Editor’s Note: Walgreen’s Big News; Grocers Focus on Keeping Customers Healthy

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Editor’s Note: Walgreen’s Big News; Grocers Focus on Keeping Customers Healthy

By Michelle Moran - 02/18/2010
Walgreen Co. is taking center stage as the top drug chain in the New York City metropolitan area with this week’s agreement to acquire Duane Reade for $1.075 billion. The move illustrates the strength of the health and wellness category in the United States. Walgreen operates 70 stores in the New York area and had 7,162 stores overall as of Jan. 31. Duane Reade, which had sales of $1.8 billion in 2009, will continue to operate under its brand name after the transaction closes. The sale requires regulatory approval and includes all 257 Duane Reade stores in the New York City metropolitan area.

Also included in the sale are Duane Reade’s corporate office and two distribution centers, along with $618 million in cash and the assumption of $457 million of debt. Walgreen expects the deal to close by Aug. 31.

Grocers and manufacturers continue to lead their own charge to keep their customers healthy. Recent health and wellness programs offered by leading retailers include a program offering heart health screenings at D&W, Family Fare, Felpausch, Glen’s and VG’s pharmacies. Customers also received hypertension, pulse rate and blood pressure checks. Healthy heart product samples are also available for consumers along with Spartan Stores Nutrition Guide.

“As part of Healthy Heart Month, Spartan Stores is pleased to be combining efforts with ConAgra Foods to promote heart health screenings at our D&W Fresh Market, Family Fare, Felpausch, Glen’s Markets and VG’s pharmacies,” said Alan Hartline, EVP, merchandising and marketing, for Spartan Stores. “Our pharmacies are dedicated to enhancing the health of their patients and do much more than fill prescriptions and offer consultation. Value-added health care services such as these heart health screenings provide valuable wellness information and can actually save lives. What better gift to give to the loved ones in your life than a healthy heart and years of being together.”  

“We are excited to have this opportunity to partner with D&W Fresh Market, Family Fare, Felpausch, Glen’s and VG’s to help people find a better way to live and eat well,” said Laura Chin, sales director, Michigan region, for ConAgra Foods. “We recognize that it’s important to provide heart-healthy products that are also convenient, delicious and affordable. Consumers can find those qualities in our products such as Healthy Choice, Egg Beaters and Orville Redenbacher’s SmartPop.”

And in other healthy news, Guiding Stars announced yesterday that new research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows Guiding Stars had a positive influence on food purchasing decisions after the implementation of the zero-to-three star rating system, and that these changes continue to be significant in achieving healthier food choices in the supermarket. Guiding Stars is a simple, at-a-glance tool that allows consumers to quickly identify and choose foods that offer the most nutrition for the calories. It was born from extensive customer research that clearly revealed a desire to live healthier lifestyles, but showed confusion about how to digest the volume and complexity of the nutrition-related information available to them in the media, in advertisements, and on food packaging.

The study was conducted by a group of scientists led by Lisa Sutherland, Ph.D., of Dartmouth College along with Leslie Fischer, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina and Lori Kaley of the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School, all Guiding Stars Scientific Advisory Panel members at the time the research was undertaken. The researchers examined the effects of Guiding Stars on consumer food and beverage choices in the study titled “Guiding Stars: The effect of a nutrition navigation program on consumer purchases at the supermarket.” 

“The choices consumers make in the supermarket can have a direct effect on their health and wellness, and we found that after the Guiding Stars nutrition rating system was implemented, the overall purchasing of foods with stars, or those rated the most nutritious, significantly increased. With time as a considerable barrier for many Americans when shopping, we believe that the program makes it easier for consumers to quickly identify the more nutritious options in the supermarket.”

The study authors utilized purchasing data from 2006 to 2008 obtained from Hannaford Supermarkets, which have 168 stores located in northern New England and New York. They examined the data before Guiding Stars was introduced, and one and two years after it was implemented. In order to understand the program’s impact on specific grocery categories, ready-to-eat cereal was examined as a case study. Study findings revealed that the purchasing of star-rated cereals significantly increased at one year and continued to increase in year two. “Although we did not measure individual diet, the purchasing of low-sugar, high-fiber cereals increased greatly after program implementation. This finding is of particular importance to our understanding the potential impact of such programs on consumer diet,” Sutherland said.

“We are thrilled to see this very important research demonstrating the short- and long-term impact of Guiding Stars,” said Betts FitzGerald, managing director of Guiding Stars Licensing Company. “The design of the Guiding Stars program provides a significant opportunity to impact not only the health of individuals, but public health as well.”

These continued developments and improvements in the industry’s health and wellness focus continues to prove that grocers have the opportunity to truly improve the lives of their customers.