CHARLESTON, S.C. — How about some pasta with that antibiotic?
The pharmacy counter may not be the first place people think of for meal planning, but Piggly Wiggly South Carolina is hoping to change that mindset.
Under a new strategy, Piggly Wiggly is featuring select groceries — even wine and chocolate — in its 13 pharmacies.
“The goal is to start a conversation between the shopper and pharmacist about how to eat healthier,” Scott Wink, the retailer's pharmacy director, told SN.
Each month, about two items that tie in with a common food theme are merchandised at the pharmacy counter with signage encouraging shoppers to get more information from the pharmacist.
Last month Piggly Wiggly-brand extra virgin olive oil and Mueller's whole-wheat pastas were featured. “Don't feel guilty … pasta and olive oil have proven health benefits,” read the sign. “Ask a pharmacist for help.”
Fiber was another theme. Fiber One bars and Cinnamon Burst Cheerios were featured. Cinnamon Burst Cheerios were chosen because they're tastier than regular ones, said Wink. Another month, Healthy Choice soup and low-salt crackers were on display.
“We don't want to feature foods no one will like,” Wink noted. “We want food that tastes good and people will actually eat.”
The initiative is part of an effort to position Piggly Wiggly as a health and wellness destination.
“This is not about selling lots of product,” Wink stressed. “We're trying to brand the pharmacy as a place where you go to get healthy; not just to get pills.”
Store pharmacists and technicians are sent informational materials and links to webmd.com  so that they can educate themselves about the theme of the month.
In the case of Fiber One bars, pharmacists were sent nutritional information that showed the bars provide 35% of the daily recommended amount of fiber.
“We provide some basic health data for the techs and operators and then links for the pharmacists to get more specific details,” said Wink.
One of the most eyebrow-raising themes came in February, when Piggly Wiggly pharmacy counters featured Hershey's Nuggets dark chocolate with almonds and Red Diamond cabernet sauvignon wine.
Cabernet was chosen because it's high in resveratrol, which has shown potential benefit in reducing the risk of Alzheimer's. Cold-weather states like Washington (which produces Red Diamond) and Oregon have higher levels of resveratrol in wine than, say, California.
While Red Diamond was the suggested brand, pharmacists were told they could pick another cabernet as long as it was from Oregon or Washington.
Meanwhile, dark chocolate with almonds was chosen because almonds have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol, and dark chocolate because it's high in antioxidants, inhibits platelet activity and has some cardioprotective effects.
During one-on-one consultations, pharmacists stressed that moderation is key. They underscored the point that too much dark chocolate can cause a temporary rise in blood pressure and is high in calories.
“We do not want to encourage people to start eating additional chocolate. But if they were going to eat chocolate anyway this one is better for them,” informational materials stressed to Piggly Wiggly pharmacists.
The displays have prompted about one dozen people to consult with pharmacy staff weekly at Piggly Wiggly's Mount Pleasant, S.C., store, according to Greg Brownlee, the store's pharmacist.