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DRUG STORE NEWS January 2022


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Vol. 44 No. 1

Facebook.com/DrugStoreNews Twitter.com/DrugStoreNews



From Head To Toe

The fusion of wellness and beauty sets mass market retailers up for success in 2022

32 COVER STORY Breaking Down Barriers



The Evolution of Retail Pharmacy Demands Innovation

Retail pharmacy is becoming a force in an unexpected area — providing mental health services

New tools embrace data and automation to drive efficiencies and enhance patient service 52


Technical Targeting

Cough-cold/flu remedy suppliers emphasize digital touchpoints and promotions 56














GUEST COLUMN By Surescripts’ Larry King


ONE-ON-ONE with Trividia Health’s Michael Schlanger


Promoting Wellness 26

ONE-ON-ONE with Designer Greetings’ Steven Gimbelman


LAST WORD By David Orgel Consulting’s David Orgel

This year’s Retail Excellence Awards pay tribute to an impressive array of standout companies offering natural products 66


Play Your Cards Right

Greeting card category still relevant in the face of the pandemic and digital communications

DSN (ISSN 0191-7587) is published monthly 12 times a year by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Subscription rate in the United States: $125 one year; $230 two year; $14 single issue copy; Canada and Mexico: $150 one year; $270 two year; $16 single issue copy; Foreign: $170 one year; $325 two year; $16 single issue copy. Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, IL, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to DSN, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Vol. 44 No. 1, January 2022. Copyright © 2022 by EnsembleIQ. All rights reserved.



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Change in the Air Shifts in retail pharmacy are likely to exert force for disruption and innovation By Nigel F. Maynard

The last two years will likely go down as the two most tumultuous for retail pharmacy — certainly since the millennium. On the one hand, the industry is seeing some growth. In August, ResearchAndMarkets. com released a report (“Pharmacies and Drug Stores Global Market Report 2021: COVID-19 Implications and Growth to 2030”) concluding that the global pharmacy and drug stores market is expected to see annual growth of about 6% between now and 2025. This will be partly due to an aging population providing a growing customer base for pharmacies and drug stores. But at the same time, there are headwinds that will continue. The pandemic will continue to play a major role for pharmacies, but retailers will have to contend with consumer behavior and expectations; competition; labor shortages; inflation; and government regulations on the local and national level. “Rapidly increasing cost pressures from regulatory agencies and payers will restrain the pharmacies and drug stores market,” according to the ResearchAndMarkets.com report. “Government budgetary pressures are leading to lower pharmacy compensation for most countries with public health care. The consolidation of pharmacy benefit management firms in the U.S. has worked similarly, driving lower costs and margins and shifting prescription volumes to delivery of direct or mail order.” These are issues to consider as we start a new year. No doubt change will be a big part of the strategy for retailers, and the changes will come in many forms. Deloitte said the role of the pharmacy


and the pharmacist in the healthcare ecosystem is evolving as technologies — such as artificial intelligence and virtual health — drive exponential change. The company said many pharmacies operate on a legacy business model that is only just beginning to embrace technology and customer service innovation. “Today’s retail pharmacists are highly trained, trusted medical professionals who spend a disproportionate amount of time counting pills and addressing clinical edits rather than operating at the top of their license (such as providing pointof-care testing and counseling),” Deloitte said. “Not only does this tend to minimize their ability to affect patient outcomes, but is also causing safety and profitability issues.” The dynamic pace of today’s innovation cycles is likely to create disruption, not a gentle evolution, according to Deloitte. Things on the horizon, the company said, could be treatments that no longer focus on chemical and biologic solutions but instead focus on digital therapeutics; retail pharmacies that could become consolidated health destinations with product distribution altered by 3-D printing, kiosks, telehealth, and same-day delivery by driverless cars; or retailers could adopt automation and AI algorithms to enhance pharmacists’ responsibilities, allowing them to become recognized as care providers. Of course no one knows for sure if or when the industry will see such dramatic shifts. The other question retailers need to ponder is this: How quickly will these changes happen? By all accounts the industry is not short of ideas, but the biggest question that must be answered is which one of the headwinds is the priority. It’s something to think about for 2022 — and beyond. dsn

An EnsembleIQ Publication 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave Suite 200 Chicago, IL 60631 Senior Vice President, Publisher John Kenlon (516) 650-2064, jkenlon@ensembleiq.com Editor-in-Chief | Editorial Director Nigel F. Maynard nigelmaynard@ensembleiq.com


Managing Editor Hannah Esper (773) 992-4449, hesper@ensembleiq.com Senior Editor Sandra Levy (845) 893-9573, slevy@ensembleiq.com Desk Editor Maria Manliclic (212) 756-5093, mmanliclic@ensembleiq.com Online Editor Gisselle Gaitan (212) 756-5138, ggaitan@ensembleiq.com


Northeast Manager Alex Tomas (212) 756-5155, atomas@ensembleiq.com Regional Manager Steven Werner (312) 961-7162 swerner@ensembleiq.com


Creative Director Colette Magliaro cmagliaro@ensembleiq.com Production Manager Jackie Batson (224) 632-8183, jbatson@ensembleiq.com

AUDIENCE LIST RENTAL MeritDirect Marie Briganti 914-309-3378 SUBSCRIBER SERVICES/ CUSTOMER CARE TOLL-FREE: 1-877-687-7321 FAX: 1-888-520-3608 contact@drugstorenews.com REPRINTS & PERMISSIONS Reprints, permissions and licensing, please contact Wright’s Media at ensembleiq@wrightsmedia.com or (877) 652-5295.

CORPORATE OFFICERS Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Litterick ●●●

Chief Financial Officer Jane Volland ●●●

Chief Innovation Officer Tanner Van Dusen ●●●

Chief Human Resources Officer Ann Jadown ●●●

Senior Vice President, Operations Derek Estey ●●●

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Gaia Herbs Intros Plant-Powered Herbal Gummies Gaia Herbs is debuting three new plant-powered herbal gummies to its lineup. The USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified gummies are available in three formulas that target a variety of needs, including sleep and relaxation. New product launches from the brand include: • Ashwagandha Herbal Gummies, formulated to help promote stress reduction. Each gummy contains 6 g of ashwagandha and is sweetened with blueberries, apples and dates as well as flavored with ginger and cinnamon; • Sleep Herbal Gummies, made with ashwagandha, passionflower, reishi and jujube date to help fight occasional tiredness. The gummies are sweetened

with apple and tart cherry, and flavored with sweet orange oil; and • Relax Herbal Gummies, formulated with passionflower, lemon balm and holy basil to aid in the promotion of relaxation. It is flavored with lemon oil and sweetened with apple and blueberry. “Over the last two years, we have introduced gummy products that have set a new market standard, combining taste, convenience, potency and quality,” said Tracy Eames, vice president of marketing at Gaia Herbs. “The launch of our new herbal gummies is a testament to the commitment we have made to provide consumers with a delicious, convenient way to incorporate herbal supplements into their daily routines.”

New Publication for Convenient Care Clinicians to Launch in 2022

Carrie Adkins-Ali Executive Editor Convenient Care Clinician


EnsembleIQ, the publisher of Drug Store News, announces the upcoming launch of Convenient Care Clinician, a publication targeted to the front-line healthcare providers working in retail health settings. As the official communication partner of the Convenient Care Association and the only publication serving this industry, Convenient Care Clinician will launch a website and weekly e-newsletter in January 2022 and a print publication in March of the same year. There are more than 3,300 retail health clinics

in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and those numbers are expected to rise rapidly. Convenient care clinics offer acute care, preventive services, chronic health management and mental health services. The print and digital editions of Convenient Care Clinician will support this growing industry by providing the latest clinical information, practice management guidance, product updates and industry news.


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NACDS, HPP Report Highlights Role Pharmacies Play During Health Emergencies

Urban Hydration’s Bath, Body Collection Emphasizes Importance of Self-care Self-care routines are as important as ever, and Urban Hydration is looking to help consumers add extra nourishment when it comes to skin and body care. The Black-owned skin care brand announced the launch of a new bath and body collection that uses quality ingredients and aims to give consumers more bang for their buck, the company said. “We are super excited to be launching this range of affordable but high-quality bath and body products, utilizing our knowledge of dry skin as well as the innovation and technology from our best-selling skin care collection,” Urban Hydration founder Psyche Terry said. “Our goal was to create a range of products that elevates that intimate moment and calming feeling that we all experience whenever we enjoy a soothing bath, while also packing each product with potent plant-derived ingredients that repair everything from extremely dry skin to skin irritation and acne.” Consumers can find Urban Hydration’s new bath and body collection at Ulta Beauty and on UrbanHydration.com.


The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and Health Preparedness Partners have released a report titled “Community Retail Pharmacies’ Experience During the COVID-19 Response: Successes and Lessons Learned to Date.” This report centers on the key lessons learned from local pharmacies providing COVID-19 vaccinations and testing as well as the historic and pivotal role pharmacies continue to play in meeting health-andwellness needs during public health emergencies and every day. The new report follows NACDS’ recent release of two additional papers that detail the value of better leveraging the clinical expertise of pharmacies — as demonstrated during the COVID-19 response — and which offer actionable blueprints and legislative solutions that will help the nation achieve better health for all. Critically, these key findings from NACDS member respondents and forum participants can help inform public strategies for nearterm increased demand of COVID-19 vaccinations/boosters, COVID-19 testing, COVID-19 oral therapeutics (once authorized) and future pandemic planning. They also can be leveraged for use after the public health emergency diminishes to continue to provide essential health services — particularly to underserved populations.


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CVS Health to Capitalize on Opportunities to Make Health Care Convenient CVS Health is unveiling a new strategy. At its 2021 Investor Day, the company’s leadership team shared that the strategy entails capitalizing on the significant opportunity to make health care more convenient, personalized and affordable for consumers.

Leaders articulated how investing in high-growth areas of the business and introducing new health products, services and technologies will enhance shareholder value as well as provide greater visibility into the retail chain’s near- and long-term financial performance expectations. “Now is the time to undertake our next major evolution and capitalize on our role as the leading health solutions company in America,” said CVS Health president and CEO Karen Lynch. “By leaning into our high-growth foundational businesses and expanding our reach in areas like health services and primary care, we have an opportunity to shift care to be more centered around the consumer while capturing a meaningfully greater portion of healthcare spend. Ultimately, this plan is only possible with our unique combination of assets, which will allow us to lower costs, increase access to quality care and improve health outcomes for consumers, patients and members while delivering superior results for shareholders.”

YumVs Debuts Daily Dietary Gummy Supplement for Adults with Diabetes Hitting stores now, this diabetic gummy multivitamin is a daily dietary supplement for adults with diabetes and prediabetes, containing 14 essential vitamins and minerals vital for health and wellness. YumV’s Zero Diabetic Gummy Multivitamin is specially formulated to provide the vitamins and minerals commonly deficient in people with diabetes. The gummy multivitamins contain vitamins C, A, D3, E and B12, plus chromium, thiamine, folate and magnesium. They’re free of sugar, sugar alcohol, artificial flavors, GMOs and gluten. The natural raspberry-flavored chewable gummies have zero g net carbs. The serving size is two gummies in a 60-count per bottle. “Sugar-free gummy vitamins are a tremendously popular platform of supplements due to their great taste, but their sugar content placed these off limits for people with diabetes and those watching sugar content,” said Asher Tyberg, CEO of Teelah, the maker of YumVs Zero gummy multivitamin. “Not only is this a sugar-free option, it’s the first time we’ve formulated a product to address the specific deficiencies that can be seen in people with diabetes.”



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Outcome Improvement The first panel of DSN’s annual Industry Issues Summit highlighted how a laser focus on patients can drive improved outcomes By Sandy Levy

Drug Store News kicked off the first day of its three-day annual Industry Issues Summit with retailers sharing their strategies for focusing on patients to improve outcomes. Moderated by Dave Wendland of HRG, the virtual panel featured top executives from leading retailers sharing how they are using technology and other strategies to personalize care for patients. Leon Nevers, director of business development, procurement and supply chain at H-E-B, emphasized how the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated many of the practices being implemented today. “We went through this very high technology time, where everyone was working on efficiency and the best way to drive sales, profits and increase efficiency, and working together to bring what the customer wanted,” Nevers said.

Personalization Nevers shared that H-E-B took a step back and realized “what we need is a way


to personalize and use technology in that regard. We’ve been going in that direction. Simplifying the communication has led to an increase in personalization. One of the things that has gone into that is meeting the customer where they want to be. We’ve always had a real heart for personalizing based on not only the community but what the customer truly wants, and you’ll see that all around the store.” Bill Shinton, vice president of health and wellness operations at Kroger, made a note to point out how patients getting to know their pharmacists can also impact personalized care. “Getting to know your pharmacist is incredibly important. Patients are more willing to talk to someone they trust,” he said. Over the last few years, Kroger has been evolving its approach with an emphasis on how it can be more patient centric, Shinton noted. “How do we leverage the services that our pharmacists and techs have been trained with? COVID-19 testing and vaccines have accelerated some of it,” he said.

“Our other big focus is leveraging the sheer amount of data we have to identify gaps and care for our patients, identifying when patients fall off adherence. We’re focused on how we take care of that patient. For us, personalization right now is really taking that person’s healthcare journey to their next step. Everyone is at a different spot in their healthcare journey. How do we get them from the step they are on to the next step is really our biggest focus.”

Collaboration and Education Stacy Burch, vice president of marketing and commercial excellence of diabetes care at BD, emphasized how ultimately the industry must come together and collaborate to help better serve patients. Burch said that BD has been committed to global sustainability and making sure patients are getting their supplies, particularly making sure underserved communities are getting insulin supplies, COVID19 testing, medical devices and education. “Education is teaching people to become


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11,000 seniors age into Medicare every day. If you don’t help them navigate Medicare’s complexity, your competition will. Last year 44% of seniors shopped for new Medicare coverage*, putting them at risk of switching pharmacies to save on copays and premiums. Partner with eHealth today to retain your Medicare customers with our best-in-class turnkey solutions for pharmacies.

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Getting to know your pharmacist is incredibly important. Patients are more willing to talk Patients are demanding to someone they more convenience and trust. pharmacists are looking to expand their engagement in clinical services. Technology is the foundation for enabling that. — Bill Shinton, vice president of health and wellness, Kroger

In the future, as we see pharmacists’ role expand to include more end to end diagnosis and treatment, that will create access, particularly for rural communities.

— Sherri Keeth, senior director of healthcare strategy and business development, Sam’s Club

— Kelli Kovak, executive vice president, MedWise HealthCare division, Tabula Rasa HealthCare

self-sufficient and we work with partners across the board. We take ownership for that. We believe in educating patients, especially with diabetes. It’s a lifelong disease. We can help with preventative care too. We also are focused on sustainability on the manufacturing side,” she said. Panelists also weighed in on the importance of social determinants of health. Becky Dant, director of professional services at Costco, touched on the importance of addressing social determinants of health, citing the need for meeting the patient where they are as evidenced by the administration of COVID-19 vaccines. “We had a lot of success partnering with communities, foundations and leadership to find out what they needed to get their patients taken care of,” she said. “We worked with a couple of different partners in Atlanta and provided their population with food. If you’re not eating, you are worried about that more than other things. We provided vaccine clinics, food and transportation vouchers. It’s about looking at the full patient, not just what you see in your retail location.” Sherri Keeth, senior director of healthcare strategy and business development at


Sam’s Club, said social determinants exist for everyone but they are a bigger factor in underserved communities. “These underserved communities are traditionally harder to reach logistically. Walmart and Sam’s Club are in a unique position to reach medically underserved communities both from a pharmacy perspective, but with other social determinants like food insecurities,” Keeth said. “We have more than 4,000 locations in areas designated as medically underserved areas. This gives us an opportunity to provide health-and-wellness service and vaccines. In the future, as we see pharmacists’ role expand to include more end-to-end diagnosis and treatment, that will create access, particularly for rural communities.” Panelists also weighed in on using technology to provide optimal patient care. Jeff Key, president of Pioneer Rx, discussed the importance of using technology correctly to reach patients. “Poorly implemented technology can be a speed bump. It can create more phone calls and more problems,” he said, noting that many times “first implementation of technology is horrible. If you get the

wrong message to a patient, they stop listening. They turn off your channel. You have to find, what are those speed bumps? What do patients call about? Did you get my prescription? We have to be smooth and think about how we remove friction from every patient interaction.” Kelli Kovak, executive vice president, MedWise HealthCare division, Tabula Rasa HealthCare, said that technology helps to facilitate personalized communication to meet patients where they are and also drives the omnichannel experience. “Technology today is table stakes. Pharmacists and pharmacies have embraced technology, and it’s accelerated the opportunity to participate in clinical care,” she said. “Patients are demanding more convenience and pharmacists are looking to expand their engagement in clinical services. Technology is the foundation for enabling that.” Finally, Katie Thornell, director of pharmacy at Stop & Shop, touched upon the importance of helping patients with good nutrition, which is especially crucial amid the pandemic. To that end, Stop & Shop connected with customers via webinars to provide that necessary information. dsn


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New & Noteworthy HRG’s Products to Watch from December 2021

Suppliers finished the year strong, with a healthy volume of new product introductions. Refusing to let the holiday season slow them down, companies in December introduced 168 new products in the health, wellness and beauty categories. Hamacher Resource Group’s new product team evaluated eight products in the health category, 43 in the wellness sector and 117 in the beauty aisle to highlight five that could be superstars for retailers in 2022 and beyond. Here are the products they found:

3. Old Spice Bald Care

1. Allergan’s Refresh Optive Mega-3

4. Coppertone Complete 50

Refresh Optive Mega-3 Lubricant Eye Drop is formulated to work on all three tear film layers to provide lasting relief and comfort for symptoms of dry eye due to meibomian gland dysfunction. The product uses HydroCell technology, a proprietary NaCl-free, glycerin-based solution that is meant to enable hydration and maintain the volume of cells on the ocular surface to prevent further irritation. The single-dose, preservative-free vials are now available in a 60-count value pack.

Beiersdorf’s Coppertone Complete sunscreen lotion with SPF 50 is a new multibenefit sunscreen that offers lightweight, everyday protection for the whole family. The sunscreen, which is formulated to protect and nourish all skin types with UVA/UVB protection, comes in a 7-oz. bottle. Designed to be water resistant for 80 minutes, it is free of oxybenzone, octinoxate, PABA, phthalates and dyes.

2. Beiersdorf’s Eucerin Advanced Repair

Zarbee’s Natural Baby Cough Syrup is intended for babies between the ages of 12 to 24 months. Free from drugs, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, dyes and gluten, the 2-oz. size cough syrup was developed with a special blend of dark honey to gently calm and soothe coughs associated with hoarseness and irritation. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. dsn

Beiersdorf has developed a light, fast-absorbing foam to soothe feet and legs, and provide moisture for up to 48 hours. Combining pro-vitamin B5, natural moisturizing factors and ceramides, the Eucerin Advanced Repair Leg & Foot foam is nonsticky, nongreasy and designed to spread easily, even between the toes. The product comes in a 5-oz. bottle.


The Old Spice Bald Care System by Procter & Gamble is a daily three-step product designed to clean and protect the heads of balding men from shaving irritation, dryness and sunburn. Step one in the system is the Daily Exfoliating Scalp Wash, which exfoliates and cleans, and the aloe it contains is meant to help retain moisture and improve skin integrity. Additional products in the routine include a scalp moisturizer and latherless shave cream. The system comes in 17.9 oz.

5. Zarbee’s Baby Cough Syrup


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Solid Solution Five elements of an effective prescription pricing tool By Larry King

Larry King is the manager of clinical informatics at Surescripts.

PATIENTS’ EXPECTATIONS about their care are creating massive changes in the healthcare industry — specifically pharmacies. However, in a recent survey, only 1 in 5 pharmacists said they felt “very prepared” for their changing role during COVID-19. As for patients, 19% said it’s become harder to afford medication in the past 18 months. Prescribers also saw a quarter of patients asking for a less expensive medicine while pharmacists saw 10% of patients walk away without their medications due to cost. Pharmacists need solutions to address these shifts in care and patient needs, and many said medication pricing information and tools providing drug alternatives would make the prescribing process easier. As pharmacies look to obtain these solutions, here are five factors to consider:

Real-time, patient-specific benefit data at the point of care Pharmacists want to make fully informed decisions together with their patients. That’s why an effective prescription pricing tool must include cost and coverage data sent directly from payers and integrate that information into the pharmacy’s software. The alternatives — estimates and thirdparty data sources — can leave too much room for error, resulting in pricing discrepancies that have lasting impacts across the entirety of a patient’s care. This broken trust becomes increasingly challenging when providing recommendations on therapy changes and patient counseling, as well as in the overall experience.


One survey found that

of patients who had not taken a medication due to cost said they would have been willing to take a less expensive alternative if it had been suggested.

Protection of the prescriber’s choice of therapy and the patient’s choice of pharmacy We’ve all been influenced to purchase one item over another because it either appeared at the top of a search platform or the product kept showing up on our social media feeds. But a prescription pricing tool should neither steer a prescriber or a patient, nor let outside interests promote or suppress a particular medication option, and it must protect the patient’s choice of pharmacy.

Information on therapeutic alternatives To reduce costs and medication nonadherence, pharmacists need to see pricing for different, clinically appropriate therapeutic options. One survey found that 94% of patients who had not taken a medication due to cost said they would have been willing to take a less expensive alternative if it had been suggested. An effective prescription pricing tool will display viable, benefit-plan-approved therapeutic alternatives so that pharmacists can select an affordable option.

Accurate flagging of medications that require prior authorization Treatment delays can threaten medication adherence just as much as unexpected costs. One estimate found that 3 in 10 patients had not taken a prescription because it took too long to fill. An effective prescription pricing tool, integrated in the pharmacist’s software system, can empower pharmacists to seamlessly collaborate with patients to choose a clinically appropriate and affordable medication and expediting time to therapy.

Seamless transition into prior authorization An effective prescription pricing tool should not only display when prior authorization is required, but integrate and automate the process. According to a recent survey of pharmacists, integrated electronic prior authorization was the top tool to make the prescribing process easier. Consumerism and digital access are transforming health care, and providers and technology companies are working together to serve a population that wants more convenient, connected and cost-effective care. When patient-specific information, such as prior authorization status, medication adherence and out-ofpocket costs, available electronically, pharmacists don’t have to step out of their workflows — or away from their patients. The right prescription pricing tool can help pharmacists and patients through the pandemic and beyond with up-to-date, interoperable technologies that improve patient outcomes and satisfaction. dsn


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Pet Health

Trividia Health’s Schlanger talks taking diabetes reputation into new sector

Trividia Health is entering the pet diabetes monitoring category, confident that its reputation in the human sector will help establish trust in the pet world. Michael Schlanger, the company’s director of channel marketing, spoke with Drug Store News about the new venture.

Michael Schlanger, director of channel marketing, Trividia Health

"Trividia Health will be the first manufacturer to provide these types of pet products to retail pharmacies throughout the U.S."

Drug Store News: What type of innovation does your company bring to the category? Michael Schlanger: Trividia Health brings a history of innovation, with over 30 years of experience and dedication in the diabetes category. Trividia Health is a leading developer and manufacturer of co-branded blood glucose monitoring systems to retailers throughout North America and to a growing international audience. Our product line is trusted by the nation’s leading retailers, as well as many national, regional and independent pharmacies. With the launch of Healthy Tracks for Pets and Test Buddy that are specially designed for dogs and cats with diabetes, Trividia is bringing this expertise and experience to the pet diabetes category. DSN: What are consumers looking for? How do you address those needs? MS: Consumers are looking for products that are easy to use, accurate and affordable. The Test Buddy Pet-Monitoring Blood Glucose System satisfies the above needs by offering a high-quality, easy-to-use product, available at a significantly competitive price versus the national leading brand. Meter features include: Bluetooth, no-coding, event tags and stores 1,000 results in its memory, to name a few. Additionally, the Test Buddy app is coming soon. This will help pet owners manage their pets’ diabetes and empower them and their veterinarian to make better decisions for a healthier, happier pet. DSN: Any recent product introductions or promotions you’d like us to highlight? MS: In addition to the Test Buddy Pet-Monitoring Blood Glucose System, the Healthy Tracks for Pets portfolio includes lancing devices, lancets and insulin syringes in various gauges and sizes to meet a variety


of pets’ needs. Extensive educational material will be available to help pet owners learn more about diabetes and how to take care of their pet with diabetes. DSN: Anything else you’d like our readers to know about your company? MS: Trividia Health will be the first manufacturer to provide these types of pet products to retail pharmacies throughout the U.S. “It is our goal and strategic focus to provide quality products and affordable diabetes care for all, including our pets,” said Scott Verner, president and CEO of Trividia Health. “Pet health is important to us and our partners. They recognize the growing needs and convenience they provide by supplying pet health products to their consumers,” he said. The Test Buddy Pet-Monitoring Blood Glucose System is affordably priced and comes with 50 test strips and Healthy Tracks for Pets Lancing Device and lancets to conveniently monitor your dog or cat’s blood glucose. The Test Buddy Meter has Bluetooth capability that allows you to upload your pet’s results into the Test Buddy App, available on iOS and Android platforms. The Test Buddy App also allows you to track your pet’s glucose health and share results and trending information with your veterinarian. In addition to the Test Buddy Pet-Monitoring Blood Glucose System, the launch of the Healthy Tracks for Pets Insulin Syringes will include U-40 and U-100 syringes in a variety of gauges and sizes. Trividia Health plans to further expand its portfolio in pet health in the upcoming months. Please visit healthy-tracks.com for information on these products and more. And lastly, Test Buddy Pet Monitoring Blood Glucose Test Strips are Made in the USA! and manufactured in our high-tech facilities in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. dsn


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Over 30 Years of Experience in Diabetes. Now, Trividia Health provides high quality1, affordable products to help pet parents manage their pet’s diabetes confidently and generate new revenue and profits for your business!

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NICO-4651-8x10.75 11/21 © 2021 Trividia Health, Inc. Healthy Tracks for Pets, Test Buddy and the Trividia Health logo are trademarks of Trividia Health, Inc. All other product names and brand names are trademarks of their respective owners. The Test Buddy System and Healthy Tracks for Pets products are intended for use only with dogs and cats. Not For Human Use. 1. Data on file.

1/6/22 12:49 PM


In the Cards Designer Greetings celebrates 40 years in business

When graduation time comes or anniversaries and bat mitzvahs roll around, people don’t send emails or text messages. Instead, they head to a store to buy greeting cards because the industry says greeting cards are still a relevant and thriving category at retail pharmacies and other outlets. This year, greeting card brand Designer Greetings celebrates its 40th year in business so Drug Store News spoke with president and CEO Steven Gimbelman to talk about the company’s legacy and the future of greeting cards.

Steven Gimbelman, CEO, Designer Greetings

Drug Store News: Designer Greetings is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, what do you see as the future of the card business? Steven Gimbelman: I have been in the greeting card industry my whole life. There is an undeniable emotional reaction that we all experience when we receive a physical greeting card, no matter the occasion or sentiment. At Designer Greetings, we believe that the practice of sending greeting cards will always be ingrained in our culture. Sending a greeting card has a far greater emotional impact than an emailed message or social media post. That is why greeting card sales are still thriving and the future of the industry looks bright. DSN: With technology, why are greeting cards still relevant? SG: Greeting cards are able to help people express things that they may not be able to say on their own. The level of intimacy in the editorial of our greeting cards is not always the same; it reflects the unique relationship of the sender and the recipient. Since we have an ever-growing catalog of over 23,000 cards, we are able to ensure that one can send a card to a person that reflects your own feelings and words. DSN: Why is it still important to have an in-store display for greeting cards? SG: From statistics provided by the Greeting Card Association, 7 out of 10 people consider greeting cards as “absolutely essential.” Unlike a lot of products, consumers spend time shopping and browsing for that perfect card to send. Women, the core demographic of greeting card buyers, spend more time choosing a card and are more likely to


buy several at once. This is a tactile purchase that is based on emotion; a product that consumers can touch and feel to sense the intrinsic value and the message that it conveys.

DSN: What is your Card$mart Store-in-a-Store format and what is the value for pharmacies? SG: To meet every consumer’s need both in quality and value, Designer Greetings is proud to offer our Card$mart Store-in-a-Store program. For more than 25 years, Card$mart has been the only nationally recognized value brand of card and gift shops in America with the attractive and successful value proposition of “50% Off Cards, Every Day” concept. This program is a proven traffic driver and outvalues the regularpriced cards that are found in CVS and Walgreens. Having such a nationally recognized value brand as Card$mart entices customers to view a location as a destination shop. It also helps to attract new customers seeking to purchase high-quality products at a tremendous value. dsn


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New Leadership

CVS Health’s Michelle Peluso is tasked with integrating the healthcare experience around the consumer By Sandra Levy

If you read the “About” description of Michelle Peluso on LinkedIn, you’ll learn that she loves “transformative times, the intersection of technology and people, building exceptional teams, doing good, and being the best wife and mother I can be.” As she starts her new role on Jan. 1 as executive vice president and chief customer officer of CVS Health and co-president of CVS Pharmacy, it’s apparent that her passions and expertise will serve CVS Health well. Peluso joined CVS Health in January 2021 as executive vice president and chief customer officer, responsible for transforming CVS Health’s consumer experience, accelerating the company’s digital transformation and leading the company’s marketing and brand teams. She has an extensive 25-year career building world-class consumer experiences. Prior to joining CVS Health, she served as senior vice president of digital sales and chief marketing officer at IBM, where she oversaw all global marketing and brand experiences, digital sales and the commercial business. Peluso also served as CEO of Gilt from 2013 to 2016, chief consumer marketing and internet officer at Citigroup from 2009 to 2013, and CEO of Travelocity from 2002 to 2009. In addition to her duties at CVS Health, Peluso serves on the board of directors at Nike and nonprofit TechnoServe. Peluso’s appointment as co-president of CVS Health’s retail business alongside Prem Shah, who was appointed chief pharmacy officer, comes in the wake of the company’s November announcement: As part of a strategic review of its retail business, CVS Health is creating new store formats to drive higher engagement with consumers via sites dedicated to offering primary care services; an enhanced version of HealthHUB locations with


“We are eager to accelerate CVS Health’s vision of making health care more affordable, accessible and convenient for consumers.” — Michelle Peluso on LinkedIn

Michelle Peluso, executive vice president and chief customer officer, CVS Health

products and services designed for everyday health-andwellness needs; and traditional CVS Pharmacy stores that provide prescription services and health, wellness, personal care and other convenient retail offerings. Commenting on the executive appointments, Karen Lynch, president and CEO of CVS Health, said, “Prem and Michelle are ideally suited for their new roles and will be instrumental to CVS Health as we continue to execute against our strategy of delivering an integrated healthcare experience centered around the consumer.” Lynch noted, “Our retail stores are fundamental to our strategy and who we are as a company. We remain focused on the competitive advantage provided by our presence in thousands of communities across the country, which complements our rapidly expanding digital presence.” Finally, looking forward to her new role, Peluso said on LinkedIn, “We are eager to accelerate CVS Health’s vision of making health care more affordable, accessible and convenient for consumers. I’ve loved my time visiting my amazing retail colleagues in stores all year. Adapting the retail experience in an increasingly digital world is a tremendous opportunity, and I’m looking forward to finding new and innovative ways to delight and connect with consumers across CVS Health.” Peluso has a graduate degree from Pembroke College at Oxford University and an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. dsn


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Rya Organics Debuts CBD Relax Gummies Rya Organics by Cymbiotika has launched Relax Gummies to promote healing and relaxation. A blend of organic CBD and adaptogenic herbs to enhance focus, calm and clarity, Relax Gummies leverage the healing properties of broad-spectrum CBD to enhance relaxation, calm the central nervous system and promote healthy immune response. It also contains ashwagandha, an herb used to calm racing minds, so each gummy works to balance mood and improve cognitive function. The herbal blend of passionflower and lemon balm also aids in alleviating stress and symptoms of anxiety. “Understanding the healing properties of broad-spectrum CBD is key in unlocking a whole-body self-care plan,” said Cymbiotika’s CEO and co-founder Shahab Elmi. “For those seeking an organic supplement that promotes focus and calm throughout the day that is also delicious and easy to consume — the Relax Gummies serve as the perfect solution.” Cymbiotika’s broad-spectrum CBD is grown in Oregon and extracted using a gentle CO2 extraction to preserve the cannabinoids. Each bag of Rya Organics’ Relax Gummies contains 60 gummies with 20 mg of CBD per serving. Infused with natural tropical fruit flavors, the gummies are free from additives like high fructose corn syrup and gelatin.

CBD Kratom Opens 14th Chicago-Area Store CBD Kratom, the largest privately owned cannabis and kratom retail chain in the United States, has opened its 14th Chicago-area store. Located at 643 W. Roosevelt Road in the South Loop, the store had a grand opening event on Dec. 17 along with a weekend celebration from Dec. 17 to 19. “With the opening of our new South Loop location, we have come full circle in a city where we opened our first CBD Kratom store five years ago,” said Ocean Cohen, director of retail growth and development at CBD Kratom. “Chicago has always been a magnificent market for us and we are excited about bringing even more wellness solutions to our customers in the South Loop and throughout Chicago.” CBD Kratom opened its first retail location in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood in 2016. Last summer, the company opened its 13th Chicago-area location in River North at 828 N. State St. Since opening its first store in Chicago, CBD Kratom has expanded significantly throughout the country with 48 locations in six major cities. The company offers more than 600 cannabis products including CBD, Delta-8-THC, THC-O, CBG, CBN, other cannabinoids, more than 50 strains of pure kratom and kratom specialty products.


NatuEra Introduces 1st Smart CBD Sales Kiosk for Retail Groceries NatuEra, a vertically integrated cannabinoid producer and brand of hemp-derived CBD products, has rolled out the market’s first smart CBD sales kiosk specifically designed for major grocery, pharmacy and mass market retailers. The interactive touchscreen units combine educational videos, product information and vending of NatuEra’s CBD wellness products in a store-within-a-store model completely managed by NatuEra. This enables retailers to participate in the rapidly growing, yet highly complex, $6 billion CBD wellness market, the company said. The first units were installed this month at EatWell, a new natural food concept by Schnuck Markets that targets consumers who prioritize health and wellness and natural products. The launch showcases the NatuEra CBD Smart Kiosk’s ability to address regulatory, category management and other pain points that have prevented large retailers from realizing revenue opportunities in the CBD category. “Over one-third of Americans and half of millennials have purchased a CBD product, but until now major traditional retailers have had little access to this revenue stream,” said Nicolas Nannetti, CEO of NatuEra. “We designed the NatuEra CBD Smart Kiosk to specifically mitigate retailers’ regulatory risk and liability, as well as to provide a turnkey category management solution that brings CBD-based wellness products to consumers at the retail locations they trust.” Each kiosk draws shoppers with an always-on 42-in. touchscreen, featuring the image of a hemp plant nestled in a pair of hands. A tap on the screen leads to product information as well as educational content about topics ranging from the relationship between hemp, cannabinoids such as CBD and wellness to NatuEra’s plant-based purpose and GMP-certified quality management systems, including relevant videos at the top of every screen to keep users engaged. dsn


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Although the pandemic has taken a vast psychological toll on most Americans, one silver lining is that it jump-started conversations about mental health, and it’s helping to lift the stigma that has long been a barrier around people seeking professional help. The pandemic also has been a game changer for many retailers, who are becoming a tour de force in an unexpected area: providing mental health services. Retail pharmacy’s foray into mental health services comes at a time when there is an increased need for them. A Centers for Disease Control report, published in April in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, shows that during August 2020 to February 2021, the percentage of adults with recent symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder increased from 36.4% to 41.5%, and the percentage of those reporting an unmet mental healthcare need increased from 9.2% to 11.7%. Increases were largest among adults ages 18 to 29 years old and those with less than a high school education. The rewards accrued from offering mental health services can be substantial in terms of clinical outcomes, not to mention customer satisfaction and retention, and improved revenue. Prime standouts that are making headway in the mental health space include Kroger, CVS Health and Walgreens. Kroger began providing mental health services six years ago via The Little Clinic. These services are currently offered to


patients in nine states where the clinic operates. Marc Watkins, Kroger chief medical officer, said that while the need for mental health services was accelerated by the pandemic, Kroger saw the need for these services prior to the health crisis because of the scarcity of mental health resources throughout the country. “We also noted that behavioral health has to be more accessible,” Watkins said. “That was evident six, 10 and 20 years ago, and mental health continues to be under-treated. One in five Americans will have a mental health issue in their lifetime. Depression, anxiety, stress and insomnia can all be part of a larger mental health issue.” Aside from responding to an unmet need, Kroger said it believed that its nurse practitioners were capable of providing these services. “We needed to bring our NPs up to the top of their licenses,” Watkins said. To that end, Kroger deployed specialized training tools for its NPs and PAs so that they could accurately assess patients and prescribe the proper therapies, and it created clinical-based resources to guide them through the process. “They are able to evaluate anxiety, depression and stress on a firsthand basis in our clinics,” Watkins said. CVS Health began providing mental health services in January 2021 via its MinuteClinics and HealthHubs, where licensed social


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workers offer mental health screenings and counseling services to patients with mild to moderate behavioral health needs. “We saw the need and the importance of offering this service. Fifty-one million people have a diagnosed mental health issue or illness,” said Cara McNulty, president of behavioral health at Aetna, a CVS Health company. “Everyone will have some kind of mental health disruption. Not everyone will have an illness, but we’re going to have stress, resiliency issues, situational anxiety, low-level depression or ‘the blues.’” McNulty also noted that there are 24 million people in need of alcohol care and substance use disorder treatment. “There’s an abundant need for the industry to think differently about how we talk about mental health, how we deliver care, how we meet people in their community and how we make it easy for people to get that care,” she said. CVS Health offers mental health services in 30 locations in Houston, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Tampa, Fla. As retailers provide services to patients with mental health issues, they also are finding that collaborations with partners are crucial. A prime example is Walgreens. In 2016, Walgreens launched a digital platform, via online and mobile, to provide free 24/7 access to mental health screenings through a partnership with Mental Health America. The platform also helps to connect people with local resources in their community via Mental Health America affiliates.

Additionally, Walgreens Find Care, an expanded digital health platform, gives customers access to a range of providers, including mental health care, and Walgreens has expanded the range of providers offering mental health services via the platform. Through Walgreens Find Care, customers can access mental health services nationally through providers like Sanvello and BetterHelp. Many of the local and national healthcare systems listed on its digital health platform offer mental health care. “We believe we can play an important but also a very specific role as part of patients’ care teams when it comes to mental health,” said Rick Gates, Walgreens senior vice president of pharmacy. “That’s why many of our current solutions and services are partnership-driven, with the appropriate clinical experts helping to treat and care for those with needs related to mental health. Through our partnerships, we also work to ensure better care coordination among providers, including our pharmacists.” Walgreens also is improving access through its collaboration and coordinated care model with VillageMD. At Village Medical locations, mental health services are provided by social workers.

GOING VIRTUAL Beyond partnerships and collaboration, offering virtual access to care is yet another crucial responsibility for retailers in the mental health arena.

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Kroger is gearing up its telehealth services for patients. “When the country shut down around March 17, we had just dipped our toes into telehealth to get our nutritionists up and running in three locations,” said Meggen Brown, chief nursing officer and national health and wellness clinical director at Kroger Health/The Little Clinic. Today, 219 locations in nine states offer telehealth services, including mental health services. “We’re going to expand that,” Brown said. “We are in talks with a few other companies to help us so we don’t stand alone on this platform.” CVS Health also offers a virtual mental health option in which a licensed clinical social worker provides an assessment and diagnosis. “Coming in to see that licensed clinical social worker or seeing them virtually is about normalizing this conversation and checking in on how you’re doing and getting the care and support you need,” McNulty said. “We’re using technology to make it easy for people. We share tools and resources as part of the care plan.” Walgreens also is taking this responsibility of caring for patients virtually to new heights. VillageMD has likewise moved many of its social work services to telehealth, such as screenings and assessments. “Many people are unaware that mental health services are delivered through primary care, and VillageMD is working to eliminate barriers to mental health through our

Kroger, which began offering mental health services six years ago, provides critical help for patients through The Little Clinic.

services at Village Medical at Walgreens and via telehealth,” said Clive Fields, chief medical officer at VillageMD.

THE RIGHT PLAYERS The ability to refer patients to partners when they need a higher level of care is another hallmark of successful retailers in the mental health space.


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One only has to look at Kroger. The retailer elevates patients to its health system partners, academic medical centers and community-based resources, with an effort on making the transition smooth and seamless. “We want to have a white glove handoff so we help facilitate the appointment, and we also share records when appropriate,” Watkins said. “Most patients follow up and they end up having that relationship with our NP or PA. Then they’re able to get that warm handoff. That makes it easier for the accepting provider so they’re not starting from scratch.” Kroger also has a dedicated access line to its health systems partners, and the retailer makes appointments for patients “so these patients are not left to the wild, and not fending for themselves,” Watkins said.

It appears that given many of the positive outcomes that are being achieved, retailers will expand their mental health services. “We’re part of that augmentation of care,” Brown said. “We are part of a care quality platform where we can share medical records. There are a lot of suitcase communities. Sometimes we’re the first touchpoint.” CVS Health also has plans in place for patients who need a higher level of care. “We have set up a triage and partnership service to make sure people get to the right level of care,” McNulty said. “We created around our HealthHubs partnerships with higher level care practices so that licensed clinical social workers will work with that partner and get that person scheduled to see, for example, a psychiatrist so the person isn’t navigating this themselves. After a patient sees a psychiatrist, they often send the patient back to a MinuteClinic or HealthHub to continue their therapy with the social worker.” Walgreens also is focusing on connecting people with clinical resources through its own properties.



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Making Connections Independent pharmacies are not standing on the sidelines when it comes to mental health services. Hayat Pharmacy, a Health Mart Pharmacy based in Milwaukee, is a prime example. Owner Hashim Zaibak employs three full-time pharmacists and five nurses who administer injectable antipsychotic medications to patients in partnership with a behavioral health clinic at the Muslim Community Health Center in Milwaukee, as well as with a nearby primary care physician. “There are multiple antipsychotic medications that come in injectable forms,” Zaibak said. “Our pharmacists also go to patients’ homes to give those injections. If a patient is on multiple prescriptions, we’ll send a pharmacist to their home to educate them on how to take their medication. Sometimes patients at home tell you more, such as they’re skipping their medications because of side effects or they’re taking half a tablet.” Zaibak said that one of the challenges working with patients is the stigma associated with seeking psychiatric help. “We work with a lot of immigrants and minorities who feel that it is a bad thing to see psychiatric doctors,” he said. “We explain the benefits of seeing a psychiatrist and tell them it’s important, that we all might need some help at some point in our life.” Zaibak recently screened a newly arrived immigrant female patient for depression. “I convinced her to see the psychiatrist in the clinic next door,” he said. “She was prescribed an antidepressant medication.” Zaibak also was recently confronted by a mother of a 16-yearold boy who said her son showed signs of agitation and was verbally abusive. “I told her, tell him to come to see me,” Zaibak said. “He came, and I talked to him for about 10 minutes. He said his stomach was bothering him. I suggested we go to the primary care doctor at the clinic next door. He agreed. I went with him and his mother. The doctor prescribed an antidepressant. It will take some time to see some results. I check on him to make sure he’s taking his medication, and will check that he gets refills from his doctor.” Zaibak advises independent pharmacies that want to follow in his footsteps to start by referring patients to a not-for-profit psychiatric clinic where patients can be seen at no cost or low cost, and to contact doctors in nearby psychiatric clinics to see if they have any challenges with their injectable medication administration. He also noted that pharmacists should tell patients that some antidepression medications may take time to take effect, while others may cause insomnia, fatigue or weight gain, as well as what side effects to expect and how to counteract them. Finally, Zaibak said that a person who has psychiatric issues also may have diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol or asthma. Once they trust you and connect with you, they will become your patient for all of their medications,” he said.

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CVS Health began providing mental health services in January 2021 via its MinuteClinics and HealthHubs, where licensed social workers offer mental health screenings and counseling services to patients with mild to moderate behavioral health needs.

“With many barriers and challenges facing both patients and our mental health and healthcare system, the Walgreens platform has aimed to help meet the growing need for resources and access to care,” Gates said. “Ultimately, the goal is improved health outcomes through early screening and intervention, and through strategic partnerships, to help connect more people with clinical resources in their community who can help.” Utilizing pharmacists as a way to help patients deal with mental health issues, also is critical to success in the mental health arena. McNulty indicated that when a patient picks up a prescription for a mental health issue, CVS pharmacists make the patient aware that mental health services are available at that location, or when a patient picks up a medication for a sinus infection and shares with the pharmacist that they’ve been struggling, the pharmacist will inform them that depression screenings are available at CVS Health’s MinuteClinics. “The pharmacist, the MinuteClinic clinicians, our concierge support services in our HealthHubs and licensed clinical social workers all coordinate and work together. It’s one care team keeping the consumer at the center of that health equation,” McNulty said, noting that when patients have a new diagnosis, such as depression, better outcomes and longer adherence are achieved when their medication is matched with therapy. Kroger also is a front-runner in involving its pharmacists in the mental health space. “Our pharmacists do comprehensive medication reviews on all of their patients, looking at behavioral health drugs, as well as other medications patients are taking to ensure there are no side effects,” Watkins said. “If they see a potential negative interaction between a medication, they alert us, the prescribers, the health systems or community-based providers.” Brown said that many times the patients disclose to Kroger’s pharmacists that they have mental health problems and these pharmacists refer these patients to The Little Clinic.


Walgreens is not standing on the sidelines when it comes to utilizing pharmacists to care for patients with mental health issues. Walgreens formed a unique collaboration with the National Council for Mental Well-being and the American Pharmacists Association in 2019 to provide Mental Health First Aid training for Walgreens’ pharmacists and team members within its HR department. The training includes understanding risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns and strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and noncrisis situations. In October, Walgreens spearheaded efforts to make the training available for all of its pharmacists, in further recognition of the important role pharmacists can play as accessible healthcare providers in the community, Gates noted. He also pointed out that medication adherence can also be a barrier for many with mental health conditions. “Given our pharmacists’ role as medication experts, and some of the other programs we have to help patients stay adherent to their medication regimens, this is also an area of opportunity to help achieve better outcomes,” Gates said. People who experience anxiety or depression may not know how to start their journey or who they should see, or may not be able to be seen right away by a mental health professional. Retailers are helping on this front too. “One of the things we know is that people often don’t know that what they’re experiencing can be helped or it’s totally normal,” McNulty said. “They don’t need to be the one diagnosing it. Someone may say ‘I don’t feel good.’ The clinical social worker does the assessment and diagnosis and then provides treatment for that individual. The patients say, ‘I didn’t have to do all the heavy lifting. You made it easy for me to come in and talk to a social worker, have an assessment, help me understand and normalize what’s happening, and either see that therapist or get me to the right level of care.’” Walgreens also focuses on helping


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Walgreens’ Gates said that while mental health has really become a part of the national dialogue since the onset of the pandemic, stigma is still a barrier to many people seeking treatment or care.

reduce stress and when to begin to seek care and counseling. The company also promotes mental health awareness on social media. CVS Health also is pulling out the stops to lift the stigma, with radio ads where the services are being offered and in-store signage. “It’s all about normalizing the conversation and making it easy for people to say, ‘I haven’t been feeling great,’ and making it super easy to seek that care,” McNulty said. CVS Heath also informs primary care providers about their mental health services. “Often primary care providers want people to go for therapy but they don’t know where to send them because they don’t know who accepts their insurance,” McNulty said. “Because we’re payer agnostic, it’s easy for a primary care provider to refer someone to CVS for this service.” Walgreens’ Gates said that while mental health has really become a part of the national dialogue since the onset of the pandemic, stigma is still a barrier to many people seeking treatment or care. “Helping to reduce stigma is part of our objectives as well,” he said.

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS people get started on the journey of seeking care. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, stay-at-home orders, work from home, social distancing, home schooling, stress and other restrictions have had large impacts on those who are seeking mental health assistance,” Gates said. “As an accessible healthcare provider, our ability to help consumers understand where to start or how to get support is critical.”

COMBATING STIGMA Despite all of their efforts to excel at clinical services and referrals, the stigma around seeking help for mental health is a challenge. Retailers are rising to the occasion. Calling out the stigma of mental health is something that Kroger also is passionate about. “We really try to bash down this stigma associated with mental healthcare delivery and share the fact that in our healthcare setting, all of the patient’s information is privileged,” Watkins said. “It cannot be shared with anyone else, including employers, unless patients give permission.” Kroger recently hosted a virtual event, The Wellness Experience with singer-songwriter Jewel. The virtual wellness platform and multiday festival experience provided free healthy living resources to help customers take actionable steps. “This event is one example of showcasing and making mental health treatment part of the conversation and the narrative. The narrative has to be that it’s OK to address your mental health just like you would your physical health,” Watkins said. In October, Kroger held its second annual World Mental Health Day summit and concert, which also featured Jewel, as well as Cheryl Burke and Olympic gold medalist Lori Fernandez, who talked about their mental health struggles. Kroger also sends a quarterly newsletter to customers, providing advice on how to deal with stress, what foods work best to help

What does the future hold for retailers in the mental health space? It appears that given many of the positive outcomes that are being achieved, retailers will expand their mental health services. “We will be adding additional sites throughout next year because we’re seeing such positive outcomes,” said McNulty, who noted that when patients have a new diagnosis, such as depression, better outcomes and longer adherence are achieved when their medication is matched with therapy. “The patient wins,” she said. Gates said Walgreens continues to receive positive feedback regarding the steps the retailer has taken to help meet the growing need and demand for mental health resources both from customers/patients, healthcare partners and those within the mental health community. In October 2021, Walgreens announced plans to open 1,000 Village Medical at Walgreens locations by 2027. “We plan to continue adding more social workers as the demand increases,” Fields said. Watkins envisions Kroger will continue to look for ways to serve its communities better and “understanding that mental health is one of those aspects. We are providing services today through our NPs, pharmacists and dietitians. As we continue to evolve, you’ll find that nothing is off the table, including hiring psychiatrists and psychologists.” Perhaps Brown summed up the benefits for retailers and patients best when she reflected on a patient who was thankful for the mental health services that Kroger provided: “We listened to them and got them the help they needed, but also on that journey we were able to pull in the food piece. Now this person only wants to go see that one pharmacist, that NP and this dietitian because we were able to support them fully. We’re looking at the whole health and wellness of somebody, not just the mental health part,” she said. dsn


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1/7/22 8:18 PM

From Head to Toe The fusion of wellness and beauty sets mass market retailers up for success in 2022

Pandemic-fueled interest in healthier living is boosting sales of self-care products, especially skin care, foot care and bath items. Layering onto that, the availability of vaccines, allowing people to return to work and social activities, is providing a muchneeded boost to the makeup segment. Retailers are ready. “The additional foot traffic from people getting vaccinations gives us a chance to show off strides we have made in our stores,” said Erik Keptner, Rite Aid’s chief merchandising and marketing officer. Rite Aid invested heavily in elevating its beauty assortment to focus on wellness and clean brands. Lauren Brindley, group vice president for beauty and personal care at Walgreens, agreed that customers are seeing the range of innovation that has been added to the drug store mix. “It is a


great time to be in beauty.” Beauty departments look markedly different in 2022 than pre-pandemic. Skin care, for example, earned more shelf space now allocated to dermatologist-supported brands, ingestibles, products for all skin tones and formulas without harmful ingredients. “We are seeing several of the most iconic names really take to heart the need for cleaner and healthier formulations,” said Andrea Harrison, vice president of merchandising, beauty and personal care at CVS. The “better for you” message is spilling over to cosmetics. On the rise are hybrid formulas that have skin care qualities built into formulations, and more vegan formulas. A healthy “no makeup look” will continue to be in style, said Monica Arnaudo, chief merchandising officer at Ulta Beauty.


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However, she predicts the emergence of bold hues inspired by the 1990s as part of a move she calls “expressive revival.” Retailers and brands are laser focused in 2022 on inclusive brands with commitments to dive deeper into BIPOC-founded lines. The buzzwords in skin care for the next year are microbiome, detox, ozone protection, collagen, hyaluronic acid and vitamin C, said Greg Rubin, CEO of Garcoa Laboratories, a leading producer of private label and control brands in beauty and personal care categories. “Less in a bottle but more effective formulations are the future. Private label is growing rapidly, and consumers are now trusting store brands to give a product as good as any national brand at more affordable pricing.”


There also is a push to promote healthy over perfection ala eliminating airbrushing of images or editing the use of the term “anti-aging.” Yamit Sadok, senior director of marketing at Twinlab and Reserveage Resveratrol (supplements and skin care), said her company’s messaging is shifting to focus on personal definitions of beauty — not unrealistic images. That vision will be communicated on the brand’s website and marketing materials. Sadok said she thinks 2022 will be the year that supplements promoting healthy skin, hair and nails will achieve critical mass. “In our research, we’ve seen significant consumer interest for the approach of promoting beauty from the inside out and outside in. Consequently, we believe the market mood will be very receptive toward each of these new products,” she said, noting statistics that the global women’s health and beauty supplement market hit 53 billion in 2020 and will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.9% through 2028. Her company has a full pipeline of innovation for 2022, especially in the Resveratrol (an antioxidant found in red grape skin) sector. “It’s our foundational ingredient and in 90% of our assortment,” she said of the company’s Reserveage range. On tap for 2022 is the introduction of natural, sugar-free, vegetarian gummy products. “The global gummy supplements market is $5.9 billion, and projected to reach $10.6 billion by 2025. Reserveage has decided to expand our offerings to include these gummy products since millennials have demonstrated significant interest in alternative supplement delivery forms like gummies,” she said. While ingestibles could drive incremental sales, the topical skin care market remains resilient and on an upward trajectory for the year. Sales for the 52 weeks ending Oct. 31, 2021 showed overall sales in mass doors climbing, rising 5.5% over 2020 levels. The biggest winners were moisturizers and acne treatments, up 15.5% and 12%, respectively. “We know consumers see the skin as a reflection of their overall health, so we anticipate continued growth in the category,” said Jaclyn Marrone, vice president of marketing, CeraVe at L’Oréal. L’Oréal’s CeraVe range exploded over the past two years thanks to both dermatologist support and exposure on social media. New for 2022 is the CeraVe Hydrating Toner and Hydrating Makeup Removing Plant-Based Wipes designed to give consumers more options to tailor their routine to their own unique skin and develop a gentle yet effective double cleanse, Marrone said. Green beauty with a heart is the cornerstone of Urban Hydration. Its assortment spans more than 100 products, all of which are free of sulfates, parabens, silicones and phthalates. “We set out to build a brand that used effective and recognizable ingredients people could understand and love,” said Psyche Terry, who founded the brand with her husband. The founders give back a portion of sales to build wells in communities in need. Urban Hydration recently launched a new bath and body collection that taps into its expertise in skin care, Terry said.


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The additional foot traffic from people getting vaccinations gives us a chance to show off strides we have made in our stores. — Erik Keptner, chief merchandising and marketing officer, Rite Aid

The company also ventured into sun care and plans to expand into household products. Clean, green and fair trade beauty brand Alaffia is geared up for growth in 2022, especially with expansion into Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid. “The importance of skin preservation and transparency will continue to drive market trends, and we’re happy to say that we’ll continue to be at the forefront of this movement by leaning into our clean and effective plant-based formulas,” said Lanaia Edwards, vice president of marketing at Alaffia. The company is building off of its flagship African Black Soap product with an Authentic African Black Soap Facial Skin care collection. The African Black Soap is handcrafted at the brand’s women-led Alaffia Village Co-op in Togo, West Africa. Plant-based, clean products are also where Nancy Duitch, CEO of Sera Labs, a CURE Pharmaceutical company, is putting her confidence. “But there needs to be better delivery systems developed for these product lines so that the products are actually absorbed into the skin,” she said. Her brand has a P3P complex featuring a tripeptide delivery system that boosts absorbency by reaching the lower dermal skin layers. Nicole Kidman will appear in a campaign to promote Sera Labs’ new Seratopical Revolution. Alikay Naturals is a trailblazer in an emerging segment of self-care — feminine health. The company, founded in 2009 by


Rochelle Alikay Graham-Campbell when she was only 22, has extended its lineup of skin and hair products into feminine wellness with HER by Alikay Naturals. It is one of the first Black and woman-owned feminine care brands. Skin care isn’t only about facial products, and Garcoa’s Rubin pointed out the potential of a new line launched at Walgreens called Nature’s Beauty that includes both stress and sleep ranges. The collection includes body lotions, body butters, detox bath bombs (a fast-growing category, he said) and a sleep spray. Feet can’t be overlooked, Rubin said, noting a new program called Bene-feet that addresses everything from pain from high heels to issues related to diabetes. Hair care remained a stable category over the past year, but retailers are now taking a hard look at SKU allocations, Rubin said. Scalp care has moved to the front burner, especially in regard to dandruff solutions. He recommended retailers eyeball the assortment to ensure there are ample choices. “Dandruff sales are very strong, but the national brands are over proliferated,” he said, noting shelf space could be better used for category innovators including private labels that serve up high margins. “At the end of the day, quality will win your customers’ hearts and pocketbooks.” The key ingredients that will drive hair care sales in 2022 include keratin, biotin and panthenol, Rubin said. The new year is bringing hope of a return to robust sales in the cosmetics side of sales too. Buyers are betting big on launches in cosmetics including Maybelline’s The Curl Bounce Mascara, CoverGirl Clean Fresh, L’Oréal’s refresh of Lash Paradise and NYX Thick It. Stick It! Brow Mascara. The emphasis on BIPOC brands also is expected to build transactions at mass doors. Arnaudo noted that Ulta Beauty has doubled the number of Black-owned brands with deeper selections in the bath/ body area such as Homebody, Luvscrub, Nude Sugar and Sunday II Sunday. “Sales are back in all beauty categories,” Arnaudo said. dsn


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The Evolution of Retail Pharmacy Demands Innovation New tools embrace data and automation to drive efficiencies and enhance patient service By Mark Hamstra

The pandemic has accelerated change in the retail pharmacy, including investments in innovation and the deeper involvement of the retail pharmacy in patient care. Nearly half of pharmacists (48%) and two-thirds of prescribers (66%) reported an increase in technology use over the past 18 months, according to a survey by Surescripts. The survey concluded, however, that “there still appears to be plenty of room for technology to improve everyday workflows and frustrating processes.” “In my 45 years in the pharmacy profession, the opportunities and challenges that have been presented to pharmacists in the last 22 months are unparalleled, with new COVID-related responsibilities and an evolving role on the patient’s care team,” said Ken Whittemore Jr., RPh, vice president of professional and regulatory affairs at Surescripts. “To keep up with these changes, pharmacists are accelerating their use of technology to address administrative burdens and interoperability barriers.” Opportunities still abound, however, he said, noting that pharmacists communicate about clinical matters with prescribers via their pharmacy software only 33% of the time, according to the Surescripts research, and most of the pharmacists surveyed (58%) find it somewhat or very difficult to access a patient’s out-of-pocket costs. “This means pharmacists are spending unnecessary time


locating missing information, sending faxes and making phone calls,” Whittemore said. “In 2022, we’ll see greater adoption of technology that brings simpler, trusted intelligence sharing to pharmacies,” he said. “Electronic prescription change requests, direct secure messaging and real-time benefit tools, among others, will help remove friction and delays throughout the prescribing and patient care process. This will not only impact the way pharmacies do business, but it will make an even bigger difference for their patients.”

InStep Health Rob Blazek, RPh, senior vice president of networks and analytics at InStep Health, agreed that the pandemic increased the rate of change and adoption of new services in retail pharmacies. “It also accelerated the trend of pharmacy’s increased role in their customers’ health care,” he said. “Look at how quickly retail pharmacy was able to add COVID-19 testing and COVID-19 vaccinations to their suite of services.” Retailers are bringing an expanded array of healthcare services into their pharmacies at an unprecedented rate, Blazek said. “In 2022, you’ll see expanded offerings in primary care and telehealth as well as new offerings like sleep disorder and other


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chronic health condition screenings,” he said. “Technology will continue to be a key driver of this innovation, allowing consumers to plan their visit ahead with an online scheduler, use wayfinding tech and online coupon apps to optimize their in-store visit, and then have pharmacist-led texts and calls to ensure patients are receiving the highest quality care possible. In summary, pharmacies are becoming an accessible, easy-tonavigate, one-stop shop to manage your health.”

OmniSYS John King, CEO of OmniSYS, said his company’s focus is to help pharmacies grow the clinical side of their businesses, such as expanded point-of-care testing and screenings, and more immunizations, which represent scalable growth opportunities for the pharmacist as a provider. “We’re going to continue to see in 2022, and for the next couple of years, a real focus on helping pharmacies scale these highvolume clinical services in their operations,” he said. OmniSYS brings more clinically oriented, actionable insights to the pharmacist, King said. “Ultimately it comes back to data — how do you enrich data and transform data, and how can you bring it to the point-of-care so that pharmacists can readily take action,” he said. “The ability to personalize information through data enrichment and then through callable services, and then presenting it to workflow, become really important.” OmniSYS is focused on increasing operational efficiencies for pharmacies so that pharmacists can provide more clinical services within the time constraints of the retail environment, he said. Pharmacies also should be able to leverage their investments in existing systems, he said, with solutions that allow them to call up discrete data for specific functions and tie it into third-party applications. “The technology of 2022 really needs to focus on how to leverage the existing assets inside a pharmacy,” King said.

Crocus Medical John Webster, vice president of innovation and product development at Crocus Medical, said the pandemic exposed the technological shortfalls in retail pharmacy. “Clearly, pharmacists should have had a range of support technologies in place in advance of the pandemic in the first place and didn’t, so consequently many were short-staffed, overworked and their clients were frustrated,” he said. “Why there hasn’t been a huge movement toward implementing automation, especially during the pandemic, to help address these challenges, is a mystery to me.” Webster said he hopes these past two years will be a wake-up call for pharmacists, especially independents, to invest in support technologies that will not only improve their current business efficiencies, but will ensure they are prepared for the future. “Our company, for example, offers pill counters, multidose adherence pouch packagers, multidose adherence blister


packagers, ‘will call’ pick-to-light systems, inventory pharmacy management software and even patient ‘Rx self-retrieval’ cabinets,” he said. “There are endless opportunities, depending on the pharmacist’s business strategy, to help run more efficiently and cost-effectively through the use of automation and technology.” Technology adoption in retail pharmacies “has been painfully slow to happen,” Webster said, citing as an example the fact that simple, inexpensive pill-counting technology has been available for more than 50 years. “I am astounded that the majority of pharmacies still use people to count pills, while other customer service tasks are ignored because the team is ‘too busy dispensing.’

ScriptPro Chris Fitzmaurice, director of industry data resources at ScriptPro, said the pandemic has increasingly highlighted and drawn greater attention to pharmacists as front-line healthcare resources. Retail pharmacists will need to continue balancing their time between clinical services and other tasks, he said. While automation is already improving safety and efficiency in successful retail pharmacy operations, technology will have an even greater impact going forward. Data analysis and robust reporting will help close gaps, clinical and business related. Systematic data capture will enable early identification of patients liable to fall through the cracks, he said. The year ahead, Fitzmaurice said, will see a continuing focus on the merging of technological advancement (algorithmic approaches to problem-solving, intelligent automation, data aggregation and analytics, remote patient management, etc.) with a growing clinical focus (disease/drug management, expanded practice capabilities, testing/vaccination expansion). “Traditional pharmacy automation, like ScriptPro’s SP 200, not only streamlines workflows but also maximizes the pharmacy team’s ability to provide essential services — namely patient management,” he said. “This is crucial in helping patients both in terms of short-term adherence and long-term persistence.


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“Newer technologies, such as medication pouch packaging automation like ScriptPro’s MP 100, offer even more granular ways to improve adherence. Medication pouch packaging can be both a profitable business solution and an effective way to assist patients, particularly those with complex drug regimens.” Identifying adherence gaps is also increasingly important, Fitzmaurice said. “Leveraging data in documentation systems to identify nonadherent patients and to determine the root cause of nonadherence is indispensable in closing these gaps,” he said. “Clinical documentation software, such as ScriptPro’s APCS, have built-in mechanisms to determine the risk of nonadherence and reporting capabilities to intervene in cohorts of patients based on a variety of factors. This takes the guesswork out of the equation and allows pharmacists to focus on their highest-risk patients.”

EnlivenHealth Danny Sanchez, senior vice president and general manager of EnlivenHealth, said the pandemic highlighted the need for pharmacies to engage patients. “The challenge is that historical or the traditional methods of patient engagement are antiquated,” he said. “We need to lean on digital.” Pharmacists need clinical platforms to help them execute clinical activities more efficiently, which is where EnlivenHealth steps in, Sanchez said. The company’s patient-engagement platform is a clinical platform that looks at all the opportunities that are available for every patient that walks through the door, whether it’s a medication review or immunizations, for example. “The pharmacist, having that information at the tip of their fingers, is able to then offer that patient those clinical services that they weren’t able to do before,” Sanchez said. EnlivenHealth also seeks to provide innovation in ways that relieve overworked pharmacists of some of their more mundane tasks, such as answering phones. “If Jane Doe or John Doe is calling in and wants to refill their prescription, they should be able to talk to an automated


system that can answer most of their questions, without having to punch in seven digits — they would be able to do it by voice,” Sanchez said. “That frees up the pharmacist to go and deal with those patients that are standing in front of them. That’s technology that we bring — it’s personalized communication and it’s conversational.” That same automated voice response system, which answers questions about their prescription, can then also suggest other clinical services, such as vaccinations.

KNAPP Brian Sullivan, senior systems sales manager of healthcare solutions at KNAPP, said the company continues to see retail pharmacy customers looking for ways to improve patient care through technology. This includes the onsite use of robotic storage and retrieval systems to automate the put away and dispensing of medications. “Systems like the KNAPP Apostore allow the automated induction of medications, recording and verification of DSCSA compliance, and FEFO dispensing to reduce the costs of expired medications,” he said. Most importantly, these dense storage units open space for other clinical activities, which allows pharmacists to work at the top of their licenses, Sullivan said. “The use of central fill and micro-fulfillment pharmacies continues to increase as well,” he said. “The ongoing challenge to reduce the cost of prescription fulfillment to offset DIR and GER fees is just one reason. Today, the pharmacy team members are harder to recruit and retain. Centralized filling of scripts allows the retail store to rightsize staffing and keep their team members engaged in higher level activities.” Patients embraced alternative approaches to receiving their medications and other items during the pandemic, Sullivan said. “Our pharmacy customers realize this and are changing how they offer to provide these solutions,” he said. “Whether via a 24/7 terminal that the patients can access at their convenience or home delivery or in store via digital display like KNAPP’s ApoScreen systems provide. The pandemic has been an accelerator of these technologies.” dsn


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Technical Targeting Cough-cold/flu remedy suppliers emphasize digital touchpoints and promotions By Debby Garbato

Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has dramatically altered the shopping journey, with more consumers researching in-store purchases online or utilizing a wider array of digital purchasing options. The shift is more pronounced among OTC cough-cold/ flu remedy suppliers, which have had to revamp marketing practices in a category typically purchased in store at time of need. E-commerce partnerships with major retailers have taken center stage. Emphasis is on banner ads, digital gift bags, enhanced search, mobile-friendly functions, and quick purchasing and delivery. Some suppliers have even invested in technologies that track consumers’ physical whereabouts, letting them optimize the timing of messages. “Numbers of touchpoints have increased dramatically,” said Art Rowe-Cerveny, vice president of marketing at PharmaCare US. “There’s Amazon, online ordering, phone ordering, curbside pickup, Instacart, etc. Touchpoints must be serviced from a promotional viewpoint. Are we providing coupons when shoppers log onto a retailer’s


According to eMarketer, the CPG industry’s 2021 digital ad spend increased to $30.56 billion.

site? Do store promotions transfer online? We must also promote on a sponsored product search level, since all retailers use thirdparty data. Before, mainly Amazon and Walmart did. But COVID was an accelerant, changing the landscape.” According to eMarketer, the CPG industry’s 2021 digital ad spend increased 31.7% to $30.56 billion. Among CPG suppliers, 71.4% purchased mobile ads, with spending totaling $21.83 billion, a 32.4% increase. Until recently, digital spending by cough-cold/flu product suppliers was limited, said Randy Burt, a managing director at Alix Partners’ consumer products practice. “It’s a ‘need now’ category. E-commerce and digital were underdeveloped. Today, all the touchpoints and shopping journeys make it more challenging. You need the right email communication, social media and ability to interrupt consumer interactions and drive awareness.”


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New strategies facilitate faster responses to consumer behaviors. “We’ve ramped up our capabilities and resources over the past year and can quickly pivot based on learnings from consumers without waiting for FSI and other media results,” said Jim Thornton, director of sales and sales operations at vaporizing rub and ointment supplier Mentholatum. “It’s a shift in how we go to market.” Timing of changes is crucial. With mask mandates less stringent, consumers are again sneezing. “People have returned to a more normalized life,” said Jason Pellegrini, CEO of Quantum Health. “Kids are back in school and sticking hands in their mouths.” He said Quantum increased promotional spending 25% in recent years, emphasizing digital. In 2020, the category suffered as winter illness rates declined due to mask mandates and other protective measures. From Sept. 28, 2020 to May 22, 2021, 0.2% respiratory specimens tested positive for influenza, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the three preceding seasons, in contrast, 26.2% to 30.3% tested positive. For the 52 weeks ending Oct. 21, 2021, sales of cold/allergy/ sinus tablets, the category’s largest sub-segment, declined 8.4% over the previous 52 weeks, according to Chicago-based research firm IRI. Cough syrup fared the worst. Sales dropped 24%.

Tools and Tactics Marketers have typically relied on demographics and purchasing history. But with more consumers researching products online, the entire shopping journey is important — regardless of purchasing destination. “The more we know about what they’re doing, the more we can provide relevant messaging at the right time,” said Angela Ho, director of marketing at Mentholatum. Via a sophisticated technology implemented in December, Mentholatum gauges advertising receptivity. It can determine, for example, when a mobile phone is tilted, indicating someone is lying down versus in a moving car. “We can identify where they are in the day,” said Kathy Kloc, assistant marketing manager. Ads with retailers like Walmart have click-to-cart capabilities, making shipping and in-store pickup seamless. “They don’t have to search. It’s about getting products to people at the right time.” Mentholatum also utilizes online feedback. In promoting its new VaporDuo, it contracted an agency whose million volunteers generate feedback and social media buzz in exchange for free samples and other incentives. “It’s more economical than big influencer efforts,” said Zachary Greenfield, associate marketing manager. “There’s a halo effect. It’s a key component of our marketing tool belt.” Thirty percent of volunteers become loyal customers. The VaporDuo is a combination vapor inhaler/essential oil dispenser. Digital searches and social media content are popular among the growing numbers of consumers seeking natural or non-oral solutions. “This is especially true of moms, who


want more natural ingredients, and boomers, who don’t want drug interactions since they may take multiple medications,” said Ron Gentry, vice president of marketing at Boiron USA. The company’s homeopathic Oscillococcinum flu remedy has no known interactions. Xlear invests heavily in Google AdWords to promote its Xylitol-based Xlear nasal spray. The natural, nonaddictive spray clears the nose, washes away bacteria and irritants, and is said to prevent certain illnesses, said Nathan Jones, president and founder. “People are also searching for preventative products.” Larry Page, head of marketing at Zarbee’s, also sees more wellness product research. “Zarbee’s has always been digitally native. We have expanded promotional efforts in the wake of the pandemic and in response to the increasing focus on wellness. We see retail media playing an increasing role, helping us better connect with consumers leading up to and during time of purchase. This continues to be a need-based, in-store purchase. However, with the rise of more immediate delivery options, consumers turn to these options more.” Zarbee’s produces all-natural supplements, immune support and coughcold relief products.

Digital Gift Bags With fewer in-store shoppers, Walmart, CVS, Albertsons, Fresh Market and other retailers are driving sales by including vendor-sponsored gift bags of product samples with online orders. Bags work well with merchandise that provides immediate gratification. Xlear is in CVS’ sample bags. Pharmacare uses bags to promote its Sambucol black elderberry supplements and homeopathic cold and flu relief. Bags also tout Quantum’s tasty organic zinc-infused cough drops and its herbal cold sore cream and bandage. Quantum uses online influencers and banner ads too. Offering multiple vendors’ items, bags are often sent to a general audience. Some retailers have specific targets, including competitors’ customers. “Targeting is much better than it was a few years ago,” Pellegrini noted. Growing use of data should make sampling and other digital marketing more pinpointed. “There’s more focus on digital and social media,” Gentry said. “Campaigns are more targeted, as data and buying information are more available. Social platforms keep evolving. Consumers embrace these during their purchase journey.” The digital world should continue diversifying, providing even more marketing options — and challenges. “We used to say, ‘Here’s my TV and print ads,” Pellegrini said. “Five years ago, we didn’t do YouTube or TikTok. Every day, there’s more stuff.” dsn


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Promoting Wellness This year’s Retail Excellence Awards pay tribute to an impressive array of standout companies offering natural products By Carol Radice

If there was ever a year to recognize innovation in natural products 2022 is it. Interest in all things natural may have been on the rise for the past decade, but the events of the past two years brought to light just how important incorporating clean products into one’s daily wellness routine truly is. Pandemic or not, more and more people are taking a deep dive into the choices they make and realizing what they eat and put on their bodies greatly impacts their overall health. Increasingly, consumers are turning to naturally oriented products to improve the quality of their life, whether it’s sleeping better, having more energy, feeling better, losing weight, de-stressing or boosting immunity. Below are companies Drug Store News editors have found to have gone above and beyond in assisting their retail partners as they seek to create a point of differentiation between themselves and other merchants.

Pharmavite While some companies only jumped on the wellness bandwagon in the last handful of years, Pharmavite has been researching and crafting health-and-wellness products with a purpose for half a century. Its founders strongly believe there was, and is, a better alternative to long-term health than prescription drugs. The West Hills, Calif.-based company sells products under several labels, but it is probably best known


for its Nature Made brand. Not only has Nature Made earned the distinction of being the No. 1 pharmacist recommended brand, but it was also the first national supplement brand to have a product verified by the USP and remains the brand with the most products that carry the USP Verified mark. To earn this mark of distinction, products are rigorously tested by an independent third party and must meet stringent quality criteria.

Mason Vitamins More and more consumers understand the benefits of incorporating dietary supplements into their daily regimen, but for a growing number of people, affordability remains a challenge.

From its inception, Mason Vitamins set out to address this need by creating a line of safe, affordable vitamins made from the highest quality ingredients. Its portfolio today includes more than 300 exclusive vitamin and supplement formulas. The company continues to innovate with new products and forms that address specific needs, including their new convenient stick powder and effervescent products. Mason’s leaders work closely with suppliers to select and test ingredients. Its UL-certified manufacturing facility follows dietary supplement Good Manufacturing Practices and each product is produced following strict FDA guidelines. As a steward for the environment, the Miami


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Lakes, Fla.-based company packages its supplements in recyclable PET bottles and recycles about 600 lbs. of paper and cardboard each month.

Lifelab Health Looking at its distinct product lineup and the number of firsts under its belt, it’s clear that LifeLab Health, based in Coconut Creek, Fla., has made innovation a priority. Leveraging consumer research and insight gleaned from conducting numerous focus groups, Lifelab Health has a solid understanding of what consumers need — whether it’s organic honey-based cough and throat products or organic, GMO-free psyllium fiber offerings. The company was the first to formulate a dyeand sugar-free liquid gas relief product. Lifelab was also among the first to launch a black elderberry-based product intended to help users boost their immune systems and reduce the duration of cold and flu symptoms. With convenience top of mind, Lifelab has won over many moms who appreciate the chewable tablets and liquid options available in its kid-based products.


Similasan What started in the ’80s as a niche brand in Switzerland, Similasan has become one of the top international innovators in OTC homeopathic remedies. The Highlands Ranch, Colo.-based company makes a wide range of options that provide temporary symptomatic relief for ear, nose and chest ailments, but it is probably best known for its eye care products. Not surprisingly, as more consumers grow wary about using chemical-based formulas in their eyes that only mask symptoms, its allergy and dry eye formulas have seen a surge in interest lately. Similasan creates its products using natural ingredients, such as botanical extracts, that are designed to stimulate the body’s natural defense and target symptoms, which means its products can be used as often as needed. Its single-use droppers also add a level of convenience, and its eye care products are safe to use with contact lenses.

Nordic Naturals Satisfying picky consumers is a task nearly every supplier faces, but intense scrutiny

of dietary supplement providers has never been higher. Watsonville, Calif.-based Nordic Naturals knows this well and has been able to stand out in a crowded field by never taking its eye off its goal: to provide consumers with a wide range of omega-3 products made from premium ingredients in a variety of price points. The inspiration for the company’s innovation came from founder Joar Opheim, a native of Norway, who used his country’s expertise in highconcentration fish-oil products as the impetus for starting Nordic Naturals here in the United States. From that one idea more than 25 years ago, the company’s lineup today has grown to include an innovative assortment of products. In addition to fish oil, the company offers children’s multivitamins, letter vitamins, probiotics, stress, sleep and joint relief options.

Sheffield Pharmaceuticals While many current toothpaste brands have resorted to adding chemicals to its finished products, Dr. Sheffield’s Natural Toothpaste is made from only natural ingredients using the same recipe


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Up-and-comers Given the popularity of all things natural, the market has become flooded with companies looking to sell healthy alternatives to consumers today across a wide range of retail formats. Here are a few notable companies you may not have heard of yet but one’s we think might be worth keeping an eye on:

OM MUSHROOM SUPERFOODS Superfoods’ ability to jump-start wellness landed on everyone’s radar this past year with products derived from mushrooms earning much of the attention. Enter Carlsbad, Calif.-based Om Mushroom Superfoods. The company’s line of 100% certified organic mushroom-based products was formulated to address such health needs as immunity, cognition, energy, weight loss, stress, sleep and fitness recovery. Om grows 11 types of mushrooms in an environmentally controlled, certified organic facility, which helps heighten the mushrooms’ growing cycle and bioactive compounds. This process also ensures that no heavy metals, pesticides or toxins compromise the final product. Its founders also bring a wealth of experience to the company: Sandra Carter has a doctorate in preventive medicine and Steve Farrar has three decades of mushroom-growing experience. Fun fact: While most associate the term Om with chanting, the company’s name is short for the words “organic mushrooms.”

PACIFICA BEAUTY Consumers today want to align themselves with companies that follow the same core values as they do, and for a growing number that means refusing to buy products from companies that cause harm to animals or the planet. Considering this, attributes such as vegan and cruelty free are growing in importance, especially where beauty products are concerned. Portland, Ore.-based Pacifica Beauty has been quietly making a name for itself within such categories as hair care, bath and body, sun care, skin care, fragrance and makeup. It prides itself in offering natural products that work as well or better than any nonnatural line. The natural beauty product company recently launched the first vegan collagen mascara as well as a line of aluminum-free clean stick deodorants. The deodorants come in unique scents such as Coconut Cream, Watermelon Rainbow and Sandalwood Incense.


its founders did in the 1800s. Its most popular version, its Natural Extra Whitening Toothpaste, for instance, contains calcium carbonate, vegetable glycerin, coconut oil, organic aloe leaf, rebaudiana leaf/stem extract, quillaja saponaria molina, yucca and wild yam among others and includes only natural flavors. The result is a toothpaste that is free from fluoride, synthetic detergents, foaming agents, artificial preservatives, artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners. Also, Dr. Sheffield’s toothpastes contain no animal byproducts or testing and are GMO free. In addition to producing its certified natural toothpaste in adult-appealing flavors, the New London, Conn.-based company offers chocolate, mixed berry and strawberry banana options for kids. Fun fact: Dr. Sheffield is credited with being the first to put toothpaste into a tube. His son got the idea after seeing street artists use paint housed in tubes.

Olly Bold and innovative are just two of the many words that describe Olly. When this San Francisco-based vitamin and supplement company first entered the overcrowded market in 2015, it came out swinging, disrupting the category with its unique vision on how to impact consumers and their communities. Calling itself a “modern wellness brand,” the company’s products, which range from sleep and mood to immunity and beauty, were created to give consumers


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ECOS Sure, the movement toward all things natural is often focused on what we put in our body, but companies are increasingly focusing on how products we use in our homes affect the environment, be it through packaging waste or containing harmful chemicals. Ecos took both of those positions to heart when it created its line of cleaners, dishwashing, laundry, pet care and tree-free paper products. Its Liquidless Laundry Detergent Squares, for example, are made without plastic and are hypoallergenic. Sustainable and convenient, the squares are not tested on animals and its plant-based ingredients fight stains while being earth-friendly. Fun fact: In 2013, the company achieved carbon neutrality when it switched all its facilities to 100% renewable energy and dramatically reduced its transportation emissions.

COMPOSTIC Consumers say they are ready to do away with plastic in their lives, but in reality they are seldom willing to give up something unless presented with an effective alternative. Jon Reed, founder of Compostic, a zero-waste packaging company from New Zealand, has made it his mission to find a sustainable solution for all the single-use plastic consumers use daily. In 2018, he created Compostic to tackle this dilemma. Reed’s company offers cling wrap and resealable bags in three sizes that when composted can break down in less than 24 weeks. Compostic products are nontoxic, FDA approved and free from bisphenol A and GMOs. Even its packaging is recyclable, compostable and features soy-based inks.

RIND SNACKS It’s not often that the terms upcycled and fruit snacks are mentioned in the same sentence — that is until recently. But when Matt Weiss set out to create Rind Snacks, something his grandma taught him came to mind: let nothing go to waste. Believing that he could make a healthy snack that can be both good for people and the planet, Weiss created a variety of dried fruit snacks using upcycled whole fruits. This method not only maximizes the nutritional value, it minimizes food waste. Given that fruits and vegetables account for the largest portion of all food waste in the United States, products that involve upcycling can make a significant impact. By Weiss’ estimate, in 2020, eating Rinds helped keep 120,000-plus lbs. of food waste out of landfills.


a way to be the best versions of themselves. Olly’s goal was simple — the company wanted to make taking supplements fun and easy. It’s clear from its lineup that inspiration comes from putting itself in its consumers’ shoes. By continuously evaluating the health challenges people encounter day-to-day and thinking through how they can be solved for that has helped Olly stand out in a mature and overSKU’d category. Its Modern Women’s Wellness line, which puts a playful twist on women’s everyday health needs, is a good example of just how much this company is in touch with consumers’ needs. Fun fact: The idea for the brand came to founder Eric Ryan in the vitamin and supplement aisle at Target. A customer asked him a question, mistaking him for a Target employee, and thus Olly was born — an easy-to-understand, benefit-based alternative to a confusing and often bland category.

Sky Organics Consumers want to understand what goes into the products they buy so that they can shop smart. To help cut through the clutter of what is real and what is greenwashed, shoppers increasingly seek out companies whose products have been certified by well-respected industry groups. Sky Organics gets that, which is why its products feature a Bio-Based certification. This seal guarantees that its products are made from plant-derived and renewable ingredients. Like many natural companies, Sky Organics was born from necessity by a family looking to provide itself with the healthiest choices for themselves and the planet. Using simple ingredient profiles and botanicals known for their therapeutic benefits, the company has created an innovative portfolio of personal care, beauty, aromatherapy and household products. Sky Organics is committed to making natural and certified organic ingredients accessible for all and strongly believes in the concept of beauty from the inside out. One of its latest offerings, Youth Boost, is an organic skin care regimen formulated with a plant-based retinol alternative. One of its most popular products in that line,Youth Boost Antioxidant Day Serum, uses antioxidant rich ingredients such as vitamin C, manuka honey, hydrating green tea and organic bakuchiol, to support healthy skin.


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BOBO’S OAT BARS What started as a mother-daughter tradition of baking homemade oat bars has turned into a successful natural snack business based out of Boulder, Colo. Made from small batches and simple ingredients, including 100% organic whole grain oats, Bobo’s snack bars are also gluten free, non-GMO, kosher and soy free. Since its inception in 2003, the company has expanded its offerings to include oat-based bites, protein bars and toaster pastries. Bobo’s proudly stands behind a number of causes, such as its Limited Edition LGBTQ+ Artist Series Pride Bars, which launched in May 2021. Bobo’s founders’ hope for this cause bar was to illustrate inclusion and acceptance. All profits from this bar were donated to causes such as PFLAG.

KOS Calling itself a “plant-centric nourishment lifestyle,” Kos is best known for its boutique lineup of organic plant-based protein products derived from such sources as chia, pumpkin, quinoa and flax seeds. Its powder and capsule products address various wellness concerns such as energy, mood, immunity, sleep, relaxation, digestion, mental clarity, circulation and heart health. Its energy-packed Blue Spirulina & Immunity blend features organic blueberry flakes, blue spirulina, adaptogens and elderberry. All products are non-GMO, vegan friendly, USDA certified organic and made in the United States. The company’s name (pronounced K-AW-SS) comes from the Greek Island of Kos, which was known as a bastion of peace.

SOLELY The healthy snack category has been on fire lately and with just cause: people have begun to see they can indulge in their favorites in a way that doesn’t compromise their health. This is especially a challenge for a growing number of children whose access to fresh fruit is limited. The founders at Solely wanted to change that and created a line of organic dried fruit products featuring whole fresh fruit. Chock full of nutritional benefits, Solely products contain no added sugar, preservatives or chemicals and are made with the fewest possible ingredients. All fruit is hand-selected from Solely’s own network of certified farms and then dried at the company’s facilities. Its Organic Mango & Orange Gummies contain three ingredients — organic mango, natural orange extract and vitamin C. Solely Gummies are also 100% vegan friendly, gelatin free, organic and nonGMO. Featured in individual pouches, the gummies are a convenient on-the-go snack and easily fit into lunchboxes.


The Relief Products As the founders of The Relief Products can attest, being an innovator means more than just launching new products. It’s about having reliable manufacturing partnerships to overcome supply chain dislocations and offering an authentic customer service experience. It’s also about having a keen eye to identify unmet consumer needs. Through extensive customer feedback and market research, Reno, Nev.-based TRP recognized a need for products that address acute and chronic conditions overnight. This led TRP to develop a full line of PM products that provide around-theclock relief for conditions that tend to worsen at night, including allergies, blepharitis, earaches, pink eye and tinnitus. This daytime/nighttime formulation — a feature that was in the past seen exclusively in the cough-cold segment — was a way for TRP to address consumer needs while also providing retail partners with complimentary products to effectively expand their eye and ear care sets. TRP’s Earache Relief PM and Ring Relief PM are two recent innovative, nighttime product additions to the ear care category.

Canus This Canadian company has been a standout in the personal care aisle for more than two decades. Known originally for its goat milk soap, the company’s goat milk-based offerings have grown to include body lotion, body wash, bubble bath and liquid hand soap. Canus’s products feature such unique fragrances as orchid flower extract, eucalyptus mint and lavender oil. But it is perhaps its approach to business that helps this company stand out most. From equipping its warehouse with smart lighting and improving the recyclability of its plastics to making its shipping boxes from recycled content, the company’s efforts to increase its sustainable practices is noteworthy. Canus also produces sustainable, carbon-negative palm oil for its Nature line. Handpicked from a strictly organic 4,000-hectare plantation, palm fruits are pressed without consuming external energy. In fact, the boiler used to extract the palm oil is fueled by palm tree husks and fibers. dsn


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Play Your Cards Right Greeting card category still relevant in the face of the pandemic and digital communications By Nora Caley

Sometimes a holiday Zoom call or an emoji-filled text is not enough. For birthdays, other special occasions or for conveying encouragement, only a card will suffice. Although the COVID-19 crisis inspired many people to shift to digital communications, the pandemic also made people seek greeting cards when they stayed home, and continue to send cards after stay-at-home orders were lifted. According to the U.S. Postal Service Household Diary Study, the volume of personal correspondence, or household-tohousehold mail, has been decreasing for years. The pandemic didn’t help. From fiscal year 2019 to 2020, mailings of invitations and announcements declined during the pandemic as events were canceled. Other communications such as letters also declined as people reached out to each other through emails and texts. On the bright side, one segment that saw an increase was non holiday greeting cards, from 797 million pieces in 2019 to 925 million pieces in 2020. Now companies are trying to continue that momentum.

Across the Miles According to the Greeting Card Association, birthday cards are the bestselling card type, accounting for more than half of all cards sold. About twothirds of birthday cards are mailed. As the pandemic unfolded, people were also sending notes of encouragement, Get Well and other greeting cards. “More cards in the care and concern category sold during the pandemic, as people sought to connect and send love to friends and family they weren’t able to see in person,” said Nora Weiser, executive director of the Greeting Card Association, which moved its offices from Washington, D.C., to the Denver area in 2020. Another pandemic-related trend, Weiser pointed out, was that when smaller, independent retailers closed during the lockdowns, consumers purchased cards at grocery stores and drug stores, since those remained open as essential. “As with many purchases, they also turned to buying cards online,” she said. “Some publishers pivoted quickly and set up B-to-C options

online to sell directly to consumers.” Manufacturers agreed that the pandemic was a big sales driver for certain segments of greeting cards. “In a year that has been marked by distance, the tried-and-true Everyday greeting card has been as popular as ever for Designer Greetings,” said Dawn Garvey, chief financial officer at Edison, N.J.-based Designer Greetings. “When gatherings such as birthday parties and weddings were still frowned upon, the sending of a greeting card allowed for people to stay emotionally connected and celebrate together.” Although e-commerce exploded during the pandemic, shopping for a greeting card is different from buying everyday essentials. “Unlike a lot of products, consumers spend time shopping and browsing for that perfect card to send,” Garvey said. “A vast majority of consumers want to physically shop for greeting cards. It is a tactile purchase that is based on emotion; a product that consumers can touch and feel to sense the intrinsic value and the message that it conveys.”

There is still a greater demand now for cards that provide encouragement or send heartfelt appreciation while also reflecting the diversity of consumers, according to Dawn Garvey, chief financial officer at Designer Greetings.



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TOP: (left) Hallmark recently launched its Video Greeting Cards, which enable users to add a personalized video to a card. (right) Designer Greetings’ JG Studio line helps consumers stay in touch with their loved ones.

Also according to the GCA, 65% of consumers agreed that receiving cards and letters in the mail lifts their spirits, and 61% agreed that receiving cards and letters in the mail is extra special during this time of social distancing. Also, 60% said that receiving cards and letters in the mail “means more to me” than an email. Amy McAnarney, vice president and general manager of key accounts and business development at Kansas City, Mo.based Hallmark, said the pandemic has emphasized people’s need to emotionally connect. “Cards are a simple way for people to reach out to make a meaningful impact by sharing words of kindness, encouragement and gratitude,” she said. “At a time when physical connections are limited, cards can be displayed to serve as a constant reminder of the sender’s kindness and thoughtfulness.” In fact, 8 out of 10 people keep the cards they receive. “Right now those physical reminders are more important than ever,” McAnarney said. “We continue to hear from people just how impactful cards are in showing people how much they matter, and we’ve seen positive attitudes toward cards increase even more during the pandemic.” A 2021 Hallmark Insights & Analytics survey found that greeting cards, compared to other forms of communication, have the highest growth potential post-pandemic.


The majority of the 10,000 survey participants believed the impact of cards is worth the time and effort, and more than half of the consumers believe cards are more meaningful than other forms of communication. “Finding ways to show people you care every day is a trend we are continuing to see,” McAnarney said.

Keeping in Touch That attitude is true for consumers of all ages. The GCA also reported that millennials spend more dollars on greeting cards in the United States on an annual basis than baby boomers, averaging $6 per card, although baby boomers still purchase more units. Millennials have been steadily increasing their purchases of cards for years, as they enter the life phase of purchasing a home, getting married and having children. Technology appeals to this age group, and Hallmark recently launched its Video Greeting Cards, which enable the user to add a personalized video to a card. The customer scans the QR code in the physical card bought in a store, then goes online to add videos or photos. They can invite others to join in by emailing or texting a custom URL. Once everyone submits their videos, Hallmark stitches it all together into one video. The recipient scans the QR code in the card to see the video message.

As for in-store purchases, McAnarney said innovating the shopping experience is key. “We know consumers want and expect a seamless retail experience — whenever they shop and wherever they shop,” she said. “A primary focus for Hallmark is to innovate the shopping experience and partner with our retailers to make it easier for consumers to shop for their greeting cards.” (In December, McAnarney was named president of the Greeting Card Association.) To help drive traffic in stores, Designer Greetings offers programs such as the Card$mart Store-In-A-Store program, which sells cards at 50% off every day. Garvey said the program is a proven traffic driver and outvalues the regularpriced cards in national drug chains. Designer Greetings also provides a Preferred Giftware Vendor Program, which gives the retailer access to top gift vendors across multiple categories. Garvey said there is still greater demand now for cards that provide encouragement or send heartfelt appreciation while also reflecting the diversity of consumers. “Greeting cards are a valuable part of staying in touch with our loved ones, no mask required,” she said. “There is an undeniable emotional reaction that we all experience when we receive a physical greeting card, no matter the occasion or sentiment.” dsn


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Raising the Bar on Sustainability in 2022 Consumer expectations drive retailers to choose more conscious policies and act on them By David Orgel

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” The opening verse from the 1970 Joni Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi” spotlighted environmental concerns in the same year Earth Day was launched. Now, more than 50 years later, environmental sustainability is a topic of growing focus — including for retail businesses. Recently, in what is arguably a twist on the Joni Mitchell song, the supercenter operator Meijer leveraged a new paving technique for a parking lot at a renovated Michigan store. It installed a new durable surface that likely represents a kind of paradise for the sustainability-minded. In a collaboration with Dow, it added some 12,500 lbs. of post-consumer recycled plastic — all generated from recycled plastic bags and plastic film contributions by customers. This initiative is just one example of creativity in sustainability efforts by food and drug retailers. The bar is raised for 2022 as consumers advance expectations, retailers make new commitments and activities become more collaborative with new partners.

Consumer Expectations Advance New research from Acosta, which focuses on CPG brands and retailers, found that consumers are emphasizing sustainability in making purchase decisions. Acosta found 60% of consumers are paying more attention to product packaging and its impact on the environment. Consumer respondents said retailers have a responsibility to the environment and communities in which they serve. Older shoppers (boomers+) are more likely to focus on recycling, while younger shoppers (Gen Z and millennials) are more likely to adapt their buying habits. Moreover, consumers express willingness to pay more for sustainable products.

Success Gets Measured Sustainability efforts are increasingly measurable, which enables consumers, investors and others to judge retailer investments. The most proactive companies are often listed highly on key sustainability rankings. As a case in point, retail giant Ahold


Delhaize recently maintained its position as a world leader in the food and staples retailing sector in the 2021 Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. The company received a score of 83 out of 100, well above the industry average of 26 points.

Competitors Collaborate

David Orgel is an award-winning business journalist, industry expert and speaker. He is currently the principal of David Orgel Consulting.

The stakes are higher as consumer expectations advance.

Competition is usually fierce in food and drug retail, but sustainability is a topic in which competition can sometimes take a back seat to collaboration. A major collaborative initiative is spearheaded by The Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag, managed by Closed Loop Partners. In 2021, it unveiled a series of retailer pilots that included participation from CVS Health, Target and Walmart. The goal is to drive sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic bags. These efforts will be important to track in the new year. Collaboration will be increasingly needed as retailers strive to advance their efforts.

Retailer Brands Play Key Roles Sustainability is a growing priority for many types of brands — from CPG to private brand. When H-E-B unveiled a new private brand for household products in November, it emphasized the importance of sustainability in the brand’s proposition. Field & Future by H-E-B features eco-friendly items ranging from sponges and toothpaste to baby wipes and dish detergents. The line is produced with hypoallergenic formulas, biodegradable ingredients and recyclable packaging. H-E-B also relayed plans to work with the organization Keep Texas Recycling to help fund municipal recycling grants to Texas cities and counties.

Sustainability Drives Consumer Loyalty Sustainability efforts will likely cross new boundaries in 2022 — as in recent years. The bar is being raised as consumers scrutinize efforts more closely. Retailers need to pick and choose which initiatives are most meaningful to their customer bases — and then take action and communicate efforts. The stakes couldn’t be higher as efforts impact not just the environment, but also consumer trust and loyalty. dsn


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