HEALTH

Safeway provides glimpse of new wellness platform

BY Michael Johnsen

PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway on Wednesday offered a glimpse of its new wellness platform, slated to launch in the second quarter, to analysts during the chain’s 2013 investor conference here. "Today, we’re a supermarket company … selling wellness services and wellness products," Steve Burd, Safeway chairman and CEO, told analysts. Within 10 years, Safeway will transform into a wellness company that happens to sell food, Burd said. 

The face of the program will include a simplified shopping experience across the self-care aisles and more accessible staff and pharmacists. "When I go to the cough and cold aisle, I don’t have a clue what I need to buy," Burd said. "The pharmacists in our stores will know more about what you should take than most physicians. This is their game. And we want to give them free access to the sales floor. And they will play more of a role counseling patients on their medications and providing advice."

The goal is to capture patient traffic with the additional staff and expose them to a robust wellness service offering, Burd said, and then incrementally grow that patient’s weekly Safeway shopping spend. 

"[Health care] should be the highest growth piece of our business for the next 10 years, and I think Safeway can own the wellness space," Burd said. "The addressable market, now that’s the market in the areas and geography in the U.S. in which we have stores, we think that market is about $4 billion today. And we think that market is going to double over the next five years to an $8 billion market."

Safeway’s Just for U loyalty program provides one route of access to that $8 billion market. Safeway has already evolved its loyalty proposition into a core competency with its Just for U program, which boasts 5.4 million registered users as of Feb. 23. According to third-party surveys cited by Burd, 86% of Just for U users would recommend the app to their friends and family. "We can drive core pharmacy growth through some loyalty programs, and we’re trying to transform really the patient care model," Burd said. 

"We’ve been very good at acquiring new patients, retaining them," Burd added. "We were really among the first to be in the immunization business," he said, and Safeway is moving toward a broader specialty pharmacy offering. "Specialty drugs — in 10 years time, if you’re not in specialty drugs, you’re not in the pharmacy business," Burd said. "Diplomat is our specialty pharmacy partner. We elected to partner with somebody rather than start that from scratch."

Already Safeway offers a number of counseling opportunities across its pharmacy, including diabetes and Safeway’s recent partnership with the University of California San Francisco School of Pharmacy on smoking cessation. "We have 11 million smokers in our market. Eight million of them would like to quit," Burd said. "Working with UCSF and doing a combination of the right smoking cessation product in combination with some behavioral modification is really the key to [quitting the habit]."

Safeway is also making it easier for its shoppers to shop for healthier fare. "We’ve created a tag system called SimpleNutrition that calls out the basic feature of the product," Burd said. "That will soon be supported by a website that will allow someone who’s been told to lower their sodium content [to] design a whole new dietary program for them. It will be integrated to what you see in the store. And then we make personalized better for you options available on Just for U."

Safeway also reconfigured its department adjacencies with three broad destinations — meals and ingredients, living healthy and everyday essentials. "The real overarching objective is to integrate the center of the store with all of the work we had done previously in lifestyle area stores," noted Robert Gordon, Safeway SVP, secretary and general counsel. In addition to the center of store base remodel, Safeway has identified some 300 locations that would benefit from a "premium" remodel. "What we’re seeing is growing need from customers that fit into this demographic for a more organic, more natural, more local products, more products that have [an] international theme," Gordon said. 

In support of quickly ramping its new wellness concept, Safeway has increased its capital expenditure commitment to $250 million for new stores (up $60 million from 2012) and $260 million on remodels (up $44 million).

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GNC launches Total Lean Challenge and Sweepstakes

BY Alaric DeArment

PITTSBURGH — Health and wellness products retailer GNC is sponsoring a 12-week effort to encourage consumers to transform eating and exercise habits for long-term weight management, the company said.

GNC Holdings, the retailer’s parent company, announced the Total Lean Challenge and Sweepstakes, which offers a chance for consumers to win $25,000 in cash prizes, as well as serving as an introduction to the company’s Lifestyle Diet approach to weight loss and a way to promote products like the Lean Shake and Total Lean Watertex.

Rite Aid, which operates GNC sections in many of its stores, will play a small role by promoting the campaign on its Facebook page, Rite Aid spokeswoman Ashley Flower said.

"At GNC, we understand how difficult it can be to get started on a weight-loss program that’s right for you," GNC EVP, chief merchandising officer and general manager Tom Dowd said. "That’s why we created Total Lean, a line of products perfect for anyone on a weight management journey."


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Survey: Most practitioners recommend OTC before prescription-only

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Nearly 98% of primary care physicians, nurse practitioners and pharmacists trust and recommend over-the-counter medicines to their patients, according to a new survey released Wednesday by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. Nearly three-fourths of primary care physicians recommend OTC medicines to relieve symptoms before recommending a prescription treatment.

“This new survey clearly shows that, amid a changing healthcare landscape, consumers and healthcare providers agree that OTC medicines are a trusted first line of treatment to alleviate symptoms,” stated Scott Melville, CHPA president and CEO. “The more consumers educate themselves about their OTC treatment choices — and continue to talk with their physicians and pharmacists about their healthcare options — the better that is for improving the health of all Americans and delivering healthcare savings throughout the healthcare system.”

As many as 84% of consumers say they trust their healthcare provider’s advice on what OTC medicine they should take or give to others. Across a range of illnesses, 8-in-10 consumers use OTC medicines to relieve their symptoms without having to see a healthcare professional and more than two-thirds of consumers prefer to use OTC medicines instead of a prescription when available. This is most prevalent across allergy sufferers — half of all those with allergies readily use OTC medicines to alleviate symptoms. 

The findings expand on data from a January 2012 study by Booz & Co. conducted on behalf of CHPA, which found that OTC medicines save consumers and the healthcare system billions of dollars each year. The study found that for every dollar spent on OTC medicines, the U.S. healthcare system saves $6 to $7 — providing $102 billion in value each year. This includes $25 billion in drug cost savings annually through the use of less expensive OTC medicines over prescription drugs, as well as $77 billion in clinical cost savings from avoided doctor’s office visits and diagnostic testing.

For a white paper based on the findings, click here

The survey was conducted by Nielsen and IMS, on behalf of CHPA. 

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