Did you know the original Crock-Pot was based on a hippie bean cooker? That timing is critical in selling (and eating) sweet corn, because breaking the shank starts the process of turning the sugar into starch? Or that true celiacs make up only 1% of the gluten-free market, compared to the estimated 15-25 million people following a gluten-free diet?
I didn’t either, until we began putting together this latest issue of SN Whole Health, packaged with this issue of SN. Details like these weren’t included in the finished stories, but they’re the kind of miscellany that makes writing about health and wellness interesting. Even the seemingly trivial can impart a bit of insight.
The summer issue out this week includes a look at the return of the slow cooker and an update on the booming gluten-free category (worth $1.6 billion last year). There are a few warm-weather treats, too. Get ready to make room in the freezer case for a new generation of ice cream alternatives made from bases like goat’s milk, coconut and hemp; for the more sophisticated palate, there are a host of new all-natural, specialty and certified organic cocktail mixers coming to market — just in time for a summer in which the emphasis will be on at-home entertaining, if recession experts are to be believed.
The cover story examines how supermarket retailers are incorporating health and wellness into all these new formats being built, primarily in the Southwest and on the West Coast. The thread that connects all of them (besides their owners’ penchant for finding any way to incorporate the word “market” into the name) is that they’re smaller than today’s typical supermarket, averaging around 30,000 square feet or even less. Part convenience store, part gourmet shop, these hybrids are flexible, less costly to staff and operate, yet they allow retailers to experiment with new ways to deliver products and services to consumers. These stores might be smaller in size, but they still carry natural, organic and wellness goods in key categories like produce and dairy. Interestingly, natural/organic private label plays a higher-profile role here. In certain categories it might be the only selection available, a strategy that wouldn’t work in larger stores.
On the subjects of summer and strategy, there’s been a whole lot of talk about home gardening. The interest goes beyond the news that first lady Michelle Obama has started an organic garden in back of the White House. The National Gardening Association estimates that 7 million additional households plan to plant seeds this year, up 19% over last year. Home gardeners spent about $2.5 billion to purchase seeds, plants, fertilizer and related supplies to grow their own food.
And that brings me to my last piece of “a-bit-off-the-topic-but-still-useful” trivia: A high-yield, well-tended food garden can provide an impressive $500 worth of fresh produce.
The take-away here? Make sure your stores at least sell the seeds.