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DRUG STORE NEWS May 2022

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The state of the supermarket pharmacy business Page 36

A proposed rule could take important steps toward reform of reimbursement fees

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Vol. 44 No. 5

Facebook.com/DrugStoreNews Twitter.com/DrugStoreNews

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FEATURES 32

INSIDE BEAUTY

Perfecting Packaging Today’s beauty brands are finding a more sustainable future through packaging innovations

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PHARMACY: SUPERMARKETS

Food and Pharmacy in One

In the right

DIRection

What is the state of the supermarket pharmacy business? 44

HEALTH: EYE AND EAR CARE

Everything Looks, and Sounds, So Clear Now

A proposed rule could take important steps toward reform of reimbursement fees

Eye and ear care still driven by pandemicrelated trends 52

HEALTH: IMMUNITY

Immunity Supplements are the New Multivitamin The cold-and-flu seasonal sales spike has blossomed to 365 wellness. Get busy

DEPARTMENTS 6

EDITOR’S NOTE

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INDUSTRY NEWS

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PRODUCTS TO WATCH

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WOMEN IN THE NEWS

COLUMNS 16

GUEST COLUMN By Avtex’s Brian Lannan

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ONE-ON-ONE with Eagle Labs’ Michael Law

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LAST WORD By David Orgel Consulting’s David Orgel

CONSUMABLES: CANDY

Sweet, Sweet Success

Two years of the pandemic resulted in record candy sales as consumers sought comfort, surprise and delight

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. 5, May 2022. Copyright © 2022 by EnsembleIQ. All rights reserved.

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EDITOR’S NOTE

All About the Fees Will the new federal rule on reimbursement go far enough? By Nigel F. Maynard

THE INDUSTRY IS HOPEFUL, THOUGH QUESTIONS REMAIN.

Last year, Drug Store News conducted a short survey asking our readers what is the most pressing issue the industry is facing at the moment. Much to our surprise, competition from Amazon only received 10% of the votes. The push for more e-commerce ranked a bit higher than Amazon and some respondents wrote in various answers that hardly registered as a blip among the almost 400 responses. But you know what made the top spots at 62%? Reimbursement fees. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores said the fees are the result of a loophole in Medicare regulations. “Often more than half a year after a pharmacy fills a Medicare prescription, payers are taking back money paid to pharmacies,” the group writes on its website. “Payers are claiming they are taking back money due to a pharmacy’s performance on so-called quality measures. However, these quality measures can be unknown, unpredictable, inconsistent and outside of a pharmacy’s control. The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said that the use of DIR fees has exploded by 107,400% between 2010 and 2020 — a dramatic increase from the 45,000% growth that CMS reported between 2010 and 2017.” Pharmacy executives said there is no simple fix for this problem, unless Congress pass new laws that provide some relief. There finally has been movement in Congress to do just that. A recently finalized rule takes aim at the transparency of drug prices, including their associated rebates. The industry is hopeful, though questions remain. Does the new rule go far enough? What will be the market reaction? And how will PBMs react? But two more important issues also remain. As one source told our reporter, the industry is likely to see changes, but what that change is and how long it takes remains to be seen. You can read the full story starting on page 24. 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

EDITORIAL

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

SALES & BUSINESS

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

PRODUCTION/ART

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.

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD John Beckner, NCPA Becky Dant, Costco J. Jeremy Faulks, Thrifty White Pharmacy Doug M. Long, IQVIA Nancy Lyons, Health Mart Pharmacy Katie Scanlon, Publix Super Markets Heidi Snyder, Drug World Pharmacies

CORPORATE OFFICERS Chief Executive Officer, Jennifer Litterick Chief Financial Officer, Jane Volland Chief Human Resources Officer, Ann Jadown EVP, Operations, Derek Estey

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May 2022 DRUGSTORENEWS.COM

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INDUSTRY NEWS

Meijer Sets Opening Dates for 2 Supercenters Top Women in Health, Wellness and Beauty 2022 Nominations Now Open Nominations are now being accepted for Drug Store News’ 2022 Top Women in Health, Wellness and Beauty industry awards program, which recognizes the integral role women play in retail pharmacy. Now in its fourth year, we are excited to honor the women who’ve excelled in their profession, during challenging and unprecedented times no less. Top Women in Health, Wellness and Beauty nominees must work for a retail or supply company directly serving the health, wellness and beauty industry. Nominations may include accomplishments/achievements attained from June 1, 2021 to May 31, 2022. Final deadline for nominations is June 1, 2022. All winners will be notified by early August. Self-nominations are allowed. To nominate, head to drugstorenews.com.

Pop-Tarts Brings Back ’90s-inspired Frosted Grape Flavor

Pop-Tarts is giving into ’90s nostalgia by bringing back a classic flavor from the past. The Battle Creek, Mich.-based company announced that its frosted grape flavor is making a comeback this spring. “At Pop-Tarts, we know what our fans want. Frosted Grape has been among the top flavors fans have been asking us to bring back,” said Heidi Ray, senior director of marketing, portable wholesome snacks. “So, we could not be more stoked to finally bring back this Pop-Tarts G.O.A.T. – Grape-ist Of All Time.” Featuring the classic grape jelly filling, white icing and purple crunch-lets, the frosted grape Pop-Tarts will be available at retailers nationwide beginning in May in an eight-count box that retails for $3.19.

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Meijer is opening not one but two new supercenters. The first of the two sites, opening on May 12, is located in Fort Wayne, Ind. While weekly sales at this location will begin when its doors open, it is set to feature special promotions and events following opening day, the company said. “Local residents and new customers have been incredibly welcoming every time we open a store in Fort Wayne,” said Maureen Mitchell, regional vice president at Meijer. “Over the last two years, our store teams have helped families meet unprecedented challenges by providing fresh grocery options and supporting their pharmacy needs, so we look forward to opening the doors for our new neighbors.” The second supercenter location in West Branch, Mich., also opening on May 12, will feature special promotions and events as part of its grand opening activities, the company said. Both supercenters are set to offer customers grocery, fresh produce, bakery, meat and a delis, as well as feature pharmacy, pets, electronics, toys, sports and apparel departments.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

Walgreens Continues Red Nose Day Initiatives to Help End Child Poverty

Wegmans to Eliminate Plastic Bags Company-wide by the End of 2022 Wegmans announced that it will eliminate plastic bags companywide by the end of 2022. With this decision, the company’s goal is to shift all customers to reusable bags, the best option to solve the environmental challenge of single-use grocery bags. “We understand shoppers are accustomed to receiving plastic bags at checkout and losing that option requires a significant change. We are here to help our customers with this transition as we focus on doing what’s right for the environment,” said Jason Wadsworth, Wegmans’ category merchant for packaging, energy and sustainability. “As we’ve encountered plastic bag legislation in numerous markets, we’ve learned there’s more we can do, and a bigger impact we can make, together with our customers.” Wegmans will incentivize the use of reusable bags by charging 5 cents per paper bag, an approach that has proven successful in New York and other markets. In stores where the company has already eliminated plastic bags, on average, paper bags are used for 20% to 25% of transactions while the remaining 75% to 80% are reusable bags or no bag at all. By eliminating plastic bags from the rest of its stores and focusing on transitioning its customers to reusable bags, the retailer is preventing approximately 345,000,000 single-use bags from going into circulation in a year’s time. The amount collected from the paper bag charge will be donated to each store’s local food bank and United Way. In 2021, the more than $1.7 million Wegmans collected and donated from the bag charge was used to increase access to wholesome food and address the most critical needs of its communities, the company said.

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For the eighth year in a row, Walgreens is celebrating Red Nose Day as the exclusive retailer of the nationwide campaign to help end the cycle of child poverty and ensure a healthy future for all children. After two years of only the digital Red Nose filter being available due to the COVID-19 pandemic, customers can once again purchase the iconic Red Nose at their local Walgreens through May 31, in addition to using the digital Red Nose filter. In partnership with Comic Relief US, the retailer aims to bring communities together to help all children live healthier lives by providing access to health care, food and nutrition, disease prevention and more through Red Nose Day-funded programs. “Year after year, our dedicated Walgreens team members rally across the country to raise funds, bring awareness and make a positive impact in the communities we serve through Red Nose Day donations, and we’re thrilled to be offering the Red Nose again in-store after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic,” said Tracey Brown, president of retail products and chief customer officer of Walgreens. “The health and well-being of the communities we serve nationwide is a priority for us at Walgreens, and we are excited to continue supporting children in need as we emerge into our new normal.” In-store shoppers can make donations at checkout, show their support and purchase a Red Nose for as little as $1, and online shoppers can donate online. One hundred percent of donations raised will go to Red Nose Day.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

Buoy Hydration, Nutritional Growth Solutions Among Top Picks at ECRM’s Weight Management, Nutrition & Vitamin Session Buoy Hydration won the Drug Store News Buyers’ Choice Award for its Hydration Drops Unflavored Beverage Enhancer during ECRM’s Weight Management, Nutrition & Vitamin session held in March. Nutritional Growth Solutions was a finalist for its Grow Daily 3+ Chocolate Shake Mix Canister. “Product innovation and great packaging are the hallmarks of great brands,” said Craig Chmielowicz, senior vice president of health and beauty care at ECRM. “The two Buyers’ Choice Award winners are each best-in-class in both of these realms, with effective, functional ingredients and packaging that really stands out. Congratulations to both winners.” The founders of Buoy Hydration sought to deliver hydration to consumers without loads of sugar, questionable ingredients, cheap salt sources or single-serving plastics, as well as incorporate philanthropy into their business. The result was Hydrating Wellness Drops, a line of unflavored, functional beverage enhancers developed to revolutionize how people hydrate. Its blend of electrolytes, fortifying minerals and essential vitamins can be added into any drink without compromising taste. Its 100% PCR bottles use up to 50 times less materials per serving and ship carbon-neutral around the country. With every bottle sold on its website, Buoy donates one to a verified 501(c)3 nonprofit organization supporting people managing chronic illnesses. Nutritional Growth Solutions was founded by pediatricians and nutritional experts at Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Israel with experience treating thousands of children annually for growth deficiencies largely caused by poor nutrition. After years of research and development, they created what is now the brand’s Grow Daily whey protein nutrition formula, a powdered nutrient-packed, immunefortifying shake solution clinically proven to improve and increase linear growth in children aged 3 to 9 years old while maintaining healthy BMI percentages. Grow Daily 3+ Chocolate Shake Mix Canister is the company’s legacy nutritional whey-based shake product in a new canister. It’s meant to be supplemental to a child’s regular diet, supporting healthy growth rather than serving as a meal replacement. The new packaging is designed to clearly represent all the nutritional elements and information of the product in a way that’s highly visible on shelf.

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Hostess Adds Mint Chocolate Flavor to Crispy Minis Line A new flavor has joined Hostess Crispy Minis line of bite-sized snacks. The new addition is mint chocolate, which combines mint and cocoa to create a creamy texture, the Lenexa, Kan.-based company said. “Consumers are increasingly craving multi-textured snacks, and this trend was central to the original launch of our Crispy Minis,” said Christopher Balach, general manager of Hostess Brands. “We’re excited to add another delicious flavor to this creamy-crunchy lineup of unique and innovative snacks.” Featuring two layers of a creamy refreshing mint filling between crisp wafers and topped with a chocolate-flavored layer, the Crispy Minis are made with real mint and cocoa and are free of high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors, the company said. Available in a resealable 7.3-oz. package, Hostess Crispy Minis in mint chocolate retails for $3.49.

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P R O D U CTS TO WATCH

New & Noteworthy HRG’s five notable products from April 2022

Product introductions slowed down in April as consumers grew jittery and inflation surged for everything across the board. Suppliers unveiled 105 products. By comparison, in March they introduced 220 new items. Waukesha, Wis.based HRG looked at 10 products in the health category, 83 in the wellness section and 12 in the beauty aisle to see which ones stood out as Products to Watch. Here is what they found:

1. Metamucil Fiber + Collagen Powder Metamucil Fiber + Collagen Powder by Procter & Gamble combines multi-health psyllium fiber with collagen peptides for a 2-in-1 digestive health supplement. The addition of collagen provides nutrients for joint structures and tissues. It comes in a 19.9-oz. bottle.

2. TruBiotics Sugar-free Gummies Pantheryx’s TruBiotics Sugar-free Gummies contain vitamin D3, FOS prebiotic fiber and Bacillus probiotic for digestive and immune health. These gluten- and gelatin-free gummies are formulated to support regularity, nourish beneficial bacteria in the gut and be a good source of fiber. It’s available in a 50-count bottle.

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3. Compound W Freeze Off for Kids Developed to be safe for kids ages 4 and up, Compound W Freeze Off for Kids from Medtech contains the Accu-Freeze wart removal system. It includes a precision tip applicator and skin shields to aid in treating the wart while protecting the surrounding skin. Each bottle contains 15 applications.

4. iVIZIA Sterile Lubricant Eye Drops Similasan’s iVIZIA Lubricant Eye Drops for Dry Eyes is part of a new line of eye products. These drops are designed to relieve dry eye irritation and protect from further discomfort. The ingredients include hyaluronic acid and trehalose to be safe with contacts and pre/post-surgery use. Available in a 10-ml bottle, the drops are preservative free and the ergonomic bottle was designed to make it easier for use by those with compromised dexterity, such as arthritis.

5. AmLactin KP Bumps Be Gone Cream Advantice Health’s AmLactin KP Bumps Be Gone Cream is designed to soothe keratosis pilaris, or dry, rough, bumpy skin, by gently exfoliating, hydrating and smoothing skin. This cream is made with 15% lactic acid and is fragrance free. It comes in a 3-oz. bottle. dsn

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GUEST COLUMN

Omnichannel Strategies Retail brands now face rising expectations to deliver omnichannel customer experiences By Brian Lannan

Brian Lannan, vice president of retail experience at Avtex

Across retail segments, the last two years have been a roller coaster ride. Prior to the pandemic, many customer journeys were carried out across a singular channel. Customers selected the path — online or in store — that worked for them and followed it through to purchase and fulfillment. This was especially true in retail pharmacy, where customers have historically been presented with two options: brick-and-mortar stores and mail order prescription services. The pandemic has rewritten these well-worn customer pathways completely. As digital capabilities have evolved and fulfillment expectations have changed, retail brands now face rising expectations to deliver omnichannel customer experiences that predict and adapt to each customer’s needs.

What is Omnichannel Retail? Omnichannel retail represents an integrated approach to customer engagement that focuses on enabling customers to navigate a singular customer journey through a variety of different channels, including the physical store, social media, the web, phone, text chat and more. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to omnichannel success. In every retail subsegment — including retail pharmacy — there are key nuances that will dictate which channels and digital solutions actually benefit the customer and which ones will lead to unnecessary confusion and frustration.

The First Step in Your Omnichannel Transformation: Mapping Out the Customer Journeys Customers come to pharmacies for many different reasons. There’s the obvious reason, prescription drug pickup, as well as over-the-counter medication and health and beauty products. But sometimes customers also pop in for a quick snack or to schedule and receive an annual flu shot. As you can imagine, each of these reasons results in a very unique customer journey. The key to delivering a strong omnichannel retail strategy lies in the data. Customer data provides the underlying insights retailers need to learn about existing customer preferences and behaviors. Armed with these insights, retailers can more confidently map each type of interaction to the right channels and messages

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to facilitate that journey. Without these critical insights, retailers run the risk of delivering disjointed experiences that can lead to user friction, frustration and, ultimately, abandonment. As a result, the best place to start is mapping out your brand’s current state — including the existing journeys, motivations and customer segments that are most common for your brand. For example, once you know how customers investigate and purchase things like baby Tylenol versus the flu shot, it becomes much easier to decide which digital and in-person road maps can be woven together to facilitate those journeys. Only when the digital, in-store and human elements of the customer experience are unified and working together can brands achieve the retail Holy Grail: engaging customers in the moments that matter — wherever that moment is taking place. There are a few different best practices to consider when it comes to creating a powerful 360-degree customer profile and journey mapping engine that can generate these sorts of game-changing insights:

“The pandemic has rewritten these well-worn customer pathways completely.” 1. Maximize data capture processes: Make sure you have the right technology and processes to capture customer data and journey analytics as accurately and efficiently as possible; 2. Unify data management in your tech stack: Ensure you can easily identify where valuable customer data lives and how you can bring it all together to create a more complete picture of the who, what, where, when and why of each interaction; and 3. Read between the lines: As supporting tools, Voice of the Consumer exercises and customer journey safari exercises can help uncover the unique challenges or frustrations your customer data may be hiding. While the deployment of new channels, personalization and automation capabilities play an equally important role in omnichannel retail success, first and foremost it’s a challenge of customer understanding. Starting with the right research steps up front can save valuable time, energy and frustration later on. Once you have this first phase complete, it will help validate every decision your team makes going forward. dsn

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ONE-ON-ONE

A Strategic Partner Eagle Labs is on a mission to make consumer products the public can trust Eagle Labs is a fully NSF Certified contract manufacturer of dietary supplements and cosmetics. The company can handle a wide array of product forms and offers collaboration throughout the formulation and product development process. Recently, Michael Law, chief commercial officer, sat down with Drug Store News to talk about the company’s mission and what we can expect from the supplements and cosmetics market in the near future.

Michael Law, chief commercial officer, Eagle Labs

"Our mission is to be an agile, strategic partner with a breadth of collaborative resources."

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Drug Store News: What is your company’s history, and what do you see as its mission? Michael Law: Eagle Labs is NSF Certified and FDA registered for dietary supplements, cosmetics and OTCs. We are also Certified Organic and registered with Health Canada. Eagle Labs meets the highest industry standards for manufacturing, testing and process control. Eagle Labs has been a contract manufacturer for over 20 years. Our mission is to be an agile, strategic partner with a breadth of collaborative resources. We bring a strong and experienced management team to help in all areas from R&D and formulation, through packaging design, manufacturing and fulfillment. DSN: Describe your company’s product offerings. What makes the products unique? ML: We manufacture nutritional/dietary supplements (capsules, tablets, powders, gummies and liquids), as well as a wide array of cosmetic skin care products. Eagle Labs has low MOQs for the right strategic partners, so we can grow with them. We spend time to deeply understand the strategies and goals the customer is trying to achieve. Eagle brings leaders from all key functional areas to the earliest stages of a customer engagement to ensure the best solutions are being created. Often this means consulting on ingredient choices, formulations, packaging and claims. Another thing that makes Eagle Labs unique is that we have large e-commerce DTC customers as well as clients with large traditional brick-and-mortar brands. Additionally, we have a strong own brand/private brand business for retail clients.

DSN: What are your thoughts on “what’s next” in supplements and in cosmetic products? ML: There are three key themes: innovation, “natural or free from” and value. Innovation will always have a place for consumers seeking new solutions. This may be in ingredients, product forms, packaging or claims. Within supplements, we are seeing strong growth in powder stick packs and gummies. Traditional capsules and tablets remain strong, but a segment of consumers is looking for new ways to dose themselves to support their healthy lifestyle. Immunity products remain strong, and we expect consumers will continue to seek products that help them reduce the impact of aging and increase wellness. For cosmetics, there have been a lot of disruptive brands entering the category as barriers to entry have fallen. We expect that consumer spending on facial care and hand and body lotions will experience growth postCOVID. Additionally, consumers will continue to seek solutions to help them feel better and look better. Antiaging creams continue to be strong sellers as America ages. DSN: Anything else you’d like our retail readers to know about your company? ML: Eagle Labs can help identify key trends in e-commerce to help support traditional retail clients. Additionally, for e-commerce clients, we can provide support through our high-volume fulfillment center. With a broad array of product forms available and decades of experience on the management team, Eagle can be a strong strategic partner for both large and smaller brands, and also with private label/ own brands. dsn

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WOMEN IN THE NEWS

Funding the Future

CVS’s Shea Manigo shares the reason she created a scholarship fund to honor her mother By Hannah Esper

When she was just 4 years old, Shea Manigo’s mother’s heart failed. That experience led Manigo to a lifetime of leadership in health care. “From the earliest I can remember, I wanted to save other moms,” Manigo said. “That was my goal in life.” In 2021, Manigo, along with her siblings and her husband, created the Annie Lee Jerido Williams Minorities in Pharmacy Lowcountry Endowment and Scholarship Fund in memory of her biological mother. Today, Manigo serves as the vice president of Health Hubs, growth and strategy at CVS Health. Originally from Walterboro, S.C., Manigo moved to High Springs, Fla., after her mother passed away. In high school, she started working in a local pharmacy and witnessed how engaged the pharmacist was with the community he served. She credits that experience for influencing her decision to become a pharmacist. After taking some time off after graduating with a bachelor’s of science degree in nutrition sciences from the University of Florida, Manigo relocated to South Carolina. She wanted to be closer to her support system while she went back to school, at the encouragement of her sister. But shortly after arriving, she lost her sister suddenly and tragically. The event triggered Manigo to enroll in the Medical University of South Carolina to pursue a doctorate in pharmacy and concurrent MBA in cooperation with The Citadel. Manigo worked at the local Kmart Pharmacy while she was in school. She didn’t have a choice: As a single mom, she had a mortgage and car payment bills. Manigo noted that this time in her life was very challenging. Every Saturday, she would take her son to Barnes & Noble so she could study while he played with a little Thomas the Train set.

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“From the earliest I can remember, I wanted to save other moms. That was my goal in life.”

Shea Manigo, vice president of Health Hubs, growth and strategy at CVS Health.

“I would also say it was one of the most disciplined times in my life,” she said. “But something that I always share is when you’re passionate about something, it doesn’t feel like work. And I was super passionate about the field that I was pursuing.” Manigo’s continued work in community pharmacy allowed her to bridge pharmacy and leadership at Kmart and beyond. Manigo, a firm believer that people have to be the change that they want to see, knew she wanted to do something to honor her mother’s legacy. Established in 2021, a scholarship fund was a way to help support students for generations to come. (The fund is not associated with Manigo’s work at CVS Health.) “Our ambition in creating the fund was to serve others,” Manigo said. “But our goal was not just to lighten the load, but to plant seeds that would hopefully multiply because if we can transfer inspiration to someone else, maybe they’ll do the same thing.” Awarded annually in the fall, the Annie Lee Jerido Williams Minorities in Pharmacy Lowcountry Endowment and Scholarship Fund is an endowed need-based scholarship created to support minority students at the Medical University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy. Manigo said the fund has been a great way to invest in two things she’s passionate about: the profession of pharmacy and investing in our future. “I didn’t know much about endowment and scholarships, and I think if people knew more they would consider it,” she said. “Oftentimes, when we look back over our lives, I think most people are purpose driven and they want to do something to help.” dsn

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Copper Fit®, a leading health and wellness brand offering compression sleeves, socks, gloves, back belts, and hot/cold therapy wraps, announced a newly expanded product line and launch of a high visibility marketing campaign featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, their new collaborative brand partner. Paltrow, an Academy Award® winning actor and CEO and founder of goop, is a well-known health and wellness icon. Her addition welcomes women to the brand through a softer color palette in wider array of wearable wellness. “The program,” said brand manager Hayley Parisi, “reflects bold new directions for Copper Fit. We’ve expanded our health line with innovation in compression apparel and hosiery, as well as added exceptional new innovation in footcare as well.” Andy Khubani, CEO of Copper Fit, drives brand growth.

Acco According to CEO Anand “Andy” Khubani, expanding their retail presence and product lines are key initiatives for the brand in 2022 and beyond. “Consumers are embracing in-store shopping again,” said Khubani, “We’re committed to making shopping the brand both in-store and online a super positive customer experience, and we are supporting them in both on- and off-line media campaigns.”

Moving the brand beyond unisex colors is a new assortment designed to appeal to women. “The softer color palette in our basic compression program was just the beginning,” said Parisi. “We are also rolling out a new WearableWellness line of compression leggings, posture bras, socks, and more.” Acco According to Parisi, the expanded colors for this year beyond basic black and white are a soft pink, serenity blue, and twilight.

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In addition to the celebrity brand partners and merchandising opportunities, Khubani is committed to driving consumer demand with marketing programs unparalleled in scope and spend. Planned digital campaigns in top health and wellness, news and information, and entertainment sites are underway and supported with social channels Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. In addition to digital efforts, are Copper Fit’s trademark direct-to-consumer television campaigns. In short, Khubani is positioning Copper Fit as the health and wellness brand of the decade.

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COVER STORY

In the right

DIRection A proposed rule could take important steps toward reform of reimbursement fees BY MARK HAMSTRA

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COVER STORY

In a 2021 Drug Store News survey of almost 400 people, 62% of respondents said direct and indirect remuneration, or DIR, fees and reimbursements are the two most important challenges facing retail pharmacy. Things could be changing. A proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services takes some important steps toward reforming the system. However, the rule may only partially remedy the financial impact that these fees — charged to pharmacies after dispensing prescriptions covered by Medicare Part D plans — have on pharmacies and their patients. Prodded by the retail and specialty pharmacy industries, as well as consumer advocacy groups, Congress and CMS have been seeking to tackle the issues surrounding direct and indirect remuneration fees for the past several years. The new proposed rule, which could be finalized by the time you’re reading this, takes aim in particular at the transparency of drug prices, including their associated rebates, among pharmacy benefit managers, pharmacies and their patients. “It’s been a long time coming,” said Christie Boutte, senior vice president of state strategic affairs and advocacy at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, or NACDS. “There have been many attempts at addressing DIR fees and their impact on

“There have been many attempts at addressing DIR fees and their impact on pharmacies, but this is definitely a long-awaited positive move.” —CHRISTIE BOUTTE, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, STATE STRATEGIC AFFAIRS AND ADVOCACY, NACDS

pharmacies, but this is definitely a long-awaited positive move.” The lack of transparency about the actual cost of a prescription after reimbursements has in many cases resulted in both pharmacies and seniors covered by Medicare paying more for drugs than they should, she said. “We feel like it should be finalized,” Boutte said. “It is a very key step in moving forward in achieving the reform that we’re looking for.” What the rule may or may not cover, however, are the performance measures that PBMs often use to calculate DIR fees that are often charged to pharmacies months after a prescription is dispensed, driving up costs for the pharmacy in ways that they may not have budgeted for. NACDS has recommended what Boutte described as some “regulatory guardrails” for the rule, the most important of which is the establishment of “workable and consistent pharmacy quality measures.” Those measures are not always clear to the pharmacies until they receive a bill months after the transaction.

A Recent Timeline of Legislative and Regulatory Action on DIR Fees May 23, 2019

Dec. 6, 2019

Feb. 18, 2020

A final version of a CMS rule aimed at lowering drug prices did not include DIR fee relief that had been proposed by the Trump administration.

The Senate Finance Committee unveiled its revised version of the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, which included provisions that require all pharmacy price concessions and DIR fees to be included in the negotiated price at point of sale for Medicare Part D starting Jan. 1, 2022, prohibited plans and PBMs from retroactive recoupment and moved up the implementation of standardized pharmacy quality measures to 2022. The congressional session ended before it could be considered.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced a proposed rule recommending that a standardized quality performance program should be created. These performance measures are often used to impose DIR fees.

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COVER STORY

While the rule did mention the need for addressing performance measures, it was not actually included in the regulatory text, Boutte said, indicating that performance measures may still need to be addressed after the rule is finalized. If necessary, the industry could seek a legislative solution, she said, and the industry has continued to work with Congress to ensure that legislation will address the additional areas of DIR reform not covered by the rule. Performance measure reform “is definitely needed for more comprehensive reform,” Boutte continued. “It would be very well appreciated if that could happen this year also, but there are a lot of things in play here that could determine whether that happens or not.” In the meantime, NACDS continues to move forward and to engage with both CMS and Congress. Retail members of NACDS have been very engaged in the process, Boutte said, and many provided comments to CMS during the rule-making process. All comments were due to CMS by March 7. CMS has been in the review process since that time to finalize the rule. The industry is hopeful that the rule, which would take effect in 2023, will be finalized soon, she said, because pharmacies need time to negotiate contracts and plan for the year ahead. Ronna Hauser, senior vice president of policy and pharmacy affairs at the National Community Pharmacists Association, agreed that the industry needed to continue working to ensure that the final rule provides the transparency that the industry needs to operate successfully. “We have weighed in with the agency, and we are doing all we can to impact the final rule,” she said. “We are very hopeful that the final rule accepts our changes and suggestions to make it even stronger. I think our members need the relief from their retroactive fees, and this rule would bring more upfront transparency and predictability to their reimbursements in Part D.” Hauser said the rule as proposed could solve the industry’s “No. 1 problem,” which is the unpredictability of DIR fees, and would be “one step in the right direction” toward more comprehensive reform. “We are asking CMS to resolve or clarify certain issues that we’ve highlighted in our comments because we know that our members are viable parts of the Part D program, and help a lot of patients with Part D benefits,” Hauser continued. “If our members can’t remain viable in the

Taking the Fight to the PBMs Bryan Murray, a partner at law firm Dinsmore & Shohl, said pharmacies can take some actions to minimize their DIR fees while they await a new potential rule from CMS. “One of the primary steps you’d see pharmacies taking is actually getting involved in their own PBM contracting,” he said. Often, pharmacies either don’t review their PBM agreements carefully or don’t push back against them, given the challenges involved. However, reviewing PBM contracts carefully and negotiating directly with them can be important first steps to tackling the fees. In addition, pharmacies should try to conduct a deep dive into learning how DIR fees are calculated. Some programs are based on quality metrics, some on generic dispensing, formulary adherence and other measurements. Pharmacies can also work with third parties to help them with medication management therapy, which can result in quality improvements for patients. “It’s not a way to solve the DIR fee problem, but it is a way to get your arms around what it is and the steps the pharmacy can take to at least try and play the DIR fee game with the PBMs,” Murray said. The other thing pharmacies can do is become more active with lobbying at both the state and federal levels to try to influence legislative and regulatory reform, he said.

May 25 and 27, 2021

Jan. 6, 2022

March 7, 2022

The Pharmacy DIR Reform to Reduce Senior Drug Costs Act was introduced in the House (H.R. 3554) and Senate (S. 1909), respectively. It mirrored the legislation that had been advanced in the previous Congress but failed to pass before the end of that congressional session.

CMS announced a proposed rule that includes some DIR reform measures that the industry has been seeking, including redefining the negotiated price of a drug as the “lowest possible” payment to a pharmacy, effective Jan. 1, 2023. All price concessions would need to be reflected in the price at the point of sale.

Deadline for feedback on the proposed rule. Industry recommendations included requests for refinements that would close loopholes, such as the ability for DIR fees to be assessed during the coverage gap and the oversight and standardization of performance measures.

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COVER STORY

program, that’s going to put a lot of beneficiaries at risk for losing access to their local pharmacy.”

Closing the ‘Donut Hole’

Among the issues that NCPA would like to see CMS resolve or clarify with the final rule is the so-called “donut hole,” or coverage gap, that leaves Part D prescriptions under most Medicare drug plans vulnerable to retroactive fees during the period when the plans do not cover the prescription costs. The coverage gap begins after patients and their drug plan have spent a certain amount for covered drugs. Coverage kicks in again after patients have reached a threshold for out-of-pocket expenses. The NCPA is also concerned about potential cash flow issues that independent pharmacies could face if their up-front reimbursements are lowered in 2023, and they are still paying DIR fees from 2022.

“We’ve asked CMS to address the rule’s impact on pharmacy cash flow,” Hauser said. Also of concern is that even though the proposed rule states that price concessions must be accounted for at the point of sale, PBMs could still seek to assess price concessions “outside of that loop,” she said. “We want to make sure that any and all price concessions have to be attributable at the claim level and known up front, and that pharmacy reimbursement is transparent,” she said. “So, we’re asking the agency in their final rule to make clear that the lowest possible reimbursement has to be the amount that actually is known up front at point of sale and is ultimately paid to the pharmacy within 14 days.” Some retail members of NCPA have said they have started to see a small amount of activity around 2023 Part D planning from their PBMs. “There are a lot of concerns arising from that because of the possibility of reimbursement being well below acquisition cost with no commensurate dispensing fees,” Hauser said. The industry remains in a wait-and-see mode as it heads into the contract season for 2023, she said, with a lot of activity expected in the coming weeks. “We have to see the final rule, and how the market reacts,” Hauser said.

Specialty Pharmacy Has Much at Stake in DIR Fee Reform DIR fees can be especially challenging for specialty pharmacies, said Julie Allen, legal consultant and government affairs liaison at the National Association of Specialty Pharmacy. The proposed rule from CMS to make rebates more transparent has been welcomed by the specialty pharmacy industry, which has struggled amid the rising costs imposed by the fees and the lack of transparency surrounding them.

to reconcile reimbursement with pharmacies after the point of sale. “The rule is not explicit in saying that there will no longer be clawbacks,” she said. “The devil’s always in the details.” There needs to be oversight around how Medicare plans and PBMs assess their performance measures, she said. The metrics need to be evaluated to ensure they are appropriate for the pharmacies on which they are being assessed, especially when it comes to specialty pharmacies that are providing very specific sets of drugs and services. “We don’t want the fox guarding the hen house,” Allen said.

“This is an effort that NASP and the broader pharmacy community have been working toward for many years,” Allen said. The ability for Medicare plans and PBMs to use performance-related measures to recoup millions of dollars of DIR fees from pharmacies each year for the past several years has led to many specialty pharmacies being acquired or sold, she said. Allen also said there are still concerns that the rule would allow benefit plans

She said the NASP believes that CMS has the authority to act on both DIR reform and reform of the performance measure system, so that it is more standardized, transparent and has some oversight. Specialty pharmacy is particularly impacted by DIR fees because the business model is heavily weighted toward providing service to patients, often with minimal revenues generated from front-of-store categories such as cosmetics or food, Allen said. “It’s generally not an operation that can make up losses in a way that maybe some other pharmacies can, to a certain extent,” she said. “It has an extremely detrimental impact on specialty. We’ve seen that through

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“Independent pharmacists are always at the mercy of these PBMs and their contracts, and, unfortunately, it’s often a whack-a-mole game, where you solve one problem and another is created or a new scheme is created by the PBMs.” — RONNA HAUSER, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF POLICY AND PHARMACY AFFAIRS, NCPA

the statistics in terms of the number of acquisitions and pharmacy closures in the U.S., and the pressure that has been placed on specialty pharmacy in particular by the larger vertically integrated systems that may have their own specialty pharmacy.” Many specialty pharmacy patients have been longtime customers who would like to continue their relationships with those pharmacies, Allen said, but that opportunity is being jeopardized by the financial hardships that DIR fees have created. She said the NASP agrees with the broader pharmacy industry that the ability for fees to be assessed during the coverage gap needs to be addressed, noting that there should not be a “twotiered system” for the application of DIR fees. “That would open up a huge loophole in terms of what could be done to recoup fees from pharmacies during a specific part of the process,” Allen said. “We all stand together that the reforms that they presented should apply across the entire system and all phases of Medicare.” She also said that she believes this will likely be addressed in the final rule, although it remains an open question. “I think CMS is serious about this reform, but it’s not over ’till it’s over,” Allen said. She’s optimistic, however, given the strong bipartisan support that the proposed rule has received from Congress. “We’re hopeful that we could get to comprehensive reform,” Allen said. “I would view the rule as not being comprehensive reform. It’s sort of a quarter loaf, but it’s an important quarter loaf.”

“Independent pharmacists are always at the mercy of these PBMs and their contracts, and, unfortunately, it’s often a whack-a-mole game, where you solve one problem and another is created or a new scheme is created by the PBMs.” Bryan Murray, a partner at Dinsmore & Shohl and a former in-house counsel to a national specialty pharmacy, said CMS’s proposed rule was a “big step in the right direction,” but fell short in several areas, including addressing DIR fees managed during the coverage gap. “I think it’s a good first step toward solving what the pharmacy industry is looking for,” Murray said. “But, I think where CMS is really falling short is that they’re not addressing rebates that are paid between manufacturers and PBMs. If they’re not requiring that to be reflected at the point of sale to the patients, the patient’s not getting any benefit out of that.” Murray also agreed that the industry needs to be wary of how the PBMs react to the rule. Some could end up cutting reimbursement even further, he said — something he has already seen happening to some of his firm’s clients. “What we’re seeing is that the PBMs are just adjusting reimbursement to account for what will be the losses on their end in DIR fee revenue,” he said. “I think that what CMS is doing is great,” Murray said. “It’s wonderful that they’re aware that this is an issue and they’re taking steps to ameliorate some problems, but it’s not enough to shift the balance of power and make it a level playing field for pharmacies with PBMs. Right now, community pharmacies just have the deck stacked against them from a reimbursement perspective.” However, given the bipartisan congressional support and the push from the Biden administration to reduce pharmacy costs for patients, Murray said the proposed CMS rule could end up ushering in some level of DIR fee reform that the industry is seeking. How long it actually takes is another question, especially if it requires legislative action, given the contentious nature of congressional lawmaking. “I think we’re likely to see changes in the future, just not the immediate future,” Murray said. The momentum from the proposed rule, however, could inspire more action at the state level around the regulation of PBMs as a way to control costs. “It could really have some reverberations through the regulatory landscape,” he said. “You could see states becoming more emboldened to do similar things, knowing that the federal government’s somewhat behind them on these issues.” dsn

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Perfecting Packaging Today’s beauty brands are finding a more sustainable future through packaging innovations

Beauty is notorious for its wasteful packaging. The industry produces more than 120 billion units of plastic packaging each year, according to Zero Waste Week. About 95% of that is discarded after use. Add to that miles of cellophane, paper waste and cardboard, and it becomes one of the worst offenders for the world’s waste problem. For years beauty brands embedded products in excess packaging for two reasons: the perception that elaborate boxes and adornments equated to luxury and the need to protect against pilferage. The personal care and beauty category is only one piece of a bigger problem. Each year 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally and only 16% of that is collected for recycling. Worse yet, only 12% is actually recycled, according to McKinsey & Company. Twenty-five percent is incinerated, 40% goes to landfills and 19% ends up as litter. Signs of change are coming. “The U.S. is entering a new era of consumption where sustainability-based values are increasingly influencing purchasing decisions,” said Tara James Taylor, senior vice president of beauty and personal care vertical at NielsenIQ. NielsenIQ’s research reports that 46% of beauty and personal care shoppers would pay more for products with sustainability features. Almost 43% of those shoppers would pay more for products with recyclable packaging. Americans have finally gotten the message, and retailers and manufacturers have responded. L’Oréal, Unilever, Burt’s Bees, Target, Walmart and CVS are among the industry leaders that have published goals calling for ways to reduce waste. Smaller brands such as Spinster Sisters, Urban Hydration, HiBAR, Pacifica and Raw Sugar built their brands on sustainable packaging and responsible ingredients and have been catalysts for change. “We need action now from companies, retailers, governments and consumers to tackle the climate change and waste crises we are seeing,” said Niki King, head of sustainability at Unilever. “The really heartening details we’re seeing in data is that there’s increased interest in making a difference across the board.” Jennifer Walsh, a former beauty retailer and biophilic expert, said the time has come for the industry to change. “As the beauty industry continues to explode in growth and scale, we as an industry have a moral obligation to create packaging that is more sustainable. We can’t go on making products like we used to, where sustainability was either not thought about or just an afterthought,” she said. “There is so much waste in the packaging and most of it is completely unnecessary. I think we are going to see more and more brands going ‘naked’ without any packaging at all.” That is welcome news to Nora Schaper, who co-founded HiBAR with a goal to create

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a movement away from single-use plastic. The breaking point was seeing plastic strewn while walking on a beach. While working in the personal care industry supplying natural products retailers, Schaper and her husband realized they could eliminate the need for packaging, especially single-use plastic. “We were eager to do something for the planet. Our mission is to inspire people to do things differently,” she said. HiBAR started with shampoo and conditioners in uniquely shaped bars to reduce the alarming statistic that half a billion shampoo and conditioner bottles are tossed every year. Many products require packaging, she said, because the formulas are more than 80% water. Removing water eliminates packaging but not performance. “We intended to eliminate the plastic, but since then we have thousands of reviews where people talk about how their hair health has improved. When you take the water out and you have a concentrated bar, it works better,” she said. The pandemic actually helped push HiBAR’s sales, she said, because while people were at home, they were more likely to try new products. In social listening the company undertook during the pandemic, Schaper said conversations about plastic waste increased 3,000%. Unilever put doing better for the earth on the front burner. “In packaging, we are excited about our recent launch of Dove’s refillable body wash, which is now available at major retailers including Target, Walmart and Amazon,” King said. Matt Kuhlman, co-founder of Purezero Beauty, said being conscious of plastic usage has always been part of the brand’s mission since it was founded in 2018. “We were originally working off a five-year road map to complete carbon neutrality, and we’ve already delivered on that goal in just over three years after our recent Carbonfree Product Certification, a globally recognized carbon-neutral designation from Carbonfund.org,” he said. “That road map included the implementation of a carbon life

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cycle analysis, which helped us identify areas in which our business was creating carbon emissions and solutions to reduce them, including sourcing sustainable packaging materials,” Kuhlman said. Using the analysis, Purezero was able to decrease the amount of plastic in its bottles. “We originally produced a 12-oz. bottle containing 30 g of HDPE plastic and have successfully updated our bottle mold to decrease the net plastic to 24 g — a 20% decrease — just by modifying the thickness of our bottles’ plastic walls.” The company has a three-year goal to achieve 100% postconsumer recycled plastic, or PCR, bottles. Spinster Sisters is another trailblazer in responsible ingredients and reduced packaging. Founder and CEO Kelly Perkins started making her own soap and skin care in the 1990s with a goal to avoid toxic ingredients. According to Hannah Faust, director of brand strategy, the company now has more than 36 SKUs across skin, hair, bath and body. The brand also has new items in the pipeline, including bath bombs, shower steamers, body butter and a Free From plastic-free line. “We are in R&D to develop additional plastic-free SKUs as we are committed to be a plastic-free skin care brand,” Faust said. Supply chain issues have made it harder to secure sustainable supplies, but it has also opened the door to new and innovative partnerships, Faust said. Caitlin O’Keefe, partner in the consumer practice at consultancy firm Kearney, confirmed that supply issues could impede sustainability efforts. “Advances in supply chain innovation are unfortunately being set back, especially for mass beauty,” she said. “Part of that is that post-consumer recycled materials or PET are more expensive or not available.” Some brands have even had to change packaging from touting 70% PCR to “made with recyclable” content. “There is still the focus to deliver on the promise, but it is becoming more expensive and set back a little.” dsn

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PHARMACY: SUPERMARKETS

Food and Pharmacy in One What is the state of the supermarket pharmacy business? By Sandra Levy

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a heightened sense of awareness among consumers about the importance of taking better care of their health. Grocers with pharmacies are responding to customers’ new consciousness by investing in and expanding their pharmacies’ services to become health destinations. In fact, The Food Marketing Institute’s 2021 Report on Retailer Contributions to Health and Well-being shows that grocery stores have indeed made significant investments to expand their role as community destinations for health and well-being. Eighty-four percent of respondents said their company has an established health and well-being strategy, and 84% of retailers report their company offers health and well-being activities for both employees and customers, an increase from 49% in 2019. Moreover, the report found that 54% of pharmacists, dietitians and other healthcare practitioners collaborate to enhance and develop new health and well-being programs for food retailers — up from 42% in 2019. “The role of the retail pharmacist and retail registered dietitian has never been more important,” said Krystal Register, director of health and well-being at FMI. DSN asked several supermarket pharmacy executives to weigh in on the state of their supermarket pharmacy business. Their responses echo Register’s sentiments and shed light on the opportunities that exist for supermarket pharmacies and their pharmacists in the future.

TIM KAYLOR, clinical pharmacy specialist at The Giant Company: The Giant Company has 133 pharmacies across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. We’re committed to creating healthier communities, and do so through a variety of health offerings. Our primary offering is our pharmacy department, which meets the prescription medication and vaccination needs of the customers we serve. Pharmacists in all of our 133 pharmacies are available to answer questions and support our customers. Pharmacies offer services like vaccinations, prescription delivery, medication synchronization, text notifications and a pharmacy app. We’ve also been a community partner in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, offering vaccinations in our stores and out in the communities we serve. Additionally, we have a team of registered dietitians who provide free virtual nutrition classes presented live throughout the week on various nutrition topics. For example, the Family Meals at 5 series provides viewers with step-by-step instructions on how to cook an easy and affordable dinner with one of the dietitians in under 30 minutes. Class topics change monthly based on the season and participant feedback. In addition, the dietitians engage with their local communities through outreach opportunities, such as lunch-and-learn presentations, health fairs and more.

MARC WATKINS, chief medical officer of Kroger Health: DRUG STORE NEWS: DESCRIBE THE STATE OF YOUR SUPERMARKET PHARMACIES’ OFFERINGS.

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PHARMACY: SUPERMARKETS

pharmacy brands, including Kroger, have been able to deliver millions of vaccines and also take part in providing testing. We’ve had the ability to continue to deliver convenient, trusted health care right in the community. But we can’t sit on our laurels and look at vaccines and testing as the only types of things that we do. We understand that coming out of this pandemic we have to continue to partner with other healthcare entities to help with screenings and surveillance. We know that health management is a huge concern for many people around the country. How do we leverage some of the things we’re doing at Kroger, such as using dietitian services and medication management and medication therapy solutions? We’re looking at making sure people are adherent and compliant with their medications.

RANDY EDEKER, chairman and CEO of Hy-Vee: Hy-Vee has 273 retail pharmacy locations across Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Hy-Vee provides the classic health offerings of a traditional grocer and elite drug store, combined with new and trending offerings to meet our customers’ needs wherever they are on their health journey. DAVID CARMOUCHE, senior vice president, omnichannel care, Walmart Health & Wellness: Health care is not new to Walmart. Fifteen years ago, we revolutionized the healthcare industry when we launched the $4 generic drug price program, and today we operate 5,100 Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies in the United States, including Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. Our Walmart Health & Wellness strategy is to be an integrated, omnichannel healthcare provider that leverages data, technology and our unique assets to improve engagement, health equity and outcomes. By using all of our existing assets together — from fresh food, to pharmacies, to telehealth, to clinics — we are able to care for our customers when and where they need care, in the way that works best for them. Walmart Health was first launched in 2019 to provide a range of healthcare services for customers at transparent prices, and we’ve since expanded in Georgia, Illinois, Arkansas and Florida.

OMER GAJIAL, executive vice president of pharmacy and health at Albertsons: Albertsons operates 2,278 retail food and drug stores with 1,722 pharmacies. The company operates stores across 34 states and the District of Columbia under more than 20 well-known banners, including Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen, Carrs, Kings Food Markets and Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market. During the pandemic, our pharmacists and staff have been on the front lines providing essential healthcare services, including immunizations and health screenings. To date, Albertsons Companies’ pharmacists have administered 7,000 COVID-19 immunizations per store, accounting for more than 12 million COVID-19 vaccine doses. We continue to expand affordable access to healthy meals by accepting supplemental benefits that can be used to purchase fresh produce and wellness products at our stores.

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KATIE THORNELL, director of pharmacy operations at Stop & Shop: Stop & Shop Pharmacy operates over 250 in-store pharmacy locations across Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

DSN: WHAT NEW PATIENT-FACING SERVICES IS YOUR SUPERMARKET PHARMACY OFFERING OR PLANNING TO OFFER? KAYLOR: Our pharmacies have several new services our customers can take advantage of, including delivery, patients can get their medication needs as soon as the same day they are called in; vaccine scheduling, besides offering walk-ins, customers can now schedule an appointment for the vaccine they need ahead of time; Giant Rx Scheduler and Giant Pharmacy Scheduler; and Martin’s Rx Scheduler and Martin’s Pharmacy Scheduler. The Giant Company will be expanding health offerings by partnering with our dietitian and pharmacy teams to present unique health services in our stores. We also are partnering with community organizations to bring healthcare-related education to our communities. For instance, we’re currently working with UPMC Health Plan to offer free heart health classes at select stores. These classes include health screenings that test for cholesterol, blood pressure, etc., as well as other unique heart health-centered programs like cooking with a cardiologist. WATKINS: We focus on how we can lean in and really help with our dietitian team to address some of the issues around diabetes, especially with food and the state of prediabetes. There are things the pharmacy and clinics can do in conjunction to help patients to prevent progression from prediabetes to diabetes, and also help manage patients effectively if they do have diabetes. We’re looking at expanding on our commitment of improving five outcomes through our Food as Medicine strategy with obesity, diabetes, food insecurity, cost savings for healthier foods and an assortment of healthier SKUs. With diabetes, we want to scale our hemoglobin A1C point-of-care testing in our pharmacies. EDEKER: Hy-Vee has introduced several new patient-facing services over the past 18 months, including: • Virtual dietitian services, which are offered via the Healthie desktop platform and mobile app, including free virtual store tours, meal prep classes and more; • Vitamine, a national vitamin and supplement service that specializes in personalized vitamins that can be shipped directly to customers’ doors; • Wholelotta Good, a ship-to-home e-commerce site that offers customers a full range of dietitian-approved health and specialty products; • Vivid Clear Rx, a Hy-Vee subsidiary, which offers up to 80% savings on prescription medications via its free VCRx savings card; • RedBoxRx, which provides low-cost telehealth and online pharmacy services, and ships prescribed treatments directly to patients’ homes;

May 2022 DRUGSTORENEWS.COM

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PHARMACY: SUPERMARKETS

• Mobile Vaccination Units: Hy-Vee has long had a fleet of Hy-Vee Healthy You mobile buses that enable us to provide on-site vaccination and health fair services. To complement those, we now have 30 mobile vaccination units throughout our eightstate region beginning this spring; and • Amber Specialty Pharmacy, which offers home infusion services on a broader basis since helping to lead the way for administration of monoclonal antibody treatments via in-home infusions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

CARMOUCHE: Between April and June 2022, we are expanding the reach of Walmart Health by opening the doors to five new Walmart Health locations across Florida. Customer experience is our top priority, so we’ll continue to partner with local organizations and community leaders where it makes sense to ensure we’re able to deliver great care to our customers. GAJIAL: In response to increasing complexity of domestic and global travel, our pharmacies have taken on a larger role in travel health services. Many of our locations now staff travel medicine specialists who can help customers navigate the required and recommended immunizations or medications necessary for travel abroad. One thousand two hundred of our pharmacies offer walk-in and scheduled COVID-19 testing available for travel, work and event attendance purposes. In addition to on-demand COVID-19 testing, Albertsons pharmacies now provide point-of-care testing for seasonal flu and diagnostics/treatment for strep throat, thyroid function, cholesterol and more. Our pharmacy teams assist customers with next steps in addressing the issue and taking care of their health, including appropriate referrals to healthcare providers. THORNELL: With the PREP Act, we saw an expansion in the services that pharmacists were able to provide in support of their communities, such as performing COVID testing. In some areas, such as New York, legislation has passed that allows some of these expanded healthcare offerings to remain, even after the PREP Act ends. In New York, we are now proud to offer immunizations that protect against measles (MMR), hepatitis A and B, and HPV, which pharmacists were previously restricted from administering by regulations in New York. We have continued to work with federal and local public health officials to ensure we are able to meet the needs of our communities with a continuous supply of all COVID vaccines, and more recently, carrying COVID antiviral prescription medications to dispense in New York and Connecticut. DSN: HOW IS YOUR COMPANY ADDRESSING SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH AND THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC? KAYLOR: The Giant Company is addressing social determinants of health by getting involved directly in our communities to meet

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individual needs. We have stores in many diverse neighborhoods all presenting their own unique challenges. On the front lines of health care in the communities they serve, our pharmacy team aids in identifying and addressing local needs. For example, many communities we serve faced difficulties getting COVID19 vaccinations. Through education, outreach and vaccination clinics, we were able to reach a broader audience.

WATKINS: Supermarkets and retailers remained open at the height of the pandemic when many health systems and doctors’ offices were closed. We learned from that situation that we need to remain open and remove barriers that limit access to care for people who may not have access to healthy, nutritious foods. How do we partner with our omnichannel delivery chain to deliver healthy, nutritious foods to zip codes around the country? At the height of the pandemic, we partnered with Lyft so people could get a ride from home, work or school to one of our pharmacies to get a shot and then get a ride home. We’re looking to further double down on addressing transportation issues by partnering with public transportation organizations and municipalities that can help us provide people with free rides to one of our stores to get a COVID-19 vaccine. We’re also addressing food insecurity by partnering with health plans and other entities to personalize food boxes that are shipped every month directly to customers’ and patients’ homes. In the boxes, we include health pantry staple items and Food as Medicine educational products, which includes recipes and tips on how to stay healthy today and in the future. EDEKER: We have affordable telehealth provider visits with lowcost prescription medications in RedBoxRx. In addition, our retail pharmacy’s $4 prescription list has saved our customers millions, and it is more important than ever. Moreover, our Vivid Clear Rx discount prescription card launched during the past year. And our mobile vaccination units will be focused in underserved areas to improve accessibility to vaccines. We also are taking advantage of pharmacy scope-of-practice changes in some of the states we operate in to move forward with “test and treat.” Additionally, the Hy-Vee KidsFit program is re-energized and has become a staple for many families and schools in the communities we serve. Hy-Vee KidsFit Club provides free, high-quality and relevant health education that fits customer needs through newsletters, videos and online resources. CARMOUCHE: We often say zip code is more important than your genetic code when it comes to health. Many of the underserved communities we serve don’t have adequate access to health care, but they do have a Walmart pharmacy staffed by a pharmacist or pharmacy technician who understands local health needs. With nearly 4,000 of Walmart locations located within one or more of HRSA’s designated Medically Underserved Areas, there is an opportunity for us to make a real impact. We do this through offering affordable, fresh groceries and wellness items, plus

May 2022 DRUGSTORENEWS.COM

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PHARMACY: SUPERMARKETS

in-store wellness days where our pharmacists administer health screenings (4.4 million to date) and vaccinations. Walmart Health offers primary care and educational preventive healthcare resources based on local health needs. An example is the HabitNu diabetes management program in Chicago. Some of our longest-standing Walmart Health locations are starting to see a shift from primary care visits to chronic condition management as patients embrace preventive care.

GAJIAL: Our commitment is to make COVID-19 testing and vaccinations convenient and accessible in the many neighborhoods we serve. Recently, that’s meant offering secondround booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Customers with Medicare Part B coverage, including those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, are now able to get free COVID-19 rapid tests at our pharmacies. Through our partnership with Cue Health, launched this spring, we now offer highly accurate, convenient and fast molecular COVID-19 tests, with lab-quality results delivered in 20 minutes. In many cities we have pharmacy delivery for customers who want to get their medications without leaving their home. THORNELL: One program we hope to reinvigorate is our Health Screening and Community Event programs. At these events, we offer blood pressure screenings, blood glucose and cholesterol, where permitted by state regulations, and are currently exploring A1C offerings for patients. We have formed a strong partnership with Stop & Shop’s newly formed dietitian team, and moving forward, our strategy includes unified education and recommendations from our health experts. DSN: DESCRIBE ANY NEW TECHNOLOGIES THAT ARE BEING UTILIZED IN YOUR PHARMACIES. KAYLOR: We have new vaccination schedulers and the Rx app. The pharmacy section of our website and Rx app both offer prescription management to customers. The Rx app also includes a health library section with high-level information on various health topics. These are great options that our customers appreciate because they save time and make their lives easier. A new technology that the dietitian team encourages customers to explore is FlashFood. It’s an easy way for customers to save money on produce, meat, dairy and more, as well as reduce food waste. Just download the free app, browse the selection available at our nearest location, purchase directly on the app and pick up at the FlashFood zone near customer service. WATKINS: We leverage our telenutrition appointments with our dietitians to address chronic disease and conditions like obesity, which we know is a significant driver of health concerns, especially with prediabetes. We can connect you with one of our licensed healthcare providers on our telehealth

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appointments so that our NPs and other healthcare providers can be ready and able to treat you. Kroger’s Welsana Diabetes Prevention program pairs customers with Welsana health coaches who leverage technology, such as texting to your personal mobile device. They also provide monthly phone calls from coaches, who help you pick the right foods and the right amount of exercise, and teach you how to get better sleep. They also prescribe a personalized nutrition support plan. We are helping people understand that when you get real time actionable data, you can personalize this to get the solutions that work for you. We’ve also made tremendous enhancements to our own reporting and enterprise software solutions in our pharmacies, which allows insights into what’s happening with our patients in real time.

EDEKER: In December 2021, Hy-Vee announced a partnership with En-Vision America to offer ScripTalk talking prescription labels at our more than 275 retail pharmacies. The free talking prescription labels are available in 26 languages to visually and print-impaired patients. Using En-Vision America’s ScripTalk product, Hy-Vee pharmacists are able to program and place a small electronic tag on the prescription package, typically located on the bottom of the bottle. The tag contains all of the prescription label information. By scanning the label with either a ScripTalk reader (provided to each patient at no cost) or the free ScripTalk mobile app, patients can have all of their information read aloud. This information includes drug name, dosage, instructions, warnings, pharmacy information, doctor’s name, prescription number, date and more. ScripTalk can assist patients with low vision, blindness, dyslexia or other reading disabilities. CARMOUCHE: Our acquisition of MeMD allows us to provide telehealth services to more Americans, bridging the gap between in-person and digital solutions to our customers across our offerings. We’re also rolling out Epic’s technology across our Walmart Health centers, which will help deliver a more seamless and personalized healthcare experience for patients and providers. GAJIAL: During the pandemic, we created a scheduling tool that made it easier for millions to book appointments and receive their COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. This online tool can be used to book appointments for other vaccines, including flu, pneumonia, tetanus and shingles. Additionally, customers can access, view and save their digital vaccine record as proof of full COVID-19 vaccination. THORNELL: Our Immunization Scheduler allows patients to book their preferred vaccine, whether COVID, flu or other nonflu immunizations and even fill out their informed consent for a contactless experience in store. The Stop & Shop Pharmacy mobile app shows recent vaccine history of immunizations provided at our pharmacy, and it allows patients to manage their family’s medications to see what’s ready and to request refills. The app can be downloaded directly from your smart phone’s app store. dsn

May 2022 DRUGSTORENEWS.COM

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HEALTH: EYE AND EAR CARE

Everything Looks, and Sounds, So Clear Now Eye and ear care still driven by pandemic-related trends By Nora Caley

People are emerging from the COVID-19 crisis with itchy eyes and clogged ears. They’re also increasingly interested in self-care, and those factors are driving sales in eye and ear care products. As people return to work, school and travel, they are looking for products that offer relief from allergies, eye strain and the effects of too many hours with ear buds. According to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, sales of eye and lens care solutions in total U.S. multi-outlet (grocery, drug, mass market, military, and select club and dollar stores) increased 12.6% to $1.97 billion for the 52 weeks ending March 20, 2022, compared with the same period the previous year. The category fluctuated during the pandemic, as people stayed home and stared at screens initially, then ventured outside and faced the world and its various irritants. “The eye allergy itch relief category continues to grow as consumers seek fast-acting relief that works all day to relieve ocular allergy itching,” said Ramin Valian, vice president of U.S. Eye Care at Allergan, an AbbVie company. In fact, Valian said, citing figures from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, about 40% of the U.S. population lives with ocular conjunctivitis due to seasonal and year-round allergens. Allergan, which is based in Dublin, Ireland and has U.S. headquarters in Madison, N.J., received FDA approval for an Rx-to-OTC switch for the original patented prescriptionstrength formulation of Lastacaft antihistamine eye drops. The company said one drop of Lastacaft works in as little as three minutes and lasts 16 hours to relieve itchy eyes due to pollen, ragweed, grass, animal hair and dander.

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HEALTH: EYE AND EAR CARE

It’s not just allergens that are driving sales. As people look at their computers and smartphones, they are not blinking the usual 20 times per minute. “We blink less completely, often reducing our blink rate by half, which may cause eye dryness,” Valian said. In 2021, Allergan introduced Refresh Digital, designed to act fast to relieve mild-to-moderate symptoms of eye dryness that may result from digital device use.

Retailers Adapt to Trends People are not putting up with eye strain. “The pandemic has made selfcare an even more important part of health care for consumers,” Valian said. “Over-the-counter products are being turned to for treatment.” As foot traffic returns to many retail outlets, some stores are offering a more personalized experience by recommending products and deals that resonate with consumers. Shoppers want the eye care section to be easy to shop. Rohto, a Mentholatum brand, is working with retailers to streamline the purchasing process. In one initiative, the brand partnered with a chain to set up a screen in aisle, where shoppers can answer questions about symptoms to determine which product they need. “We are leaning on one another with this data to figure out how to make the user experience amazing for consumers, whether in store, online or pickup,” said Allison Sanders, senior brand manager of Rohto Cooling Eye Drops. The Horsham, Pa.-based Rohto offers several formulations, including Rohto Digi Eye and Rohto Optic Glow. Manufacturers competing for limited shelf space are developing innovative products. Rohto, which is the top-selling eye drop brand in Japan and globally, launched Rohto Digi Eye before the pandemic. “Digital eye strain and screen time were not top of mind to most,” Sanders said. “When COVID happened, people were on multiple devices, binge-watching their favorite shows, and people started to recognize, my eyes are red, my eyes are dry.” Purchasing behavior changed. Early in the pandemic, shoppers made tough decisions about what to buy. They didn’t perceive eye care products as a necessity unless their healthcare professional told them they needed a particular product. Routine items, such as drops to relieve red eye, weren’t in demand. “People weren’t going out, they weren’t partying, they weren’t participating in pre-pandemic activities,” Sanders said. “Redness-relieving eye products took a huge hit.” The need for red eye relief products has returned, as has the demand for natural products. In a March blog post, the research firm SPINS noted that sales of natural products grew 4% over the past year, compared to conventional products, which grew 0.6%. Manufacturers are noticing the trend. “Specifically, consumers are looking for natural alternatives that can help maintain or improve overall health without the use of harsh chemicals or hidden ingredients,” said Susan Hanson, COO of Reno, Nev.-based The Relief Products. “For this reason, homeopathic products are appealing to an increasingly larger demographic based on three main factors: safety, effectiveness and the use of natural active ingredients.” Another trend, Hanson said, is a renewed focus on personal accountability when it comes to health and wellness. A recent survey of more than 5,000 natural products by Social Nature, a website

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Rohto Sun&Sport Lubricant Eye Drops

(Coming in July 2022) Sun&Sport helps to protect eyes against the wind and sun, as well as prevent eyes from further irritation. Its defense against the sun comes from its Cornea Protection Formula, and its lubricant helps to keep eyes hydrated. It is also BAK free. The eye drops offer cooling, soothing comfort.

Rohto Digi Eye

SRP: $11.49 Rohto Digi Eye helps relieve symptoms of digital eye strain. Its redness-relieving, lubricating formula is boosted with an instant cooling sensation that helps soothe eyes for up to eight hours. The pink color comes from vitamin B12.

Rohto Optic Glow

SRP: $13.99 This formula is packed with maximum-strength redness relief, dual lubricants for added hydration and HydroGlow Technology to help improve the health of the corneal surface. It’s BAK free and soothes eyes for up to eight hours.

May 2022 DRUGSTORENEWS.COM

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HEALTH: EYE AND EAR CARE

that helps consumers find natural and sustainable products, found that 44% of participants are now taking more preventative health measures than they were a year ago, and 45% of respondents said they will keep buying healthier products in the future. Hanson noted that a new generation of consumers are knowledgeable about health and wellness, are seeking minimal ingredients and greater product transparency, and are looking to address their health needs from the comfort of their homes. Preservative-free is another significant feature in eye care. “Preservativefree drops are very important in the dry eye symptom category,” said Joe Gordon, U.S. president of Bausch + Lomb. “They can reduce the risk of irritation associated with preservatives.” The Somerset, N.J.-based company makes Bausch + Lomb Biotrue Hydration Boost Lubricant eye drops that are

“The last two years have conditioned consumers to look to their pharmacy as a primary resource for care.” — Marsha Garcia, president, Doctor Easy Medical Products

preservative free and offer instant moisture. The multidose system bottle is designed to allow zero air from getting back into the drops inside. Another driver of the need for red eye relief, Gordon said, is that people are traveling again. The World Travel & Tourism Council projected that travel and tourism in the United States will exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2022. “This means an increase in the potential of eye dryness and discomfort that comes with traveling,” he said. “For those who wear contact lenses, the symptoms of dry eyes can be further exacerbated by recycled air in office buildings and airplanes.” Bausch + Lomb Biotrue Hydration Boost Lubricant eye drops are also contact lens-friendly. Getting relief from red eyes is not only about comfort but also appearance, especially as people trade their video chats for in-person meetings and social activities. “Consumers — especially millennials — are seeking out options to have their eyes look their best, resulting in a blurring of the lines between beauty and health within eye care,” Gordon said. For its part, Bausch + Lomb continues to explore new options for those who want healthier, more beautiful-looking eyes.

Listening Carefully Millennials and other age groups are not just watching their screens, but also listening to content, often through earbuds or headphones. Many workers are still attending virtual meetings, and wearing ear plugs to quiet their surroundings while working from home. That has resulted in some earwax impaction, and consumers seek relief through OTC products. Also according to IRI, sales of ear care products for the 52 weeks ending March 20, 2022 totaled $181.2 million, an increase of 18.8% compared with the same period the previous year. Many self-care focused consumers visited their retailers instead of healthcare providers’ offices during the pandemic. “The last two years have conditioned consumers to look to their pharmacy as a primary resource for care,” said Marsha Garcia, president of Orange Park, Fla.-based Doctor Easy Medical Products.

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Clinere Carbamide Peroxide Kit

SRP: $7.99 This method for loosening earwax includes carbamide peroxide drops and Clinere Ear Cleaners. The Clinere Carbamide Peroxide Earwax Removal Kit works by softening and loosening earwax. When drops are placed in the ear, the carbamide peroxide will release oxygen, which will begin to foam, breaking down the earwax. Once broken down, earwax can be removed using the Clinere Ear Cleaner tool.

“Retailers can build upon that closer relationship with consumers by better adapting to their desire for self-care in all categories, including ear.” Doctor Easy, which makes WaxRx Ear Wash systems, offers home-use kits and professionaluse kits. Earwax impaction is an all-ages issue. Pediatricians are a huge market for the brand’s Elephant Ear Washer and other products, and the aging population is a big audience too. “There are eight recognized causes of hearing loss, and earwax buildup is one,” Garcia said. Also, people who use hearing aids are buying the products because earwax is the No. 1 killer of the devices. There are opportunities for retailers to add effective self-care solutions, Garcia said, to empower their customers to avoid doctor visits. The growth in ear treatment sales reflects consumers’ increased reliance on drug stores for effective treatments to ear problems. “Consumers will respond when retailers offer innovative, effective solutions to their health needs,” she said.

May 2022 DRUGSTORENEWS.COM

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HEALTH: EYE AND EAR CARE

Hyland’s Naturals Dry Ear Relief Oil

The Relief Products Dryness Relief

SRP: $12.99 Consumers are not going to give up their earbuds and headphones, so Hyland’s Naturals developed Hyland’s Dry Ear Relief Oil, a product designed to address the need for ear itch relief with fast, effective and natural relief. Hyland’s products have no artificial flavors or dyes and are cruelty free and allergen free.

SRP: $10.99 TRP’s homeopathic eye drop is formulated to naturally moisten dry, irritated eyes. Dryness Relief uses 100% natural active ingredients to temporarily relieve symptoms including extreme dryness, redness, lack of tears and achy eyes. Dryness Relief is safe and gentle to use with no known side effects or interactions with other medications or contraindications.

Allergan Lastacaft

SRP: $18.96 - $21.33 for the 5 ml 60-day supply One drop of Lastacaft antihistamine eye drops works in as little as three minutes and lasts 16 hours to relieve itchy eyes due to pollen, ragweed, grass, animal hair and dander. Lastacaft is now available without a prescription at major retailers in store and online.

The use of earbuds and headphones, and the focus on self-care, are not going away. “Consumer interest in the ear care category has exploded since the start of the pandemic,” said Lauri Gosline, category development manager at Quest Products, based in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. “Total households shopping in ear care has increased from 8.1% during the start of the pandemic to 11.8% postpandemic, with growth coming from both online and in brick-and-mortar.” Quest makes the Clinere line of ear care cleaning tools and kits, and the company found that 37% of Clinere users use headphones regularly or often, and an additional 33% use these occasionally. Retailers have added innovative products to their assortments, so the opportunity now is for the stores to educate consumers. “We recently learned that while many consumers are beginning their research online or getting recommendations from

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doctors or friends and family, consumers are still going to the shelf to look for solutions,” Gosline said. “Fifty-five percent of Clinere users learned about Clinere at the shelf.” Retailers’ ear care sections should include both ear drops and tools, Gosline said, as consumers use the drops to soften their earwax, then use a tool like Clinere to remove the softened wax from their ear. “The key to retailer success is dedicating the right amount of space to support the increase in new shoppers and household penetration, and that they are making the segment easy to navigate and shop.” Another way to make the segment easy to shop is to take an omnichannel approach. “While in-person shopping for immediate product needs has seen a resurgence, online sales, subscription options and click-and-collect fulfillment are convenience options that consumers expect and increasingly leverage,” said Les Hamilton, chief revenue officer at Los Angeles-based Hyland’s Naturals. Retailers and brands are broadening their advertising strategies to include digital marketing. Hamilton also noted that there has been an increase in retailers and brands leveraging social media advertising, especially on TikTok and Instagram. They are also collaborating with influencers to promote products and direct consumers to specific retailers for purchase. dsn

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HEALTH: IMMUNITY

Immunity Supplements are the New Multivitamin The cold-and-flu seasonal sales spike has blossomed to 365 wellness. Get busy By Taffel Sturgeon

The cold and flu season has always been gravy days for selling immune-support supplements. The COVID-19 pandemic that hit in 2020 accelerated supplement sales like never before, with sales in the immunity supplement category spiking more than 70% year-over-year to reach nearly $6 billion in 2020, according to Nutrition Business Journal data. But you had a sense of that already. While the rush of sales has obviously fallen from the 2020 boom, what has remained is a prevailing consumer sentiment around purchasing supplements to support a healthy immune system. In 2020, just about any product with an “immune” label was selling hot. In fact, the immune shelves in many stores were as empty as the paper tissue aisle. Immune supplement manufacturers were scrambling overtime to restock inventory shortages. In 2021, immune supplement makers naturally raised their forecasts and production ramped up to

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Sales in the immunity supplement category spiked more than

70%

year-over-year to reach nearly

$6 billion

in 2020.

meet the ongoing global consumer immunity demand. Now in 2022, two new things are afoot: Immune supplement sales remain in record territory compared with the same months pre-2019, and sales demand is maintaining an unprecedented 12-month cycle. “Seasonal wellness” is now “yearround immune support.” As an example, Natural Path Silver Wings, manufacturer of colloidal silver liquid immune supplements, changed its slogan in Q4 2020 to “Year-round Immune Protection—Covered!” “We’re seeing year-round steady sales — even in the summer,” said Andreas Koch, Natural Path Silver Wings’ marketing director. The pandemic has solidified within the consumer’s mind the notion that supporting and maintaining immune health is not just a winter-time necessity; rather, immune system health and support must be pursued year-round.

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Immunity supplement sales overall are strong and growing due to media, new and younger users entering the category, and consumers looking for preventive types of products due to COVID-19. “In Q1 2022, immunity sales were greater than they were a year ago and segment-level trends looked similar to years prior,” said Tisha Winters, brand manager at Olly, “indicating immunity supplements are a 365-days-a-year game.”

Nature Made Wellblends ImmuneMAX

The New Multi You might call immunity supplements the new multivitamin. It’s almost as if the consumer perception of supplements has changed. Multivitamins remain a top seller — both women’s and men’s multivitamins are in the top 10 of 2021 supplement sales, according to Nielsen data. But where multivitamins were once considered foundational to general wellness and to help fill in nutrient gaps in less than stellar dietary consumption habits, multivitamins are now also looked at in the context of immune support. “The immune system cannot function optimally without having the basic nutritional building blocks for complete health and wellbeing,” said Adam Sutter, vice president of quality and scientific affairs at ChildLife Essentials. “With this view, multivitamins can be seen as another tool within the toolbox of immune system support.” What researchers are discovering — and consumers are beginning to understand — is how so many other health concerns are tied to immune function. Stress and anxiety affect immune response. Healthy sleep habits influence immunity. When seen holistically, the sky’s the limit for immune function. “Quality sleep, a robust immune system and stress management are not only essential to achieving optimal health, they are inextricably linked to one another,” said Susan Mitmesser, vice president of science and technology at Pharmavite, which owns Nature Made. “When one is out of balance it can negatively impact the other two.”

Ingredient Leaders Proper immune-system health requires a multipronged and multifaceted approach, which includes key vitamins such as vitamins C and D, minerals such as zinc and popular botanicals like elderberry or echinacea.

ChildLife Essentials Elderberry Super-Immune SoftChew Gummies

SRP: $19.95 Immune support is a core part of the entire ChildLife product portfolio because nothing ruins a kid’s day — not to mention a mom’s day at work — like being sick. Gummies got their start as the leading supplement delivery format overall by starting with children. Elderberry is a perfect ingredient for gummies because of its inherently rich, yummy flavor. These gummies are made to melt easily for easy compliance. A win for both kids and moms.

Mason Vitamins ImmuneDefense

SRP: $15.99 Big-time channel brand’s new Wellblends line is a sure-fire hit — tangerine-flavored gummies pack a trio of wellknown vitamin ingredients listed front-of-pack that target the related areas of sleep, stress and immunity. The gummies are gluten free with no artificial ingredients. A serving size is three gummies, but with those high doses — 750 mg vitamin C, 5,000 IU vitamin D, with 3 mg zinc — even two gummies ought to do the trick.

Sambucol Black Elderberry Gummies

SRP: $13.99 for 14 powder stick packs This new concept rings the bells on both convenience and non-pill format. The individual serving size stick packs are easy to take on the go, and are selling two to three times faster than the overall immune category. Each stick pack contains elderberry, selenium, zinc, vitamins C and D, as well as electrolytes. “We are receiving good feedback from our retailer partners and consumers on this form,” said Chuck Tacl, senior vice president of sales and business development at Mason.

SRP: : $12.99 The OG elderberry company uses premium Haschberg black elderberries grown in Europe that in gummy form provide the equivalent of 1.7 g of elderberry (Sambucus nigra) per gummy. Pectin-based gummies mean no gelatin or animal byproducts, and only 1 g of sugarcane per gummy is on the low end for gummies. Overall, these are a great combination of health and taste.

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HEALTH: IMMUNITY

Some brands are differentiating by straying from these tried-and-true nutrients to offer immunesupport formulations that include probiotics — well-known for digestive benefits but also immunity — as well as quercetin, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) and branded ingredients like EpiCor and Wellmune. “Having many offerings of these items, each using different combinations of actives or different delivery systems,” Sutter said, “enables us to ensure we have an offering which will match every child’s unique health-and-wellness needs and preferences.”

“We believe the immune support category segment is here to stay although it may be over SKU’d at the current time as a reaction to COVID.” — Lou Manchin, managing director, Lifelab Health

Multi-ingredient immunity products are doing well because consumers are looking to not have to take three or four different pills at one time.

Diversity is Strength At the same time, new formats — powder sticks, effervescents, liquids and gummies — are growing faster than the overall immunity category. These non-pill formats overtook traditional capsules and tablets in 2019 as the predominant format of consumer purchase, according to Nutrition Business Journal. “Stick powders are growing two to three times faster than the category,” said Chuck Tacl, senior vice president of sales and business development at Mason Vitamins, “due to pill fatigue, younger users coming into the category, convenience and portability.” Different formats meet consumers where they are and provide choices that meet circumstances. “There are actually two distinct types of shopper in the store,” said Art Rowe-Cerveny, vice president of marketing at PharmaCare US, which makes the Sambucol elderberry line. “One is the reactive shopper who is purchasing because of a need state — they are not feeling well or someone in the family is not well. These shoppers

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Twinings Cold Water Infusions Probiotics+ tea

SRP: $5.99 for 10 servings The infusers are a quick way to liven up water. Just drop the packet’s contents in a water bottle, then wait five minutes, shaking occasionally. Each packet contains the clinically validated dose of 500 million CFUs of the BC30 probiotic strain, documented to support digestive health and immunity. Plus the tea is naturally caffeine free, sugarfree and low calorie, with no artificial sweeteners or flavors.

Protexin Bio-Kult Boosted

SRP:$36.95 for 30 capsules Probiotics continue their consumer acceptance for gut health and immunity. The Boosted SKU was launched during the pandemic — a line extension from the original product only with four times the concentration of 14 probiotic strains, as well as vitamin B12. It quickly became the brand’s topselling product. The bacteria are cryoprotected during the freezedrying process, which protects them from being compromised by stomach acids and allows for shelf stability.

go for the tried-and-true and most powerful, and our syrup is the best-selling product for them. Second is the proactive shopper, who is planning ahead and incorporating Sambucol into a daily regimen. This shopper prefers the gummies for the ease of use, portability and overall great taste.” Just to temper the frothy waters — even though immune-support supplement sales are crushing it — every supplement company is putting out line extensions. This makes the job of distributors and product buyers in stores more difficult. After all, there’s only so much shelf space. “We believe the immune support category segment is here to stay although it may be over SKU’d at the current time as a reaction to COVID,” said Lou Manchin, managing director of Lifelab Health, which has a BerryWorks Immune Support supplement featuring elderberry. That means shelf stockers should be discerning about offering a diversity of products — and a balance of product formats. In diversity there is strength. That’s because supplements for immune system support in capsules, tasty gummies, lozenges, travel-size liquid spray or on-the-go dropper bottles are more than ever becoming common. dsn

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CONSUMABLES: CANDY

Sweet, Sweet Success Two years of the pandemic resulted in record candy sales as consumers sought comfort, surprise and delight By Hannah Esper

The story goes that, after three failed attempts to get Hershey off the ground, the Hershey’s Kiss took off during the Great Depression. It was affordable and provided instant gratification. Today, after more than two years of enduring a pandemic, consumers are continuing to seek the sweetness of a confection to make them forget about their daily woes. Confectionery sales totaled $36.9 billion in 2021, according to the 2022 State of Treating Report by the National Confectioners Association, or NCA. The year marked another strong period, setting new sales records and growing at a faster clip than most other categories. Americans surely sought confections as they cocooned in their homes, seeking fun treats and being less conscientious of the long-term outcomes. The NCA report found that 72% of consumers believe that physical health and emotional well-being are interconnected, and 78% of adults believe it’s perfectly fine to indulge with chocolate or candy occasionally. The question remains if 2022 will shape up to be another banner year for confections. As American consumers emerge from their cocoons, many are returning to a healthier lifestyle. Lou DiMarco, executive vice president of novelty candy maker Hilco, expects an evening out in the category, with a baseline higher than it was before the pandemic. “There’s such a loyalty to the fun value of candy that we’re still seeing growth,” he said. Another factor contributing to the category’s impressive growth is a re-engagement with the confectionary seasons — the periods around various holidays when people are consuming candy. “Families celebrated seasons in different ways in the past two years, so offering them different varieties and new ways to celebrate seasons together as a family has been really fun for Frankford,” said Molly Jacobson, director of business development at Frankford Candy. The company recently worked on two collaborations for Easter: lemonade mixes in conjunction with Peeps and coffeeflavored jelly beans with Dunkin’.

Flavor Adventuring The non-chocolate category is dominating right now, up 14.5% in dollar sales growth in 2021, compared to 9.2% for chocolate, according to the NCA report. DiMarco said consumers have been responding to non-chocolate during the pandemic because it’s a great, affordable treat. “The non-chocolate category is definitely on fire.” In both segments, consumers are seeking new experiences when they indulge in a sweet treat. Surprise candy varieties and new flavor combinations are driving innovation within the novelty candy category as well as the mainstream brands. “They’re adding all these different items that are already strong flavor profiles, but they’re creating them and putting those into different candy items,” said Clark Taylor, senior vice president of sales and marketing at CandyRific, which sells candy and novelty product combinations using popular licensed brands. Flavors such as mango, chili lime and strawberry are being combined to create something unique. “That seems to be the surprise and delight that you would probably look at as driving additional volume in candy today,” he said. As people stop spending quite so much time at home, Jacobson said she expects consumers

Mars Wrigley Starburst Airs

SRP: Varies, 4.3-oz. peg bag Different from a typical gummy candy, Starburst Airs feature an inflated texture, resulting in a fluffy aerated experience. The pillow-like gummies are available in original and sour tropical packs featuring beloved Starburst flavors.

Skinny Dipped Strawberry Lemonade Almonds

SRP: $4.99 In time to kick off summer, these whole roasted almonds are sourced from certified bee-friendly farms, dipped in a lightly sweetened yogurt coating and kissed with real lemon and berry.

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Frankford Candy Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Gummies

Hilco Warheads 3-Pack Popping Candy

SRP: $1.99 The Warheads Everyday Popping Candy peg bags come with three pouches of candy in Sour Blue Raspberry, Watermelon and Green Apple flavors. For Halloween, the peg bags have Halloween graphics and are available in Wicked Watermelon, R.I.P. Raspberry and Cackle Apple flavors.

SRP: $4 for 5.6-oz. box Packaged in a box that mimics the iconic Kraft Mac and Cheese, each of these gummies is shaped like a macaroni noodle. The licensed partnership brings a recognizable fruit flavor served up as a playful take on a comfort brand that delights children and brings a nostalgic feeling to adults.

“The non-chocolate category is definitely on fire.” — Lou DiMarco, executive vice president, Hilco

to seek new experiences with candy. “The pandemic was all about stocking up on what you love, and now people are looking for new experiences outside of the home,” she said.

New Takes on Old Favorites In addition to trying exotic flavors, consumers are looking for new and exciting ways to enjoy their favorite brands. “I think that’s one of the hottest trends right now,” Jacobson said. “How do you take brands from across the store and bring them into new aisles?” One way Frankford Candy is introducing consumers to new products is by combining nostalgic brands with new formats. The company’s Oscar Meyer gummy hot dogs, brought in under the Kraft Heinz brand, is an example of reaching brand-loyal consumers in a playful way. Each fruit-flavored gummy is shaped like a little hot dog. This innovation builds off another trend: food as an icon, which Jacobson said is having a moment right now, meaning food objects are finding their way into play patterns in categories such as plush toys and clothing.

Better-for-You Bets The NCA report found that 47% of consumers occasionally purchase confectionery items they personally deem to have a “better-for-you” profile. With the pandemic driving consumers to both indulge and take charge of their health, many brands are working to provide healthier options, by either including nutrients, such as fiber or vitamins, or using ingredients such as tapioca syrup or sugar alcohols as sweeteners. “More than ever, consumers are looking for healthier, lower sugar and cleaner label alternatives to the ‘old school’ treats they love, but they don’t want to sacrifice flavor or enjoyment,” said Breezy Griffith, CEO of SkinnyDipped, which competes with legacy brands by making lower sugar alternatives to favorites such as peanut butter cups. As pharmacies continue on the path of becoming healthcare destinations, offering an assortment of options for those optimizing their health while still indulging in treats — either for themselves or their children — is sure to be a good bet. dsn

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CandyRific Grogu-inspired Character Fan

SRP: $5.99 CandyRific’s expansion on Star Warsthemed items features characters from the live action Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.” The new design of the Grogu-inspired Character Fan features the show’s character and a button that produces a burst of cool air. Each fan comes with .53 oz. of assorted fruitflavored dextrose candies.

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L AST WO R D

Building Strategies Around Local Products From sustainability to customer experience, retailers are finding reasons to advance the local trend By David Orgel

The local products trend is gaining new momentum. Not long ago, much of the buzz around “local” centered on environmental sustainability, including the benefits of avoiding the transport of certain items over long distances. That’s still an important aspect, to be sure, but the local trend is also increasingly identified with supporting local economies and communities, developing home-grown supplier bases, overcoming supply chain hurdles and driving new experiences for customers. Local is even being described in amplified ways. Terms like “hyperlocal” are giving the trend added importance. Given that local links to so many goals, the main caveat for food and drug retailers is to be clear about which goals they are targeting.

Target Gets Experiential Target opened more than 30 new stores in 2021, and store development has put an emphasis on local angles. These include experiential design elements, such as a mural painted on the inside of a store in Lihue Kauai, Hawaii. Local is also important in assortments, with local sports team merchandise showcased in a store on the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor campus.

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

Kroger Emphasizes Hyperlocal When Kroger revealed its 10 Food Trends for 2022, “hyperlocal” was one of those featured. The retailer pointed to aspects ranging from the environment to the economy. “Consumers are more conscious about the environmental and social impacts of their food purchases and are making it a point to purchase products grown or made close to home,” the retailer said. “Alternative farms have created a way to get locally sourced, natural ingredients at their peak freshness — so everyone can support and enjoy their local farms — and in-store bakery items are providing consumers a chance to support small businesses.”

These local campaigns can drive business and customer loyalty.

What is the biggest challenge in succeeding with local product strategies? A lot of retailers would say it’s the hurdle of finding enough great local suppliers. That’s why many retailers are introducing new ways of identifying supplier prospects. Last year, Walgreens took a unique approach with its firstever Localization Summit, described as a “virtual showcase for diverse, local and regional businesses and entrepreneurs to share their retail offerings with the merchants of the national drug store chain.” The virtual event, hosted by ECRM, was intended to attract businesses from throughout the country to build more locally relevant offerings for customers. Another first-time event was Giant Foods’ Local Vendor Summit, held virtually in February of this year. The showcase aimed to draw local businesses within Giant Food’s market area of Washington, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware. Meanwhile, Hy-Vee recently had its fifth Best of Local Brands Summit to support its retail stores in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. It attempts to identify suppliers with diverse backgrounds.

Whole Foods Market Celebrates Local Neighborhoods

Local Campaigns Are Hard Work

When Whole Foods Market opened its newest retail unit in San Francisco recently, the launch celebrated the city and put local Northern California products in the forefront. Some 3,700 local items are spotlighted in this flagship store, ranging from wines of Napa and Santa Cruz vineyards to skin care products and supplements. The store’s design is partly themed around San Francisco neighborhoods.

There are many good reasons to embrace local product strategies. Each retailer needs to understand its own unique spin on this trend. These local campaigns can drive business and customer loyalty. However, they also take a lot of effort. They need to be executed in sophisticated ways to generate positive — and not negative — buzz. After all, what happens locally doesn’t always stay local. dsn

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Bold New Look. Same Smart Science.

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§ These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease

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