Diabetes Management: A $30 Million Opportunity

By Kyle Lentz

By offering prescription services, over-the-counter solutions and nutritional support by way of food offerings, grocers can become the go-to outlet for those suffering from diabetes.   

diab1When a customer with diabetes plans a trip to the grocery store,do planned purchases include blood glucose strips, lancets, nutritional supplements or sugar-free candy? If not, why? Grocery stores have made great strides in the past to become more than just suppliers of food and drink, and I would argue that they have the ability to innovate like no other outlet. Preferences within the grocery outlet are continually changing and the grocer that reacts to these changes in a timely manner usually reaps the benefits of being first to market.

Since diabetes continues to be one disease that shows no signs of slowing down, and diagnosis of the disease is at an all-time high, retailers should be thinking about how to best serve customers with this condition. There are billions of dollars spent annually treating the disease. Retailers need to determine the role they can play in the care of diabetes, how they can influence diabetes and pre-diabetes patients to rely on the healthcare professionals in-store for advice and recommendations and how to make themselves the end-to-end solution that customers prefer.

To say diabetes has reached epidemic proportions is an understatement. In fact, 29.1 million people, or 9.3 percent of the U.S. population, have diabetes. Even more alarming, of the 29.1 million, 8.1 million, or 27.8 percent of people with diabetes are undiagnosed according to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). American Indians, Non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics made up 42 percent of diagnosed diabetics from 2010-2012. The 2014 CDC report also notes that states with high concentrations of these ethnic groups have seen double-digit growth in diagnosed diabetes rates over the past 20 years. Are your chain locations in areas with these high-risk populations doing enough with their diabetes programs to become the preferred shopping sites for patients with diabetic needs?

Grocery’s Opportunity

Each year, about 1.7 million people in the U.S. aged 20 or older are diagnosed with diabetes. Those aged between 45-64 make up the largest portion of new diagnoses with 892,000 of that total. According to the American Diabetes Association, individuals with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year; of these expenditures, about $7,900 is attributed to diabetes. Prescription medications to treat complications and anti-diabetic agents and diabetes supplies make up approximately 30 percent of the estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes. Subtracting 30 percent from $7,900 dollars, $2,370 remains per diabetes patient that is spent on related supplies annually.

How can you turn that $2,370 into a $30 million opportunity for your chain? If you were to capture sales from just 25 new diabetes patients annually for one store location, you would add sales of $59,000 to your pharmacy. Now take that total and multiply it by 500 stores and you have $29.5 million in additional sales. For chains with 1,000 or more grocery stores, think of the opportunities that exist by enhancing your offerings for customers with diabetes. And this is just the beginning. There are additional opportunities when you consider sales that may come from the nutritional aspect of diabetes management. There is no other retail format in a more advantageous position than grocery when it comes to tying all aspects of glucose control together in one shopping experience.

Where and how will you find these additional customers? Begin by arming your pharmacists with the latest technology to become a valued partner to the patient as they manage their condition. Consider how to incorporate in-store clinics or other healthcare partners into your operation. Position your store as that preferred end-to-end solution and create programs that encourage interaction between three primary areas: food, clinic and pharmacy.

Diabetes

You can start by targeting grocery customers that are already doing their shopping at your chain. Cross check your loyalty card subscribers with your pharmacy patient list and target those customers who have yet to make a purchase at your pharmacy. This may not only net you a few pre-diabetes patients, but it may also convert customers that have been filling their prescriptions at other locations. Start offering diabetes screenings that check blood sugar levels at your in-store clinic and test additional factors, such as cholesterol and blood pressure that can be indicators of diabetes. Ensure your pharmacy is well stocked with the daily management items and ancillary health and wellness products popular in treating diabetes and related complications. Highlight at shelf the food items that are low-fat, heart-healthy, etc., and show customers how they will best benefit from your commitment to their health and well-being.

Dealing with trends and changes in the grocery aisle is a continuous battle, much like keeping up with the latest technological advancements with diabetes management. Yesterday, patients with diabetes had to prick their finger three times a day and track their results by hand and then provide the results to their doctor for review. Today, there are many more options for diabetes patients to track and send information and with several products it can be done at the touch of a button. Pharmacists can build relationships with these patients by stepping into the role of a health counselor and coach. The pharmacist will need to be knowledgeable of new technologies and how to best use the increasing amounts of information and data from them to guide a patient’s choices. The analysis of this data can also help your pharmacy staff and store nutritionist create a program that targets glucose management including food choices and physical activity suggestions. If a program produces better outcomes for your pharmacy patients, complementary item sales can be expected from other departments within the store.

All that being said, are your pharmacists trained on the latest technology? Can they answer questions regarding the alternative technologies that are in the works like electrode patches and contact lenses that monitor blood glucose levels? If not, partner with major manufacturers of these diabetes care products to help put together a program within your pharmacy and in-store clinic.

Utilizing the information gathered from the latest diabetes management technology in your in-store clinics and by on-site nutritionists completes the blueprint to become the outlet of choice for your customers with diabetes, as well as other chronic conditions. In-store nutritionists can help patients identify healthy foods and create a balanced diet by giving tours of your store and highlighting recommended foods. When the dietician, pharmacy and clinic work in conjunction, the grocery store becomes the destination for all of the diabetes patient’s needs from nutrition to OTCs and prescriptions.

The Internet is a great tool to keep your customers posted on educational events in your in-store clinic. It should also contain shopping tools, and condition-specific products and recipes.

When considering all the opportunities, grocers are in the enviable position as a potential end-to-end solution provider for customers with diabetes, not to mention those with pre-diabetes. No other outlet can make that claim. Grocers have the ability to offer prescription services, over-the-counter solutions for the multiple side effects of a diabetes condition and nutritional support by way of food offerings. They also have healthcare professionals that can counsel patients and the capability to provide customers the ability to take care of most, if not all of their condition management needs in one shopping trip. This saves customers time and money, builds loyalty and positions your grocery outlet as their preferred choice for an end-to-end solution for their diabetes needs.

Kyle Lentz is a health, beauty and wellness category analyst and writer with Hamacher Resource Group. He can be reached at domoretoday@hamacher.com.

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