NEW YORK -- MediZine Inc. here, a marketing company that distributes its namesake publication in the pharmacies of 45 supermarket chains nationwide, is entering the vitamin aisle.
In November the company will launch a new digest-format magazine, Nature's Regimen, which it envisions as an educational and promotional tool that will demystify herbal supplements and homeopathic remedies for curious consumers. More issues are planned for next March, June and September; then Nature's Regimen will be published quarterly.
According to Traver Hutchins, president, American Stores, Salt Lake City, and United Supermarkets, Lubbock, Texas, already have agreed to carry Nature's Regimen.
"What retailers are saying to us is, 'We've been doing huge volume [in natural remedies]; this is a core area for us. But management wants us to beat that next year, and we don't think we can do that without education,"' Hutchins said.
Unlike the MediZine Guidebook, which is displayed at the pharmacy counter and is free to shoppers, Nature's Regimen will be clip-stripped in the vitamin and supplement aisle and will carry a cover price of 99 cents, Hutchins said. The cost to retailers will be 49 cents per copy, and participating chains agree to order 48 copies per store each quarter. No returns will be accepted, Hutchins said.
"The issues aren't dated, so they're evergreen," he said. "They hang until they move."
For supermarkets, however, the real value of Nature's Regimen is probably not in the profit they will make from sales of the magazine -- the cover charge is really a means to defray costs so retailers don't have to dip into their co-op funds, Hutchins said -- but in the potential for increased sales of products discussed in the magazine.
"It's hard to know which is more important, education or sales. It's all combined," Hutchins said. "The main goal is to help lift the category."
Leland Wehde, director of pharmacy services at United Supermarkets, agreed.
"I would imagine we'll give a lot of copies away," Wehde said. "A little kindness can bring you a lot of business."
Wehde said although natural remedies are highly profitable, skeptical pharmacists often are reluctant to recommend them to customers. Nature's Regimen is a means to give shoppers the information they seek and to promote the products without a specific endorsement from the retailer.
"My pharmacists feel uneasy about these products because they don't know a lot about them," Wehde said.
"I've been a nonbeliever in natural and homeopathic remedies, too, because I wasn't trained in that, but we have to be open-minded."
Under a licensing agreement, Hutchins said, retailers will be able to pull quotes from articles in Nature's Regimen to use in promotional signs, identifying the magazine as the source.
Retailers, he noted, must be very careful in what they say about vitamins, herbs and homeopathics because of rules stipulated in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act.
(Although the MediZine Guidebook, which is oriented to traditional medicine and prescription drugs, carries individual chain logos and retailer-specific messages, Nature's Regimen, because of its subject matter, cannot do so.)
"Pharmacists are really restricted in what they can and cannot say," Hutchins said. "They're also swamped, and a lot of them simply aren't educated in this area."
Nature's Regimen's editorial content will be supplied by Jim LaValle, a pharmacist and president of a company called Natural Health Resources.
Nature's Regimen will carry advertising from vitamin and supplement manufacturers, Hutchins said, declining to name any. The prototype includes four full pages of ads and a manufacturer's coupon from Pharmavite, San Fernando, Calif.