CHICAGO — A pair of IGA retailers said their stores have turned niche categories into mainstream success by listening to customers and taking swift action to answer their needs.
The owners were part of a panel discussion on adopting go-to-market strategies for two of the biggest trends in the supermarket industry today — wellness and sustainability — during this week’s IGA Global Rally .
They were interviewed by SN contributing editor Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru.
The retailers, Mike Trask of Granite Falls IGA , Granite Falls, Wash., and Tom Honer, owner of two Harvest Market IGA  stores in Fort Bragg and Mendocino, Calif., both cited categories like organic meat, gluten-free foods and visible sustainability measures like solar power panels atop a store’s roof as examples of what’s helping to distinguish them from the competition.
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“I spent the first 11 years trying to be just like Safeway ,” said Honer, who opened his first store in 1985. “I believed that if I could be cheaper on turkeys at Thanksgiving, I could build such loyalty that they’d follow me for the rest of the year. That was my thinking then.”
Now, the emphasis is on local, organic and specialty , including the red-hot gluten-free category.
“Gluten-free, organic and natural are starting to become more prominent in our marketplace, products that have probably been underserved in our town,” said Trask, who took over the IGA store from his brother in 1999. “We’re not a natural/organic store. We’re just a middle-of-the-road, convenient grocery store in Granite Falls that has added this element and has carved it out as being a push for us.”
Other panelists included Julia Sabin , vice president of industry and government affairs, The J.M. Smucker Company; and Alison Borgmeyer , a registered dietitian and vice president of Nutrition Media.
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