U.S. natural products sales grew 9.7 percent in 2006 across all retail and nonretail channels to reach $56.76 billion in total sales. The retail channel accounted for 81.2 percent, or $46.06 billion, of the sales. For the second year in a row, natural products retailers saw double-digit growth—this year's at 10.7 percent. And for the first time since 1999, the mass market (food, drug, mass merchandisers, club and convenience stores except Wal-Mart) saw double-digit growth of natural products sales at 10.5 percent. Internet sales experienced the greatest percentage growth—21.8 percent—but had the smallest dollar volume, $744 million.
With sales of natural and organic products at $28.27 billion, natural pro?ducts retailers have close to 50 percent of the market. The mass market has slightly less than a third of all sales with $17.78 billion. The nonretail channels account for the rest, about $10.7 billion. In both the natural and mass channels, the "other" category (personal care, books, housewares and pet products) saw the greatest growth—16 percent. Although its climb slowed slightly compared with 2005, Whole Foods Market again led all retailers with a 2006 sales dollar increase of 15.4 percent to $5.8 billion. A Whole Foods merger with Wild Oats would mean combined sales of 25 percent, or close to $7 billion, of the total natural health food and specialty foods retail sales in the United States. GNC sales turned around in 2006, replacing 2005's 15.3 percent decline with 11.5 percent growth to almost $1.7 billion. The only chain tracked by The Natural Foods Merchandiser that had sales decline was Vita?min World, by 0.4 percent.
Food sales in natural product stores were up 11.7 percent, and the hottest categories were fresh meat and seafood as well as beer and wine. The natural meat category grew 18.2 percent, and organic meat was up 32.6 percent. Beer and wine sales increased 17.1 percent, and organic sales for the category were up 31.2 percent. Other organic categories showing strong growth were coffee and tea at 23.3 percent and nutrition bars at 22 percent. Produce remains the category with the largest dollar amount in sales at $3.3 billion, up 11.5 percent over 2005.
Supplement sales in natural product stores were up 6.5 percent to almost $8.7 billion. The only category that generated double-digit growth was homeopathy, with sales increasing 11.3 percent to $272 million. The largest dollar category in supplements is vitamins at $3.29 billion, with 6.3 percent growth over 2005.
Natural personal care sales grew by 18.4 percent to $2.78 billion, while organic personal care increased 21.1 percent to $537 million. Pet products were up 15.1 percent to $367 million, and organic pet foods and treats were up 31.2 percent to $85 million.
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Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 6/p.1