Natural Foods Merchandiser

Speeding up sales in slow times

by Shara Rutberg

Some things are better slow: Food. A gondola ride through Venice. Barry White. The economy, however, is not. But for now, the nation is mired in a pokey economy. Natural Products Expo East offers two sessions specifically designed to help retailers shine a light through the gloomy market.

"Selling Organics in a Slow Economy" will be presented on Thursday, Oct. 16, from 10:30 a.m. to noon. "Retailers and manufacturers both have been requesting sessions about keeping the momentum going, especially in this economy," says Courtney Hathaway, program manager for Expo East. For this seminar, Hathaway enlists the expertise of Mark Mulcahy and Cynthia Barstow. Mulcahy, owner of consulting firm Organic Options and The Natural Foods Merchandiser's produce columnist, offers advice from the marketing and merchandising perspective he's garnered from decades in the industry. Mulcahy travels the country speaking for the voiceless: the quiet onions, the silent sprouts and the millions of mute mushrooms who can't cheer for themselves. He shows retailers how to get customers enthusiastic about produce, how to get the message "Eat me! Buy me! I'm delicious!" across in novel and effective ways.

Cynthia Barstow, president of Seed to Shelf: Marketing for Sustainability, will discuss marketing trends that could help arm savvy retailers. Barstow is the author of The Eco-Foods Guide (New Society Publishers, 2002) and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Massachusetts, where she teaches food and natural products marketing. Seed to Shelf is a marketing business committed to companies that want to turn a sustainable "seed" into a product ready for the shelves. In addition to branded-product companies, Barstow and her colleagues work with sustainable agriculture projects and certification programs that they believe will benefit the food system in a significant way.

The second session aimed at overcoming a disappointing economy is "Selling Gourmet and Specialty Foods as a Staple to the Natural Foods Customer," on Friday, Oct. 17, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Industry insiders will discuss how gourmet and specialty items can help boost the bottom line. "They're great options for retailers to supplement sales that are lagging as a result of the economy," Hathaway says. Experts will offer strategies "for selling someone who knows they're looking for, say, all-natural or organic olive oil, a single-barrel, cold-pressed olive oil that costs $30 instead of $10," she explains. Gourmet and specialty foods are opportunities "to bring whole other product cateĀ­gories into the store."

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 9/p. 14

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