New Hope Network is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Secret shopper: Do I need a calcium supplement?

To help you improve your store’s customer service, each month, NFM’s secret shopper heads incognito into a natural products store with a question. The employee’s answer is then evaluated by an expert.

The question:  I’m in my 30s and eat yogurt every day. How do I know if I need a calcium supplement?

Store:  Small, independent natural foods store in Utah  

Store: Well, you know, that’s a good question. I’m not 100 percent sure about that, but I’d venture to say you probably do need a supplement. Let me show you our very best plant-based source of calcium, which utilizes sea algae.

Answered by: Seth Braun, health coach and author of the cookbook Healthy, Fast and Cheap (Rock, 2006)

I love that the employee began with: “Well, you know, that’s a good question.”  That’s worth 1,000 points because it immediately helps the customer feel comfortable, and also suggests that the answer will be dependent on several factors.

When the customer asked if she was getting enough calcium from the yogurt she eats, the retailer should have asked a few more questions. Why does the customer want more calcium? Is there a health concern? Does she also eat sea vegetables? If there is a major health concern, the retailer should refer the customer to an ND, MD or nutritionist.

I do like the retailer’s honesty: “I am not 100 percent sure.” But suggesting sea algae–sourced calcium right away is not the best move. If the customer is in the store for the first time, this suggestion may be intimidating. I compare it to going to the mechanic and asking them to fix a flat tire, and having them also suggest galvanized rubber. If you don’t know cars, you just want the tire changed.

The retailer should talk to the customer, ask what she already knows about calcium, and then perhaps show her a few types, ask her how much she’s looking to spend and suggest his top pick. 

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.