Coming Soon: More Food, Everywhere

AS if we don’t have enough opportunities to buy and eat food during the day.

Now retailers that never sold food, are devoting entire sections to edible groceries.

Reflecting a major shift in the way Americans shop for food, retailers better known for selling clothes or aspirin, including Walgreens, CVS/Pharmacy and Target, are expanding in a big way into the grocery business, with fresh produce, frozen meats and, yes, even sushi. 

What you need to know:

While this may be good business practice for these chains, what good does it do for consumers? Now there will be more opportunities for impulse buying, and it’s not going to be kale and garbanzo beans. Shoppers will be meeting the crappiest products with the longest shelf life. Frozen meals and other processed foods, exactly the opposite of what this country all needs.

What if Walgreen’s, with its amazing store locations set up a farmer’s market at the parking lot and store entrance? Wouldn’t that be something. Imagine the sign on the door:

Walgreen’s
Pharmacy
Farm-acy

OK, dream time is over. Back to munching Ding Dongs while waiting in line for the heart medication.

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  • http://www.feedyourheaddiet.com Ken Leebow

    In my presentations, I use “my Main Street” to demonstrate our toxic food environment. Of course, “my Main Street” is like every Main Street across America.

    In a 1.5 mile stretch, I have 3, yes 3, CVS pharmacies. Last August, I happened to walk into one. I was confused: I was not sure if I had walked into a candy store or a drug store.

    Ken Leebow
    http://www.HighSatiety.net

  • Bill M

    These store already carry a wide variety of shelf stable foods with long ingredient lists. In order to expand their selection they will need to add some other items too. They also stock their selves constantly. If a tub of toothpaste is purchased today, another is put on the truck for the next day. They even deliver and stock on weekends. This means they COULD carry more perishable items. So, don’t be surprised if they add fruits and veggie. The farmers market, which I would love, is a dream.

    As for why they would do this, well Walgreen’s (and I assume CVS) strategy is to maximize profit/visit. That is why they have so many stores. The more there are, the more likely you are to visit one and every visit equals profit.

    Also, these stores are profitable with just the pharmacy. That means, every dollar spent on other things like light bulbs and candy is more money in their pocket. So, by expanding their grocery selection they are increasing convenience, thus increasing store visits and therefore increasing profit. Since they can already pay the rent off the pharmacy, the venture doesn’t really cost them that much.

    As for Target, there grocery store is actually nice. The produce section at the one near our house has as good a selection as the other mid-level grocery stores.

  • http://www.thepalewisconsinite.com Koritsimou

    My understanding of this issue was slightly different – they will be stocking perishables and fresh produce. You might not think this is a big deal, but put yourself in a food desert – like the south side of Chicago, where the nearest grocery store with affordable quality food is… on the North side. And “affordable” is at varying levels of attainability. But you know what’s on practically every corner in Chicago? A Walgreens. Suddenly, eating fresh produce is an attainable goal for those who’ve never had access to it before.

  • Tracy Marander

    While these drugstores do sell a lot of junk, They also have great deals on canned beans, canned veggies, organic chicken broth, canned clams, milk, etc.. Plus, in Chicago, some are selling fresh produce.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/09/chicago-food-deserts-drug_n_640866.html

  • Brooke

    I agree with the previous comments – this post is rather harsh. Adding fresh and/or more variety of foods into these types of stores, more readily available to those in urban areas, is a GOOD thing.

    The recent USDA/FDA press conference on the Nutrition Guidelines is aiming to address this issue of “food deserts” and I think this is one way to do it.

    Is a farmer’s market out front better? Sure, but knowing full well that is a long way off, I don’t think we should be bashing the current efforts.

  • http://foodtrainers.blogspot.com Lauren Slayton

    I’m with you on this one. Walgreens, Walmart these places will never have appealing food. Maybe the rule should be only buy your food in a place that sells kale or chickpeas. If everyone saved their packaged food money and used it toward produce it would be affordable. Hemi- curious your thoughts on our fast (but not fat) food post today, come visit Foodtrainers.

  • Brooke

    @ Lauren – have you BEEN to a Target or Walmart food section? They do have chickpeas AND kale. I’m not trying to defending any of the corporate behemoths, but you lose a lot credibility in saying such things as “Walmart . . . will never have appealing food.” I’ve lived in an area where Walmart, much to my surprise, had the best produce section.

  • Bill M

    The Walgreens in my area does sell canned chickpeas, no kale though. I have never seen fresh chickpeas in any store in my area (Minnesota suburb). Do they come fresh in other areas of the country?

  • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Editorial Staff

    @Bill M – chickpeas – either canned or dry. Look in the bulk section.

  • Sally

    I agree with the above comments regarding food deserts. I too have scoffed at non-grocery stores offering produce such as Target and Walmart, but when individuals have no access to fresh options and instead must opt for salads at fast food restaurants, things need to change. While I’m sure it will take time for stores such as Walgreens to provide a selection that is pleasing to everyone, even critics, the individuals who benefit from the stock they do have greatly appreciate it.

  • http://www.thefrugaldietitian.com Nancy-The Frugal Dietitian

    Agree with Koritsimou. SNAP (food stamps) need to be changed and by having the ability for these people to use their vouchers/cards in their own neighborhood would be BIG for healthier foods!!

  • bill

    @Editorial Staff

    Canned/dry doesn’t answer the question of “Do they come fresh in other areas of the country?”. The answer happens to be yes but you’re more likely to find it at a Mexican bodega. You also eat them more like edaname.

  • Brooke

    While I still stand by my previous comments regarding drugstores, Target and Walmart – I do have to say that I was APPALLED yesterday to see candy and sodas offered at Old Navy. Yes, Old Navy, a clothing store. So this post does ring true for some places, but I am in full support of pharmacies expanding their food selections and becoming more like a “general store” type establishment for those urban (and some suburban) folks who can’t just get in their car and drive to a farmer’s market, let along grocery store.

    • Jodi

      THANK YOU! More people need to notice how insane this is, I too was appalled to see Old Navy selling LOADS of candy. The lady in front of me had to ditch her purchase to carry a screaming kid out who didn’t like being told “No” about the candy. Come on OLD NAVY, you are blatantly taking advantage of the school clothes shopping and trying to get an extra buck at the expense of the health of our kids. Yes it is up to us parents to instill good choice-making in our kids but why make it such an uphill battle.

  • http://www.UrbanOrganicGardener.com Mike Lieberman

    Those stores are so sterile feeling, which is what the food they sell will make you.

    Need to keep reaching out to people and letting them know what’s going on. We need to vote with our dollars and not support this crap, then true change will come about.

  • Paula

    Our local Super Target actually sometimes has the best organic produce selection, although none of it is local. I talked to the produce manager once and he told me he used to carry even stuff like kale and leeks, but nobody bought it and he ended up throwing it away spoiled. So now they just carry the more popular stuff. If the demand for organic healthy food is out there, they will carry it!

  • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Editorial Staff

    @Paula – that’s very encouraging to hear. Where is this Target store?

  • http://www.healthtwisty.blogspot.com Amy

    I think in this case, Walgreens is doing something that will benefit Chicago. From my understanding, Walgreens was asked by Chicago’s mayor to begin carrying basic groceries – produce, meats, etc – in its stores because there are many “food desserts” in Chicago, where residents have no access to supermarkets. Additionally, Walgreens has partnered with local healthcare entities to provide an education component to its food offerings.

    Of course, Walgreens will have to make money from this initiative, so I hope they do not have to adulterate its good food offerings with a lot of convenience foods.

    I wrote about this topic on my blog: http://healthtwisty.blogspot.com/2010/11/unexpected-oasis.html (I have no conflict of interest, I just thought it was an interesting partnership and I wish it well.)