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Fuji lights up a new path for batteries with its ‘green’ line

BY Mike Duff

Fuji is determined to revitalize the environmentally friendly, or green, battery segment with the introduction of its EnvironMAX line, which got its initial unveiling at the Consumer Electronics Expo in January.

The product line initially will roll out in April 2009 at ACO, ACE and Do it Best hardware stores, as well as two supermarket chains, Big Y in Massachusetts and Shop ’n Save in the St. Louis, Fuji announced. In addition, the company is in negotiations with regional drug store chains that may begin stocking the line in the coming months, said Jeff Kreidenweis, director of sales for EnvironMAX.

Rather than a new product line, EnvironMAX is a reformulation and repackaging of a green battery line previously offered by Fuji. Although several green battery introductions appeared earlier in the decade, the segment fell out of favor, as standard batteries were subject to environmental improvements that reduced their toxicity through the removal mercury and cadmium.

While pursuing sustainability initiatives, major drug chains haven’t been stocking batteries based on specific environmental messages. A RiteAid spokesperson said the company isn’t carrying a Fuji green battery. At CVS, the situation is similar and steady. “It doesn’t seem like we have anything new like that coming down the pike,” said Joan Dwyer, a CVS spokeswoman.

Carl Wheeler, a buyer for USA Drug, noted “We’re not carrying anything like that now. We’ve never carried one.” However, the company is looking at a rechargeable battery with a green position, Wheeler said, but hadn’t seen the EnvironMAX yet.

Tiffani Washington, a spokeswoman for Walgreens, noted that the company is focusing its environmental concerns on rechargeable batteries, conducting a test program in Chicago, where it is working with the city on recycling. Walgreens is interested in sustainability issues, but also takes into consideration just how much value an environmentally friendly product provides consumers when weighed against cost. “We don’t currently really carry those,” said Washington, referring to green batteries. “Sometime in the future we might, but a consideration is that they were much more expensive than conventional batteries.”

Fuji is addressing the price consideration with EnvironMAX, Kreidenweis said. The EnvironMAX Super Alkaline version, available in AA, AAA, C and D, comes at a suggested retail price of $3.99 per pack, while the  EnvironMAX Digital Alkaline, available in AA and AAA, is set at a $5.99 SRP. “What Fuji has built is a high-performance product at a competitive price against the national brands,” Kreidenweis said.

EnvironMAX batteries are designed to equal or exceed performance and longevity standards of major equivalent brands; don’t contain cadmium,  mercury  or other potentially harmful elements; and are packaged with recycled paper and fully recyclable PET.

Kreidenweis said price, construction and performance were carefully balanced to rebuild the environmentally friendly battery segment, one that initially might interest a niche consumer but will draw a wider range of customers as sustainability becomes a larger issue. “We think it’s a mainstream product,” he said. “We believe that a good deal of every set – as much as 22% of every section – is going to have to be made of products with environmental sentiments half way through 2011. We are filling in the battery set.”

Duracell spokesman Kurt Iverson said major battery makers already are addressing environmental concerns in multiple ways. Duracell has introduced Daylite flashlights, developed with LED rather than less-efficient incandescent bulbs. Also, it uses its Web site to guide consumers to better power performance and, by getting more life from each battery, a superior environmental result. “We try to help consumers match the right battery with the right device,” he said. The site also notes that Duracell alkaline batteries have been mercury, cadmium and lead-free for years, adding that more than 97% of Duracell alkaline batteries are packaged in 100% recycled cardboard.

On its home page, Energizer has a sustainability tab and discusses removing mercury and cadmium from its batteries and adding recycled material to packaging material in addressing consumer environmental concerns.

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Obama may overturn Bush’s ‘conscience’ rules

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK The Obama Administration may overturn the Bush Administration’s “conscience” rules that allow healthcare workers to invoke religious beliefs to deny certain services such as birth control, according to published reports.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Barack Obama may roll back the provisions, which allow pharmacists to refuse to prescribe birth control pills on account of personal religious beliefs. 

Seven states have also filed lawsuits to challenge the rule, the newspaper reported.

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Clear up patient medication guidelines, independent pharmacy group urges FDA

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Community Pharmacists Association wants the government to give patients a clearer, more concise set of guidelines on how to take their medications, the effects those drugs have and the risks and benefits they carry.

The independent pharmacy organization yesterday urged the Food and Drug Administration’s Risk Communication Advisory Committee to push for a change in the current system of overlapping instructions that go to patients along with their prescriptions. In testimony before the committee, NCPA asked the agency to develop criteria for a guidance that would describe “a single, patient-friendly, written prescription information sheet to eventually replace the multiple written documents that patients can currently receive from their pharmacists with a particular prescription.

Under current practices, those documents can include  Medication Guides, Patient Package Inserts [PPIs] and Consumer Medication Information [CMI]. Too often, said NCPA’s director of public policy, Tony Lee, patients discard the CMI and never read it — sometimes even throwing it away before they leave the pharmacy.

“While we recognize that the FDA has worked hard to try and improve these medication documents, the problem needs to be addressed in a fundamentally different way that combines useful written information with the personal relationships between the pharmacists and patients,” Lee told the FDA advisory panel.

“It is time for a comprehensive solution to this written prescription information issue,” added John Coster, NCPA’s senior VP of government affairs. “Any FDA effort to make CMI more useful for the patient should be accompanied by a broader assessment of the usefulness and purpose of the other information leaflets that pharmacist may be required to provide. We look forward to working with the agency and patient groups to meet this goal.”

Last summer, NCPA joined other pharmacy provider groups to file a “One Document” citizens’ petition with the FDA. The Risk Advisory Committee was convened specifically to address how to make CMI leaflets more useful for the patient, the group noted.

“These leaflets are voluntarily provided by the pharmacist, but the information contained in these leaflets often duplicates information in other written leaflets,” NCPA stated.

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