Natural Foods Merchandiser

Turn studies into sales

Merchandising ideas are as close as a daily newspaper. As Americans take an increased interest in managing their health, publications and airwaves are packed with stories about disease management, weight control and food trends.

?Even when people don?t trust these stories, they always remember them,? says Sherwood Smith, president of The Intelligence Agency in Traverse City, Mich. Smith suggests subscribing to Google News Alerts ( or a similar Web-based service that will forward relevant stories to your e-mail inbox. Then, it?s simple to post links on your store?s Web site, distribute article reprints and even forward national stories to local media with a comment such as, ?Michigan ranks first among states for juvenile obesity. The education coordinator of Health Foods X in Grand Rapids has these five tips for parents of obese youth.?

The Natural Foods Merchandiser picked three stories from one day?s news coverage to show you how to turn today?s headlines into merchandising and promotions that will bring those health-conscious shoppers into your store.

Add gourmet goodies
Survey says: New research from the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade makes a strong connection between the worlds of specialty foods and natural products. Sixty-two percent of specialty food consumers also buy natural foods, 49 percent buy organic foods and 28 percent shop at natural foods stores. Most frequently purchased categories include coffee and tea, chocolate, cheese, prepared foods and meat.

What to do: Attract these crossover shoppers by appealing to their sense of adventure. They love to experiment with new dishes, cuisines and ingredients, both at home and in restaurants. Along with naturals stores, they?re also more likely than the average shopper to frequent warehouse stores for the ?treasure hunt? of finding interesting items. Build out displays and sampling stations throughout the store, displaying grocery items such as salad dressings in produce.

And focus on the impulse buy because, according to the NASFT survey, 57 percent of specialty food shoppers pick up specialty items ?as a special treat for myself,? with another 37 percent admitting they?re ?a regular treat for myself.?

Prevent rebound weight gain
Survey says: Stress management, continued healthy eating and exercise, and ongoing monitoring are key to keeping lost pounds from finding their way back to customers, according to research presented at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity?s annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

?Stop Regain,? a new study from Brown University, found that five pounds is how little Americans should gain back before they put the brakes on eating and step up their exercise plan. Brown psychiatry professor Rena Wing studied more than 5,000 people who?d successfully lost an average of 73 pounds.

What to do: If your weight-loss set consists solely of thermogenic products and protein powders, you are far behind the times. Do you stock exercise tools such as pedometers, hand weights, fitness balls and DVDs?

Do you host weight-loss and weight-maintenance support groups? Wing?s study of 314 successful dieters showed that people who attended face-to-face support groups did best at keeping off the weight—38 percent put on five pounds or more, compared with 54 percent of those who used Internet support groups and 70 percent of the control group, who got a newsletter with weight management tips.

Do you merchandise stress-reduction products and services with your weight-loss set? Another study presented in Vancouver showed that women were more likely to regain weight when they reported feeling ?stressed? or ?a little down.? Because—no surprise here—they self-medicated with high-calorie, high-fat foods.

Help patients navigate complementary medicine
Survey says: Nearly half of all cancer patients turn to some form of alternative medicine during their treatment—but two-thirds of these people don?t let their doctor know what they?re doing, according to a study from the University of Pennsylvania.

?It?s important for doctors to know about their patients? CAM use and to understand patients? reasons for using it,? says lead author Dr. Neha Vapiwala.

Doctors don?t always ask, and patients ?often feel their doctors dismiss the benefits of complementary medicine, so they are shy about sharing the information,? she says.

What to do: Train your staff to counsel patients with any serious disease that they should not be afraid to discuss alternative treatments with their physician.

It?s essential to keep the information flowing. Medical doctors want to see science to back up health claims. Offer to copy research or write down label information for shoppers to take back to their doctors.

Comfort care for cancer patients is an opportunity to forge a partnership with local cancer specialists. From ginger tea for nausea to soothing creams for burns and scars, the naturals store is full of resources of which many conventional practitioners are not aware.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 12/p. 12, 14

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