Nutrition Business Journal Editor Rick Polito and farmer activist Andrew Pittz drive from Seattle to Anaheim examining challenges, issues and innovation in natural retail as the age of Amazon looms and mass merchandise chains continue their march into organic and natural.

Rick Polito, Editor-in-chief, Nutrition Business Journal

March 1, 2018

2 Min Read
The Road to Natural: On the front lines of retail
Thinkstock/George Doyle

This series is underwritten by NOW Foods.

Few industries and outlets have the kind of symbiotic relationship that natural products and natural retail can claim. Natural products, particularly supplements, have long depended on retail as the ambassadors and educators explaining the benefits of clean foods and nutrition-focused health. In turn, retailers in the natural channel have depended on the higher margins from products in supplements and personal care.

But now the relationship that helped build a constellation of industries with sales of more than  $200 billion approaches a troublesome crossroads. Retailers see mass stomping at their doorsteps with an ever larger footprint while sales of those higher margin products make a seamless transition online. Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods raises even more questions as grocery delivery, made more immediate than ever by smartphones, poses a greater threat. Natural product companies see online sales as boosting the bottom line, and subscription-based shipments for supplements and other routinely used products offer the dream of loyal customers nudged into complying with their regimens by the monthly arrival of a box of pills.

But what happens if natural retailers, especially independent grocers and small chains that emphasize community, watch their parking lots empty? How will retailers innovate to hold onto sales? Do the advantage of community connection still matter?

These are some of the issues to be explored in the third Road to Natural series. Come back each day to get a report from the aisles as NBJ Editor Rick Polito and farmer/activist Andrew Pittz trace a route down the West Coast:


In the shadow of Amazon: No community knows more about operating in the Amazon age than Seattle, home to the online giant. Learn how area retailers are coping with the online onslaught. Read it here.


Connecting with the community has long been a cornerstone of the value proposition for natural retail. From hosting fundraisers to offering classes in cooking and yoga, these retailers are connected to their consumers in a way that no national chain can claim. Read it here.


The fate of the family farm is determined by what consumers put on their plate, and natural retail is helping them advocate for agriculture by coordinating with food hubs and local farmers. Read it here.


The community bulletin board in natural markets is often a quick way to take the pulse of the community, but for some retailers their political values and activism won’t fit on a few square feet of cork. Read it here.


Southern California has long been the lab and launch pad for innovation in natural retail. See what the future might look like on a day of visits to the most innovative retail platforms in Southern California. Read it here.

This series is underwritten by

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About the Author(s)

Rick Polito

Editor-in-chief, Nutrition Business Journal

As Nutrition Business Journal's editor-in-chief, Rick Polito writes about the trends, deals and developments in the natural nutrition industry, looking for the little companies coming up and the big money coming in. An award-winning journalist, Polito knows that facts and figures never give the complete context and that the story of this industry has always been about people.

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