Natural Foods Merchandiser

Biz Quips

Super-Natural Bosses Divvy Up Customers
Wild Oats Markets' best customers are price sensitive but committed to organic and natural foods, whereas most Whole Foods Market's shoppers consider themselves foodies, top executives of the nation's largest natural grocery chains said during the sixth annual Natural Business Market Trends Conference in June.

Chief Executive Perry Odak said that in 2001 Wild Oats, "recommitted to the natural and organic community" and began a more consistent pricing and merchandising program to appeal beyond the 12 percent to 15 percent of customers who comprise the core shopper base. "We are looking to serve a market that is more sensitive to price."

About 32 percent of Whole Foods' shoppers say they are more motivated by the taste and freshness of food. "It's not about price; it's about value," said Walter Robb, executive vice president of Whole Foods' Western division.

Both acknowledged growing competition from mass-market retailers. Robb said the mass marketers give consumers a taste of natural shopping and then drive them on to the super-naturals. "And we appreciate it," he said.

Odak was less sanguine in his first public appearance since joining Wild Oats. "We believe the super-naturals will lead this industry—not Wal-Mart and not the conventionals. I hope that manufacturers will stay with us and stay true to the companies that facilitated their growth," he said.

Hain Celestial Drops "Challenged" Line
Hain Celestial Group Inc. expects to take an $8 million to $10 million charge in the fourth quarter to discontinue its Celestial Seasonings supplements business and its licensed Weight Watchers dry and refrigerated products. Chief Executive Officer Irwin Simon called supplements "a challenged category" and said the decision to stop making herbal blends that mirrored the company's teas, such as Sleepytime Extra, Mood Mender and Tension Tamer, is part of an attempt to streamline Hain's brands, SKUs and manufacturing plants.

Natural Business Rolled Up
Natural Business Communications, organizer of the annual Natural Business Market Trends Conference, has been rolled into a new multimedia venture with Conscious Media, a video pre- and postproduction company, and ccgenesis, an Internet company that created and hosts Gaiam Inc.'s e-commerce intensive Web site. The new company, reportedly valued at about $20 million, is based in Broomfield, Colo., and is called Conscious Media Inc. Natural Business Editorial Director Frank Lampe said the new company will continue to produce the LOHAS Journal, LOHAS Journal Weekly and the annual Market Trends Conference.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 8/p. 12

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