Consumers look for fresh at the local pharmacy

Panel discusses opportunity of fresh at GMA/NACDS event

BOSTON — More and more success at retail is contingent upon delivering what the consumer wants, when she wants it, where she wants it and at the price she wants it.

According to a panel of consumer manufacturers and retail executives from Navarro Discount Pharmacies and Rite Aid, she wants fresh, health and wellness all neatly packaged with a value-priced bow. And she wants it in the drug channel.

The question is how to deliver that opportunity of fresh, how to overcome challenges across consumer channel perception and how to incorporate fresh into a supply chain that feeds smaller footprints.

“We’re going to focus on health and wellness as an opportunity [and explore] how some of our members are actually looking at health and wellness within their portfolios,” Denny Belcastro, EVP industry affairs and membership services for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, told attendees Sunday morning at an event jointly hosted by GMA and the ational Association of Chain Drug Stores.

Delivering on promises of health and wellness has been an ongoing trend across food manufacturers, and there is no better conduit in tying healthy lifestyle and eating together than the community pharmacist. Unless you couple that pharmacist with a chef.

That’s what Navarro Discount Pharmacies did some six months ago when it named Chef Pepín, a TV personality, cookbook author and philanthropist, as the company’s celebrity spokesman. “We define wellness as helping to improve the lives of our customers,” explained Jose Alvarez, VP merchandising at Navarro.

Chef Pepín has become a core component of Navarro’s Diabetes Club, which focuses on nutrition, exercise and prevention for adults and children. Through live in-store demonstrations, Chef Pepín helps educate parents and children about good eating habits, what foods to eat and what foods to avoid.

The chef doesn’t conduct these healthy-living demonstrations in a vacuum, either. “The pharmacist is engaged in the front end, and that’s the most important piece,” Alvarez said.

Smaller, convenience-oriented retail footprints lend themselves to effectively bridging that gap between the backbench and the front end. One of the challenges, however, has been consumer perception — can fresh product or dairy be had in the drug channel at prices comparable to their supermarket or superstore counterparts?

Consumers today aren’t necessarily making that connection, but that’s the opportunity, noted Bill Renz, Rite Aid VP consumables. A food trip represents one more opportunity to add to the market basket. “Dairy is a great example of that, if you can grab that extra dairy trip,” Renz said, because there are a lot of items that can go into that basket with the dairy trip.

Rite Aid is breaking down that perception barrier in the Carolinas with its partnership with Supervalu on Rite Aid/
Save-A-Lot stores. Rite Aid’s deal is unique in that the company is partnering with hard-discount grocer Save-A-Lot, a factor that establishes a well-known and growing food store brand within Rite Aid’s four walls of health and wellness.

Click here for more on how convenience and gas retailer Sheetz is changing consumer perception.

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