Natural Foods Merchandiser

NFM Talks to Your Customers

Consumers shop for specialty health and organic products in a variety of retail channels and engage with specific product groups at different levels. What drives this decision-making? What makes them stay loyal to one store and avoid another? What causes them to purchase organics in some categories and conventional products in others—and what tips the balance to more naturals? Finally, at a time when consumers are overloaded with messages about health, which information sources do they really trust?

To answer these questions, The Natural Foods Merchandiser and The Intelligence Agency of Traverse City, Mich., surveyed natural products consumers in May and June. Participants responded to an e-mail from Delicious Living magazine, offering a chance to win grocery store credit for responding to a Web survey. From an initial pool of 22,000 readers of, we received 1,288 valid responses for a response rate of nearly 6 percent. to develop the Web survey, we conducted 16 detailed, open-ended phone interviews of consumers drawn randomly from a database of DL subscribers.

Additional consumer research from NFM and The Intelligence Agency will be presented at Natural Products Expo East in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14-17. For more details, visit
We know from the robust response rate (typical Web surveys return 1 percent to 2 percent) that these are highly involved consumers. When spending patterns were compared with existing research from The Hartman Group, Natural Marketing Institute and Information Resources Inc., we determined that our study population represents the high-dollar-value shopper, not the natural products consumer base as a whole. But other factors (age, income, education level and household size) match the proportions generally seen among the total population of natural products consumers.

This dedicated, core shopper population is extremely important to retailers for two reasons. They spend a great deal on natural products—$2,200 per year on food and supplements, which is as much as 12 times the national average of those who shop in organic grocery stores. And they scatter their purchases across many channels. Their patronage is not automatically secure for any retailer. If your store can become the outlet of choice for these consumers, they will drive both dollar sales and positive word-of-mouth referrals.

—S.B.S. and L.E.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 8/p. 12

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