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5 things: The fall of the retail pharmacist

Here’s 5 things you may have missed in grocery

Emergency medical attention needed: Pharmacists across the U.S. have decided they’ve reached a breaking point. Many say they are now doing multiple tasks, including vaccinations, and are being worked to the bone. In the meantime, retailers like CVS and Walgreens have been trying to grow their retail pharmacy game, including turning thousands of stores into community clinics. But it won’t work if the company can’t hire or retain its pharmacists. According to data from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy the application rate of those looking to become pharmacists has declined over 60% in the last decade. And it's not that easy to figure out the staffing challenges. CVS could hire more staff to help pharmacists, but pharmacy chains have reported weaker retail sales due to inflation. On top of that, pharmacies have been earning fewer federal reimbursement dollars for prescriptions. It’s a tough nut to crack and here’s hoping retailers can figure it out. —Bill Wilson

A wonderland of Mexican food: The new Mercado González food hall by California-based Northgate González in Costa Mesa, recently opened and is doing a bang up job capturing the full mercado experience — converging groceries with multiple dining options. Eater writes that the new dining destination is a bold project from the Mexican supermarket chain founded by Don Miguel and Doña Teresa González, which spans 43 markets across four Southern California counties. Stalls, produce kiosks, a full-service restaurant — the market has it all. It’s a foodservice at retail dream, and we’re here for it. —Chloe Riley

H-E-B returns to top-five status: San Antonio based H-E-B has rejoined Publix Super Markets in the top five on the Forbes list of America’s Largest Private Companies for 2023, after coming in at No. 6 last year. The magazine pegged H-E-B’s revenues at $43.6 billion, an increase of about 10.8% over last year, and enough to vault it back up to No. 5. Publix maintained its position at No. 3, with revenues of $54.5 billion, an increase of 13.6%. Cargill and Koch Industries were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, and Mars came in at No. 4. H-E-B, owned by the Butt family, moved up on the list after the former No. 5 company, Pilot, was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway. Don’t bet on either Publix or H-E-B to lose ground anytime soon — both are among the industry’s leaders in new-store development. —Mark Hamstra

This is for the birds: John Oliver, host of “Last Week Tonight” and rhetoric boxing legend, called out the executives of Dollar General and the Dollar Tree about the filth he sees oozing out of dollar stores. He also dropped some devastating verbal punches. “Those look less like functioning stores and more like ‘American Ninja Warrior: Retail Edition,’” Oliver said. “They looked like someone picked up a dollar store, shook it, and dumped it out into another dollar store.” Both Dollar General and the Dollar Tree have been fined for having boxed merchandise blocking aisles and fire escapes, and many are manned by just one worker. Oliver also mentioned the rodents, robbers, and bird poop that have been reported visiting some of the stores. Dollar stores are indeed in need of a shake up, a move that would improve conditions for both shoppers and workers. —BW

Finger licking good: Because prepared foods are hot (and maybe none more so than fried chicken), Kroger and its Home Chef brand have reinvented their fried chicken recipe. What steps did they take? Double-breading every piece by hand (using ingredients like tapioca starch and potato starch to maximize breading hold and crunch); incorporating 10 spices in the breading (garlic, paprika, thyme, etc.); and switching over to paper-based packaging for Kroger’s signature Home Chef 8-Piece Fried Chicken (with additional venting to maintain a crispy texture). The new chicken is now available in nationwide Kroger stores. Watch your back, KFC. —CR

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