Natural Foods Merchandiser

Red, white and green

“Remember ‘Starsky and Hutch?’” asked Ted Ning, at Thursday’s seminar “Growing the Green Living Category.” “They’d sit around the station, wait for the phone to ring, track down the bad guy with a few good car chases, then head back to the station. Then you have the ‘Sopranos’--five different plot lines running simultaneously, different gradations of bad guys, a whole different world.” To successfully market green living you need to be more “Sopranos” than “Starsky,” said Ning, executive director of the LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) Conference and executive editor of LOHAS Journal. “You have to tell many different stories on many different levels all at the same time.” Ning joined Boulder, Colo.-based Eco-Products and Ellie’s Eco Home Store Founder and President Steve Savage and green lifestyle expert Sara Snow, the host of “Living Fresh “and “Get Fresh with Sara Snow” on the Discovery Network, for a discussion with 60 attendees that ranged from harnessing the power of the Hannah Montana tween set to setting yourself up to be a community resource for customers who may feel overwhelmed amid a miasma of “green.” “People aren’t just buying green things because it’s the cool thing. These days, each purchasing decision has more weight,” said Snow. To ensure that those dollars are spent in your store, she said, “education and transparency are key.” And though the economy might not be as zippy as a Starsky and Hutch car chase, people remain dedicated to the category. “After all, this was a great year for green,” said Savage. “Everything was red, white and green.” He saw 400 percent growth in his business. The panelists agreed that, like in presidential politics, inspiration trumps fear when marketing the green living category. Hope and the potential for progress are more likely to drive people to change their behavior than threats of cancer-causing additives and environmental devastation. The green living category continues to grow. “Last year was the first year there were more nonfood exhibitors at Expo West than food exhibitors,” said Savage. Retailers just need to be more savvy to lure customers who are, these days more than ever, trying to get the most bada-bing for the buck. --Shara Rutberg Senior editor Natural Foods Merchandiser

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