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Chowing down in the drug store

Chowing down in the drug store

It’s not just candy bars and cereal in the pharmacy anymore. It’s mac and cheese with gruyere and white truffle oil. It’s fresh salad bars. It’s hot soup. 

As reported on in the SN story “Duane Reade digs deeper into fresh,” pharmacies such as the New York City-based Duane Reade are taking their commitment to fresh foods very seriously. The Walgreens banner’s two “up market” locations have features like sushi chefs and premium frozen yogurt machines. Plus, 56 stores have fresh foods such as Duane Reade’s popular Delish line that includes artisan bread sandwiches and ready-to-heat comfort food sides.

Traditional supermarkets (and quick-service restaurants) should take note.

When I spoke to Duane Reade’s perishables category specialist Michelle Carnagio about Duane Reade’s fresh foods, she compared the retailer to a bodega. The analogy is right on. Like a bodega, Duane Reade can be competitive with food for three reasons in particular.

• Convenience: It’s two for one. The shopper stops into Duane Reade to pick up a birthday card or some Band-Aids, and can grab a sandwich for the office on the way out. This type of shopping won’t impact big stock-up trips at supermarkets, but encroaches on quick trips to the supermarket and lunch occasions at restaurants. Duane Reade is also convenient in its sheer availability. Carnagio said Duane Reade originally decided to offer fresh food because there’s a Duane Reade on every corner. She’s not far off. There are 250 stores, many densely located in Manhattan, available for a pedestrian to pop into.


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• Ingredients: Duane Reade shows careful consideration for prepared food ingredients, many of them premium. Carnagio keeps her eye out for the newest trends (such as the truffle oil), and the retailer sources prepared foods from local suppliers. The frozen yogurt machines have a sign saying they come from a well-known dairy company located a few hours outside the city.

• Agility: The pharmacy acts like an independent grocer in some ways, matching its offerings to neighborhood demand. Duane Reade is ready to switch up its shelves based on what’s popular. “We can get trendy foods, trendy drinks, trendy refrigerated beverages, in and out really quickly to keep up with the expectations of the New Yorkers that are visiting our stores,” said Carnagio.

How can your supermarket act more like a bodega?

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