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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Retailer Keynote Offers Hope, Inspiration

On Wednesday morning, the Retailer Workshop at Natural Products Expo East kicked off with a keynote address by Kimberly Lord Stewart, editorial director of Functional Ingredients and author of Eating Between the Lines: The Supermarket Shopper’s Guide to the Truth Behind Food Labels.

After acknowledging that the economy has had “a tough year”—one chart showed consumer confide nce at the lowest level since 1980—Stewart presented some compellingly positive data. For example, Stewart said, the total market for non-vitamin and mineral supplements last year was 15 billion, up more than eight percent over the previous year—in part because consumers are looking for alternatives to prescription drugs in the face of rising health care costs.
Other data also showed positive trends—functional foods, as a category, are showing growth four times higher than the food industry in general, and new GMPs for supplements have boosted consumer confidence in supplements.

But the heart of Stewart’s talk was more personal than graphs and numbers. She described how, more than 30 years ago, natural foods and supplements had restored her mother’s health as she battled with lupus and a host of other illnesses that confounded her physicians. “You saved my mother’s life,” Stewart said, speaking to a full room of retailers.

Stewart pointed out that, over the last forty years, calories from junk food and soda have steadil y decreased in cost, while healthy calories from fruits and vegetables have increased by forty percent, making healthy eating a costly choice. The health costs of trans fats and sugars is so significant, Stewart said, that mainstream foods companies can be likened to tobacco companies; indeed, lawmakers are considering taxes on sodas and other items to combat related health costs.

But the mainstrea m media is catching on. Time magazine recently ran a cover story on the role of diet and nutrition in combating chronic health conditions. “To truly change the health of this nation is going to require a more holistic approach,” Stewart said. And no one is better situated to provide the information consumers need than naturals retailers.

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