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THE FRIDAY 5: Kroger Offering Weight Loss Drugs; Walmart’s Turn to Shelf Labels

Hy-Vee’s store closures and Trader Joe’s viral tote bags also garnered reader interest
Emily Crowe, Progressive Grocer

Welcome to The Friday 5, Progressive Grocer’s weekly roundup of the top news and trends in the food retail industry. Each Friday, we’ll take a look at the stories that are most important to our readers and also keep tabs on the trends that are poised to impact grocers.

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Santiago, Chile, august 16th, 2023. Pen injection of semaglutide named “ozempic”, is a diabetes medicine to improve blood sugar ; Shutterstock ID 2349255139
Kroger Health's Little Clinic is adding GLP-1 medications to its suite of weight loss management services.

1. Kroger, Ahold Delhaize USA Tap Into New Health Initiatives

The weight loss craze is headed further into the grocery aisle as Kroger Health’s The Little Clinic revamps its weight management program to offer access, when medically appropriate, to GLP-1 medications such as Wegovy and Zepabound, as part of patients’ weight loss plans. Starting at $99 per visit, the program is accessible in person and via telehealth to patients in the states where The Little Clinic operates. 

Over the past year and a half, there has been much talk about the impact of weight loss and diabetes management medications, with concerns about a potential downturn in sales of snacks, desserts and other foods. Food companies are starting to lean into evolving attitudes and behavior, however, and PG recently spoke with Jenny Zegler, director of food and drink at Mintel, to sort out perceptions and misperceptions about the much-buzzed-about drugs

Back on the health front, news broke this week that Ahold Delhaize USA has undertaken a new agreement with Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Co., PBC (Cost Plus Drugs) involving the Team Cuban Card. The Team Cuban Card will be accepted at each of Ahold Delhaize USA’s local brand pharmacies: Food Lion, Hannaford, Giant Food, The Giant Co., and Stop & Shop. Each local brand is joining the Cost Plus Drugs Pharmacy Affiliate Network, bringing extra convenience and assistance to pharmacy patients seeking affordable health care solutions.

2. Hy-Vee's Plan for Store Closures

Midwest retailer Hy-Vee is taking care of its communities after listening to concerns about the impact of its three store closures in Iowa. Following the permanent closure of its First Avenue Hy-Vee in Cedar Rapids, its Logan Avenue store in Waterloo and the Rockingham Road store in Davenport on June 23,  the retailer will offer some solutions to ease the transition for these communities. 

According to local reports, Hy-Vee said it has not met sales goals at those locations over the past several years, but the company is nevertheless offering free transportation to its other stores, free grocery delivery for up to one year, continuation of free pharmacy delivery, increased food bank assistance and more.

Expansion of convenience store Buc-ee's is on the horizon.

3. Keeping Convenience In Mind

PG readers were interested in the opening of Buc-ee's newest and largest travel center to date in Luling, Texas, the home of the retailer's first family travel center. Occupying more than 75,000 square feet, the updated site beats the size of Buc-ee's now-second largest location in Tennessee by 1,000 square feet and replaces the city's current aforementioned store, which was built in 2003.

With the opening in Luling, Buc-ee's now operates 50 stores throughout the United States. Since beginning its multistate expansion in 2019, Buc-ee's has opened travel centers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri and Colorado. The retailer also broke ground on its first Virginia and Mississippi locations earlier this year. 

4. Trends From GroceryTech and Beyond

Technology has been on the brain since PG wrapped its second annual GroceryTech conference last week. Coverage of the event, including insights from Northeast Grocery, Erewhon, Schnuck Markets and SpartanNash, proved popular among readers.

Kabir Jain, chief growth officer at Erewhon, gave an inside peek at how it's bringing experiential retail into grocery through its app, while Scott Kessler, EVP and CIO at Northeast Grocery, the parent company of Price Chopper/Market 32 and Tops Friendly Markets, discussed today's biggest technology-driven trend: GenAI

“GenAI is going to fundamentally change how grocers operate,” he said. “It's going to fundamentally change all industries. There’s a lot of exciting stuff.” 

Also popular among readers were insights from St. Louis-based Schnuck Markets Inc. and food solutions company SpartanNash about the implementation of new tech within their stores, both from the executive perspective and the store manager’s point of view.

Readers were also interested in news that Walmart is laying out plans to introduce digital shelf labels at 2,300 of its stores over the next two years. The labels, developed by Vusion Group, will allow the retailer to update prices at the shelf using a mobile app.

Walmart has been testing the digital labels at Store 266 in Grapevine, Texas, and a manager there says the technology has helped her team work faster and provide a better customer experience. 

5. Trader Joe’s Proves Its Popularity

Two stories about Trader Joe’s piqued reader interest this week as consumers have been clamoring for the grocer’s popular 1.5-gallon totes. For the second time in 2024, the reusable bags have gone viral and caused a run on the product at stores.

Over the past week, demand has turned red hot for Trader Joe’s-branded insulated mini totes. As with the canvas mini totes that became a hit in March, these items have already wound up on resale sites like eBay, fetching way more than the in-store price of $3.99. As of press time, twin sets of bags were listed on eBay for $49.99 to $69.95.

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