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Rite Aid finds its niche ‘well’

BY Alaric DeArment

Rite Aid announced Wednesday that it has converted nearly all its stores in the Buffalo, N.Y., area to the Wellness store format, breaking the news with an event in the nearby village of Williamsville that included president, chairman and CEO John Standley, COO Ken Martindale and fitness expert Denise Austin.

Just as writers find their voices, Rite Aid has paved its road with wellness. Evidence of that was clear when it announced its latest earnings last month, raking in a $123.1 million profit for the fourth quarter and a $118.1 million profit for the fiscal year, its first profitable year since 2007.

As Drug Store News stated when it profiled the company in the December 2012 issue, Rite Aid "gets well," its business is improving, but it also has shown an understanding of wellness. As Standley put it, the company’s goal is to become a "true neighborhood destination for health and wellness."

Behind those numbers are the more than 800 Wellness stores themselves, whose front-end comps exceed those of non-Wellness stores by more than 3%, according to the company. That is thanks not just to their improved decor and product selections, but the Wellness Ambassadors, specially trained staff members armed with iPads who provide information on health and wellness products and pharmacy services. When the Wellness format was in its early stages, Standley noted that those stores staffed with Wellness Ambassadors showed stronger results than those without. As of the end of the fourth quarter, the company had 1,300 Wellness Ambassadors trained, and it plans to remodel 400 stores in fiscal year 2014.

Wellness+ is the other big factor. The number of members who actively use the program – meaning they have used the cards at least twice in the past 26 weeks — now exceeds 25 million, accounting for 79% of front-end sales and 68% of prescriptions filled, with particularly strong showings from those members who achieve Gold and Silver status. That program has helped the company retain at least three-quarters of the pharmacy scripts that it gained from last year’s dispute between Walgreens and pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts. A large portion of the chain’s pharmacy customers — and just about all of its best customers — are poly-chronic patients, those with multiple chronic conditions, Who tend to be elderly patients.

What this all means is that Rite Aid has found its niche. And at a time when retail pharmacy chains around the country are looking to distinguish themselves with services, product selections and target demographics, finding one’s niche is of critical importance.

 

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FDA must file Plan B appeal by noon on May 13 or remove age restrictions from all OTC EC products

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — Senior U.S. District Judge Edward Korman on Friday denied a Food and Drug Administration motion for a stay pending an appeal of Korman’s earlier decision that all levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives be available without a prescription and without any age restrictions. 

However, Korman did grant a stay "pending the hearing or submission of the defendants’ motion for a stay in the Court of Appeals on the condition that the motion for a stay be filed by noon on May 13, 2013."

In a 17-page decision, Korman noted he was not appeased by the FDA’s decision regarding Plan B One-Step. "Plan B One-Step aside, the effect of my [original] decision was to make levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives available without a prescription and without any point-of-sale or age restrictions," he wrote. "The only practical difference between my decision and the decision of the FDA that the Secretary reversed was that the FDA’s decision was arguably directed towards the one-pill version of the drug, and my decision applied to both versions." 

 

 

 

 

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Inventure Foods receives gluten-free certification from GFCO

BY Jason Owen

PHOENIX — Inventure Foods, a leading specialty food marketer and manufacturer, has received certification from the Gluten-Free Certification Organization for its Boulder Canyon natural foods products and manufacturing facilities in Bluffton, Ind., and Goodyear, Ariz., the company stated.

The Bluffton plant, located at 705 West Dustman Rd., produces snack chips for the company-owned Boulder Canyon brand, in addition to salty snacks under the T.G.I. Friday’s, Nathan’s Famous and Vidalia Brands licensed brands. Inventure’s Goodyear plant, located at 3500 South La Cometa, is a state-of-the-art kettle-cooked potato chip facility, producing potato chips under the Boulder Canyon, Poore Brothers and Bob’s Texas Style brand names.

All Boulder Canyon products will carry the certified Gluten-Free logo going forward.

The Auburn, Wash.-based GFCO is considered the leading global gluten-free certification program, Inventure Foods stated. The strict certification process includes periodic gluten testing of the manufacturing facility, regular plant inspections by a GFCO contracted auditor and random product-testing in the marketplace. Products carrying the GF logo meet similarly strict gluten-free standards constituted by the GFCO.

Sales of certified gluten-free products in the chips, pretzel and snack category grew 54% from 2010 to 2011, and sales of the overall gluten-free food category grew 27% from 2009 to 2011. World-leading market research group, Mintel, estimates the gluten-free food category will reach $8 billion in 2013.

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