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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Natural retailers react to P&G's acquisition of New Chapter

Natural products retailers across the country respond to Procter & Gamble's recent decision to acquire New Chapter Inc., a leading supplement brand within the natural retail channel. How might expanded distribution of New Chapter supplements impact the natural products industry?

Retailers' responses varied from surprise to indifference to full support at Procter & Gamble's recent announcement that it will acquire Brattleboro, Vt.-based New Chapter, Inc.

A leading supplement brand within the natural retail channel, New Chapter is known for high quality standards and innovative and effective products. Most retailers are taking a wait-and-see approach to how the move may impact business. One key concern is the potential for expanded distribution of New Chapter products. Here's what retailers across the country are saying about the acquisition.

Dave Janowicz, vice president of merchandising, Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy, Boulder, Colo.

This is big news, obviously. Time will tell how the story and positioning will evolve. I would love to see P&G continue New Chapter's focus on the natural channel, but I would not be surprised to see the company expand distribution to other channels.

I don't think we'll see retailers bottom shelving the brand and repositioning it in their stores just yet. It's far too early for that type of reaction. I'm sure there's a lot more to come.

Arnie Gitomer, co-owner, Willner Chemists, New York City

It just means that the people who own New Chapter got a lot of money. My feeling is that New Chapter will never be the same. P&G will bring its own methods and limit spending on various initiatives. When you have a privately owned company, if you want to spend a little extra money on something, then you do it—like becoming Non-GMO Project Verified.  You don't have to get all sorts of corporate approval. Once you're part of a company like Procter & Gamble, it's not that way anymore.

I don't think the quality standards will slip, but I know that big companies want things done their way. They'll leave things alone for a little while just to learn what the business is about. Then they take over. That's usually what happens.

Taylor Hamilton, owner, Tunie's Natural Grocery & Vitamin Supercenter, Coral Springs Fla.

I think the acquisition is very interesting. Only time will tell what it's going to actually mean for natural products retailers. Obviously, a concern we all have is that New Chapter products will now be available in more stores. P&G is a publicly traded company that has distribution channels not only in big box stores in the U.S. but throughout the world.

The natural products industry is growing, and P&G obviously wanted to get a foothold in it. This is a huge win for P&G shareholders, but a major change for the industry. Right now, we just don't know what's going to happen. Initially, I don't think a lot will change, but one or two years from now, who knows?

These supplements may become more widely available, they may not. We'll just have to see. We're not going to change anything in our store based on this acquisition. We're going to sell New Chapter, we like New Chapter, we do a nice business with New Chapter and we hope it stays that way.

I just think the people in the company are in for a rude awakening.

Eli-Lesser Goldsmith, owner and general manager, Healthy Living Market and Cafe, South Burlington, Vt.

New Chapter is a proud Vermont brand. They started in Vermont as a great local company. We're proud to have sold their products for all of these years. That said, we hope with the acquisition that they remain true to their mission and keep developing products that are innovative and top of the line because our customers love them. 

New Chapter products may now have wider distribution, but we realize that competition is a normal and healthy party of America. It's up to the retailer to stay innovative, to stay ahead of the curve and we are going to keep doing what we're doing.

Wendy McLain, health and beauty aids merchandiser, PCC Natural Markets, Seattle

Acquisition of organic brands by conventional manufacturers is nothing new in our business. My primary concern about any change in ownership is the ongoing ingredient integrity of the products involved. New Chapter has always focused on organics and careful sourcing of raw materials, and that is a key reason why its products are on PCC shelves.

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