare homes for both everyday emergencies and natural catastrophes.

Safe & Ready Life wasn’t opened to cater to end-of-days theorists and survival specialists, necessarily, but for the everyday person. Most of the products can be found across mass retailers and specialty sports shops, but Vota’s concept brings it all into one place. “One of the challenges I’ve had in preparing for emergencies — you put together a list and realize you’ve got to go to 10 different places,” he said, and there is no guarantee that they’ll have what is needed.

“[For example], it’s very difficult to find emergency food with a five-year shelf life,” he said. Another item you wouldn’t necessarily find in the neighborhood drug store is an atmospheric water generator that creates potable water, literally out of thin air.

Safe & Ready Life features products from more than 70 vendors, Vota said. It is a free-standing store with some 2,500 selling sq. ft. featuring a red and blue color scheme — red for warning-type products and blue for safety, Vota said.

“It behooves people to become a little more educated on what is happening around them in terms of the ability of the government to supply our essential basic needs,” Vota said. That’s not as much a criticism of government services as it is an acknowledgement that natural disasters significantly can impede those government services.

Still, there aren’t many natural disasters blowing through the Cincinnati area. “That’s part of my challenge as a retailer,” Vota said. “What can happen here in Cincinnati? Ice storms can be a big deal,” he said.

Vota has discovered that even though his actual storefront is located in Ohio, his virtual storefront extends both west to the earthquake regions of California and south to the hurricane watch areas alongside the Gulf of Mexico.

Click here for exclusive photos of Safe & Ready Life.

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Rite Aid commences fundraising for Children’s Miracle Network

BY Allison Cerra

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Rite Aid is hoping to raise $5 million to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals as it kicks off its 17th annual fundraising campaign for the nonprofit organization.

The company said it is encouraging customers to support their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital this season by buying $1 paper Miracle balloons through May 28. The drug store chain said 100% of the proceeds for the campaign will be donated to the nonprofit, which raises funds for more than 170 children’s hospitals throughout North America. Customers who purchase the paper balloon will each receive $8 in coupon offers good for products sold at Rite Aid.

Last year, the company raised $4.9 million. Rite Aid associates also host special events throughout the year to raise funds for the charity.

“Our fundraising campaign for Children’s Miracle Network is just one way Rite Aid associates demonstrate our core value of being a caring neighbor,” said John Standley, Rite Aid president and CEO. “They are committed to raising as much as they can for their local children’s hospital, and I know that this year, through their above-and-beyond efforts, they’ll help make even more miracles happen for those who need it the most.”

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