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Quick meals drive growth as consumers turn to pantries

BY Barbara White-Sax

It’s back to basics for groceries. Data from Information Resources Inc. revealed that the drug channel also is grabbing a significant share of sales of basic pantry items. “Meal ingredients or components are the fastest-growing part of grocery,” said Thom Blischok, president of consulting and innovation at IRI. “People are moving back into the home and eating out less frequently.”

IRI research showed that 65% of store visits to food, drug and mass outlets for the year ended Dec. 28, 2008, were “quick trips,” visits in which customers purchased five or fewer items and spent under $20. “Drug stores are emerging as the new convenience channel of choice for quick trips, including groceries,” Blischok said.

IRI data revealed that drug chains have done very well with staple categories over the past year. Such categories as flour, sugar, shortening and oil had double-digit dollar sales gains in the 52 weeks ended May 17, according to IRI. Cold cereal, condensed wet soup and shelf-stable dinners and entrées also have shown solid double-digit gains in the channel for the same time period.

Drug chains are expanding their food offerings. “Hy-Vee is a company that is leading the charge in understanding that drug stores are the c-stores of the future,” Blischok said. He called Duane Reade, which has expanded its food centers at the rear of many of its stores, “innovative and impressive” in its approach to food.

Going forward, Blischok said it wouldn’t be enough for drug chains to stick to the same old assortments. “Fresh will be important to drug, and we are seeing chains experimenting with fresh foods already,” he said. “Healthy eating and nutrition is the single most important issue for consumers, and drug stores speak with authority around health and wellness.”

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Washington, Mo., considers repealing recently passed PSE legislation

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK The objective here is closing down clandestine methamphetamine labs. The question is: Who is going to bear the cost? And the answer, ultimately, is the consumer.

It seems that one of the primary reasons behind legislation like this, which is also under consideration by the California state legislature as well as several local municipalities throughout Missouri, is cost shifting.

Indeed, one solution that would prevent the practice of “smurfing,” a practice whereby meth addicts exceed their legal purchase limits in pseudoephedrine products by buying across several nearby pharmacies, is electronic logbooking. By granting access to PSE logbooks to law enforcement in real time, law enforcement officers would not only be made aware of a “smurfer” as they were driving between pharmacies, but would also identify who that smurfer was and where they lived.

Setting up that comprehensive electronic logbooking system requires resources, however. State coffers have traditionally been tapped for that purpose, and at least in the case of California, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association has offered to help defray that cost. In the case of Missouri, more than $500,000 has already been earmarked for the implementation of an electronic logbooking system at the state level.

However,  a not-as-much-talked-about cost is also borne by law enforcement, as pointed out by Franklin County Sgt. Jason Grellner in Missouri. After all, it requires additional resources to actually apprehend and prosecute those criminals, he suggested. And a system that better defines who those criminals may be, by his estimation, could cost the state as much as $350,000 per criminal per year.

Therefore, Grellner argues, it’s a fiscal responsibility to take PSE off the OTC market altogether, and require a prescription for the popular decongestant.

That, in a nutshell, is cost-shifting. Because reverse switching PSE translates into less revenue for retailers (and consequently less taxable revenue, as well) for those consumers who choose to forego PSE-provided relief, and for those who don’t, it’s a greater healthcare cost because now consumers have to schedule an appointment with their primary care practitioner and pay the co-pay for that doctor’s visit on top of the cost of the PSE product.

Regardless of how the consumer ultimately pays for the elimination of meth labs — whether through increased taxes to cover escalating law enforcement budgets or through increased personal healthcare costs — there is another argument to be made here. Switching PSE to prescription-only status may result in fewer meth labs busted, but it’s not going to do anything about those meth addicts still on the street. Necessity is the mother of invention, and for addicts, that simply means sourcing their meth from somewhere else.

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