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Cultivate the special diet conversation in your store

Americans are defining their menu choices in more personal ways than ever before. All of the attention about special diets raises great conversation but also puts unique demands on natural foods retailers.

Christine Kapperman, Senior Content Director

April 23, 2014

2 Min Read
Cultivate the special diet conversation in your store

There’s no calling vegan, gluten-free or even paleo diets fads anymore. These eating habits have gone mainstream, spawning multiple variations and elevating the general conversation around food. They are trends that point to the future of food.

It’s a future with more definitions, more choice and a lot of possibility for the retailer willing to serve specialty eaters their way—because that’s how they want it. More than ever, there’s no one-way-serves-all approach to the plate or the aisles in your natural foods store. Today a multitude of menus exist—self-made individual diets (think the mostly gluten-free vegetarian), variations within larger eating tribes (consider the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol), the pop plan of the moment (take VB6, meaning vegan before 6 p.m.) and on and on.

More and more, customers look to their local grocery stores, health food depots, supplement shops and specialty stores for guidance as they move from conventional eating to crisscrossing diets and shopping outlets. To help understand this new customer’s needs, New Hope Natural Media, the Penton parent of Natural Foods Merchandiser, recently took a deep dive into the minds of specialty shoppers. NFM shares 10 takeaways from the special diets exploration to help you meet the demands of this varied market.

Specialty diet sales will reach $25.7 billion by 2018, according to NFM’s sister publication Nutrition Business Journal. Conventional grocers are making a grab for this market by touting special offerings. Major brands also are making plays for it as they introduce gluten-free goods. But it’s the independent natural foods retailers, much as it has been through the years, that will make the greatest change as they serve customers’ health needs with heart.

Customer care and holding the highest of standards drives Strictly Gluten Free store owners Steve and Angela Distefano. This commitment, Steve says, leads to bottom-line success in business. NFM talks with him about standards, service and the future in the article linked here.

When it comes down to it, the basics always matter most.

In many ways, even as media attention surrounding these popular ways of eating can create a cacophony of confusion, if you break them down, you find a renewed sense of awareness about what we put into our bodies and how we treat the planet. Vegans often arrive at their diet from environmental and animal treatment concerns. Paleo eaters seek the best-quality meats. The more such conversations progress, the better for the United States and for the health food industry.

About the Author(s)

Christine Kapperman

Senior Content Director, New Hope Network

As the senior content director at New Hope Network, Christine Kapperman combines her 20-year journalism background with her passion for business to cover the natural products industry for and Natural Foods Merchandiser magazine. She also led content at She loves tracking (and tasting) trends as she shares what’s next to show up in cups, plates and in pantries across the United States.

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