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A world of consumers exists beyond the Whole Foods market

Think Whole Foods Market does a robust business?

Consider this: It takes just one week for Safeway to do as much business as Whole Foods does in 30 days. For Wal-mart, it takes 60 seconds.

This jaw-dropping statistic was one of many to hit a nerve among the standing-room-only audience for New Hope Natural Media’s “The Future of Wellness: The Voice of the 96 percent Minority” presentation at Natural Products Expo West last week. The ethnographic study, complete with compelling video clips from interviews with six families across the heartland, drove home a fact that many in the natural products industry (particularly those, like me, who live in health-obsessed Boulder) tend to forget: that the vast majority of Americans don’t necessarily buy into our definition of health.

As the poignant videos pointed out, many equate weight loss with health, turning to Weight Watchers or other expensive calorie-counting programs before ever considering walking into a health food store. One particularly troubling image showed a man spreading low-fat spread and Sweet n Low on his white bread as part of his diet.

Others search for health advice wherever they can find it easily and cheaply, and are often led astray. One woman turned to Kraft online meal plans for healthy recipes—because they were there.

Many—by necessity—define health as the absence of sickness and are struggling to attain just that via a slew of prescription medications. And many avoid health food stores because they see the prices as too high, the staff as too intimidating, or their portrayal of health as unattainable or irrelevant to their own lives.

As lead researcher Nancy Coulter-Parker, New Hope’s director of content, education and research, told the crowd: “The industry is coming of age, and it’s time to reach out to the rest of the market.”

But how?

What is your company doing to reach out to the 96 percent? 

The New Hope report has jump-started the conversation. Let’s keep it going.

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