Drug chains move to align food with health

March 16, 2011

Supermarkets are squandering their ‘everything good for you’ lead, and drug stores aim to capture share.

If supermarkets don’t watch their flank, drug stores could soon become America’s primary health and wellness darlings – many with stepped-up food presentations.
Significant strides by Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid could soon threaten to upset the truism that supermarkets have the most wellness elements under one roof.

Most recently, CVS has revived its relationship with Weight Watchers to offer rewards to its ExtraCare loyalty club members and Weight Watchers members. This early-in-the-year partnership comes when many New Year’s resolutions to lose weight are still alive, and when the desire to look great in a swimsuit will soon be upon us.  For example, Weight Watchers members will get Extra Bucks discounts on healthy snacks and health-related merchandise; CVS cardholders will pay less to attend Weight Watchers meetings.

Meanwhile, Walgreens, which has openly declared it wants to “own well,” is revving up its 10-month-long AARP/Walgreens Wellness Tour. It deploys nine buses with trained staff to give free health tests in communities nationwide. Among them:  total cholesterol and glucose levels to help prevent and detect disease early.

Walgreens is also engaging women bloggers to reach a target audience between 25 and 54 and influence their purchase of private label.

Followers of these chains are already familiar with their recent endeavors in fresh foods, as well as with Rite Aid’s addition of the Save-A-Lot discount, limited-assortment concept, including fresh meat and produce, to ten stores in the Greenville, SC market. 

Supermarkets need to react to these moves aimed at their shopper bases with differentiating initiatives. Innovative programs could effectively connect the powerful pro-health image of in-store pharmacies with the healthful foods supermarkets sell elsewhere in the store.

There’s not enough symmetry between the pharmacy asset and the rest of the supermarket. It doesn’t matter if reasons are cultural, operational or organizational. The time is long overdue to close this gap and give consumers a seamless one-stop experience, not only in the sense of picking up prescriptions with food, but in understanding how both work together to sustain and promote good health.