Natural Foods Merchandiser
Retailers, is it time to define natural?

Retailers, is it time to define natural?

Natural products retailers from around the country weigh in on the meaning of "natural" —or the lack thereof.

"MOM’s is very focused on certified-organic products, so the need to define natural is not something we’ve really focused on. We’ve devised our own set of ingredient standards for products that are not certified organic. Understandably, there’s confusion among a segment of consumers, but I think those people shop more in mass-market stores. MOM’s customers tend to be very educated about food issues and seek out organic products."

—Lisa de Lima, Vice president of grocery at MOM’s Organic Market, a three-store chain in Maryland and Virginia 

David Bennett"In my mind, natural products are those made with ingredients that are naturally occurring, not manufactured—not earth shattering; very simple. In our more-than-25-year history, Mollie Stone’s has seen many natural-labeled products that don’t meet my view of the term, but I understand that natural means many different things to many different people."

—David Bennett, Owner of California chain Mollie Stone’s Markets

"If anything, defining natural would help the mass market become more educated. People who buy natural products usually do research, so I think they know the meaning. And our regular customers trust us, so they know we won’t carry anything that isn’t of quality. But I’m sure mass marketing and merchandising sometimes puts natural on items that really aren’t, so a better definition might help shoppers who’ve never gone to a health foods store."

—Nancy Starbuck, Manager of Vesta Nutrition warehouse vitamins in Tucson, Ariz.

"Yes! Here’s why: Conventional products that have natural on their labels often contain genetically modified ingredients, yet they get away with using the term. People who don’t know to look for non-GMO certification might think natural means that these products are okay."

—Jenifer Spencer, Manager and grocery buyer at The Olde Wheat Barn in Ruston, La.

"We think the term natural is too vague. It means nothing to us or our shoppers, so we don’t use it. Mostly, it doesn’t have any nutritional value. Therefore, it would be nice to have it defined. Given that natural is such a fast-growing channel and people are looking for us to set standards, we have an opportunity to redefine ourselves."

—Nancy Casady, General manager of Ocean Beach People’s Organic Foods Market in San Diego

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