SN held a Health & Wellness Summit at Expo West in Anaheim, Calif. where retailers and other industry experts discussed natural food trends and tips. Above, show attendees listen to a panel.
SN's Editor-in-Chief David Orgel introduced the summit with insights from the SN Whole Health Survey.
The survey found that 79.4% of respondents saw the sales of their health and wellness categories increase over the previous year.
More fridge, less shelf stable
“Convenience still reigns supreme,” said Eric J. Pierce, director of strategy and insights for New Hope Natural Media, Boulder, Colo.
“Despite the consumers’ desire for fresher and healthier products, they are still looking for convenience, and more shelf-stable products are beginning to find their way to retailers’ refrigerators.
Although some major brands are making strides to remove preservatives, “they still lag natural brands in using organic non-GMO ingredients," said Annie K. Geile, director of client management for Label Insight.
Integrate or segregate organics?
At Raley’s Supermarkets, “50% of the stores are integrated,” Meg Burritt, director of wellness and sustainability, said, “and we’re thinking of integrating the category at all stores sooner rather than later.”
Separate for now
Based on talks with consumers, Joel Warady, chief sales and marketing officer for Enjoy Life Foods, Schiller Park., Ill., said shoppers indicate “they find it easier to shop in a segregated situation because they don’t want to have to look at labels to see what is and isn’t organic."
But he thinks that will change within five years.
Customers at Chandler, Ariz.-based Bashas’ “want one-stop shopping for ease, accessibility and convenience,” Roxanne Lord, director of health and wellness initiatives, explained, “so we’ve integrated into a store-within-a-store so they don’t have to hunt all over to find what they’re looking for.”
“We have to compete. These are the items competitors like Whole Foods and Bristol Farms are carrying, and although we have a different kind of customer and we can’t force these items on them, we can nudge them very gently and build the business in baby steps," said Alfonso Cano, produce director for Northgate Gonzalez Market, Anaheim, Calif.
Know your shopper
Stephanie Steiner, director of sales and marketing for the Market Centre division of Unified Grocers, Los Angeles, pointed out that conventional retailers must understand their entire customer base is looking for more natural and organic offerings.
“It’s not just the fringe anymore, and the conventional retailer has to figure out how to capitalize on that demand,” she pointed out.
“We like to be first to market,” said Rhonda Siltman, category manager of natural and organic at Coborn's, St. Cloud, Minn. “I want us to be a destination for this. I’m willing to take a risk if a vendor has done their homework.”
Proof of concept
“If you’re a brand, you need to understand the strategy of the store banner,” said Scott Silverman, VP, customer insights and growth solutions, KeHE Distributors, Naperville, Ill.
“You also must prove the brand has impact in the category,” he added. “Start locally, because you need proof of concept on what works. You need to tell your brand’s story in-store. Can the brand have impact in the category that’s scalable and makes sense?”
New brand considerations
Todd MacGrath, director of conventional accounts, Presence Marketing, a natural and organic brokerage based in South Barrington, Ill., outlined a number of factors he considers in deciding whether to bring new brands into his company’s portfolio.
“Are brands prepared for the cost of entry and cost of promotion?” he said. “What’s been their success in the natural channel? What can they offer to the supermarket trade?”
The local question
Aside from other factors, local is very important to many consumers, Lazy Acres Market President Vic Sohagi said — “even more important than organic to some shoppers,” he added. “But local is what consumers perceive it to be.”
Manufacturers also have to figure out how to design products that will appeal to a changing consumer base, said Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert.
“If you’re designing food for white people, you will fail,” Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert declared.