Prescriptions are down and people are opting for more basic products than those positioned as health and wellness, said Charles Yahn, vice president, sales, retail development and pharmacy, Associated Wholesalers Inc., Robesonia, Pa. While price has become the top priority, health consciousness remains high, he said.
“Natural and organic sales are a little slower, but if the price is right, then sales are holding their own.” Yahn finds many people following the advice of the popular book, “Eat This, Not That!” by David Zenczenko and Matt Goulding. The book offers advice on selecting healthy versions of commonplace food products.
“What you are going to see is people being more conscious of where they spend their dollar, and they are going to spend it where they feel it helps them the most. That is true with health care; that is true with vitamins, and anything else. So health and wellness is still very important to them. If you have the money, it is easy to do anything. But if you don't, then you do what you think is the most important,” Yahn said.
Consumers will be more focused on value in 2009, said Bob Dufour, a former pharmacy executive with Wal-Mart and now a consultant with Ernst & Young, New York. “Last year, we saw many pharmacies adopt low-price generic prescription programs. For 2009, we can anticipate a continuum of value-based programs that may very well move over the counter. We will also see the continuation of technologies deployed for the benefit of the consumer,” he said.
“Health and wellness will not take a backseat during a recession, but how it is addressed by consumers will undergo changes,” said Roy White, vice president, sales, the Food Institute, Elmwood Park, N.J. “As incomes recede and living costs go up, consumers will reinforce the already well-established trend towards self-treatment as a way to cut health costs. That's good news for supermarkets, because they already carry a very complete selection of over-the-counter products. The presence of supermarket pharmacies and the emergent easy-access, lower-cost in-store clinics will well position those operators that have them,” he said.
“Leading food store operators will work hard to integrate pharmacy, OTC/wellness products and in-store clinics [in the year ahead]. Because this powerful combo offers a more economical alternative for less-than-catastrophic health issues, supermarketers can offer consumers what they are looking for — a way to access health in a lower-cost mode,” White said.