Natural Foods Merchandiser
A matter of (changing) natural foods tastes

A matter of (changing) natural foods tastes

As the natural products industry strives to attract customers with better-tasting options, consumers are calling on more traditional food purveyors to adopt natural’s longstanding health, environmental and community-building standards.

More than ever natural foods enthusiasts expect taste to excite them as much as a product’s health credentials (even in the particularly challenging gluten-free category). Meanwhile, specialty food customers want healthier, more natural selections among their premium food choices.

They are looking to you, the natural foods retailer, to give them both the healthy everyday necessities and the specialty items once relegated to the small gourmet store. Make sure those products have the best story and correct label, of course. After all, local, natural, organic and non-GMO mean more in every market today.

The crossover consumer means many things in this new retailing world. It’s not just the conventional-shopping mom or weightlifting body builder finding their way into your store. And it’s not all about your shoppers finding their needs fulfilled in conventional grocery aisles.

The Specialty Food Association’s annual survey made it quite clear. It’s the taste makers that are taking on natural matters. I almost laughed out loud when I read that one of the biggest gripes about the specialty food industry among brokers is the “increasing emphasis on nutritional value rather than taste and quality.”

Put stereotypical tastes—granola and grand—aside and look at the numbers. Sales growth in natural and specialty outpaces conventional. Specialty food sales in particular grew most over three years in natural food stores, at 23.2 percent. This bested specialty food stores at 21.1 percent from 2011 to 2013.

This spells great opportunity for both specialty stores and health food stores. More important, it proves health matters, environmental responsibility matters—that the whole package matters. That’s why this month, as specialty food purveyors gather for the Summer Fancy Food Show, our food editor explores where gourmet and natural meet with exciting products ranging from citron flake salt to a heavenly mate blend. Of course, you will also find some rich chocolates in our gourmet guide.

And if you think none of this pertains to your store, consider how Mollie Stone’s Markets grew from a strict health food store to a trend-setting one-stop-shop. Leader Mike Stone doesn’t settle in his success but continues to seek what’s next while intently serving customer needs.

A blend of passionate people like Stone and products with purpose makes the natural foods industry a special community. Tastes may change through the years, but health remains the heart of the matter.

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