Like any other industry, the food business loves statistics. Retailers, in particular, really seem to eat them up. So it's a pleasure to be able to report that there are plenty to kick around in this issue of SN Whole Health, bagged with this week's SN. Why now? Maybe decimal points and percentage symbols are one way the industry psychs itself up for the approaching holidays; perhaps the release of all these numbers coincides with the end of the year. It doesn't really matter in the health and wellness categories, since it's almost all good news.
Take local foods, for instance. They certainly bring health (and wealth) to a supermarket's bottom line. The research firm Packaged Facts reports that locally grown food sales have jumped from $4 billion in 2002 to $5 billion this year. You can read more about this vibrant class of products, and the plans supermarket retailers have for it, in the WH cover story.
We're also tracking the growth of in-store medical clinics. Some 1,500 of these offices could be open by the end of next year, including nearly 400 each at Wal-Mart and Walgreens. The low-liability investment is attractive to supermarkets, because the clinics provide anchor support for the pharmacy and are yet another way food retailers can compete with drug stores — in the same way gas pumps no longer differentiate convenience stores from supermarkets.
And what about this? If you find your inventory of dryer sheets piling up, it may be that consumers have learned they can save $100 a year in energy costs and save the environment more than 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide by using clotheslines instead of the dryer.
There are also numbers that give pause — such as $15 billion. That's how much honeybees contribute annually to the U.S. economy, an amount that's at stake if investigators cannot determine what's causing entire colonies to inexplicably disappear without a trace. The phenomenon, known as Colony Collapse Disorder, first started occurring about this time last year. So far, the hives seem to be pretty much intact. Let's hope they stay that way, because their pollination is required by one-third of the nation's food supply. If there's another collapse, supermarkets and their shoppers will surely feel the sting of higher prices and inferior product quality.
If all these numbers are making you hungry for more, then take a bite out of “Refresh,” our new online newsletter and blog, launching today. Every Wednesday, SN subscribers will receive the top stories of the week related to the health and wellness business. The emailed link will connect you with the blog portion of the news. Don't expect dry headlines, though. Each of the four areas we cover — The Week in Wellness (the top news items), Rules & Regulations, Marketing & Outreach, and A Healthy Dish (a time-out to ponder the more curious aspects of this business) — is infused with an industry point of view that you won't find on any of the other sites. Be on the lookout for it, or visit www.whrefresh.com  to sign up. You'll be glad you did.