Wellness is a two-sided concept, said Larry Ishii, general manager, GM/HBC sales, Unified Grocers, Commerce, Calif.
One is the products with wellness applications, such as ergonomically shaped handles for housewares items, but the other is sustainability, he said. That has more to do with manufacturing processes, material usage and other factors that make the items more ecologically friendly, and thus make the environment a healthier place.
“I appreciate the fact that we're seeing all the bamboo and all the natural products. There are even gloves made out of bamboo, and they are very soft,” said David Lowe, senior director, GM/HBC/seasonal, C&S Wholesale Grocers, Avenal, N.J. “That's going to help all our natural resources. That's good for us, for the environment and for the people. Again, we'd like for everybody to live a long time, for our children to live a long time.”
Imperial Distributors, Auburn, Mass., is going to recommend that its retailer customers change any sets including textiles to half bamboo and/or organic cotton, said Tony Germano, director of business development, general merchandise. This is part of a major environmental initiative at Imperial, he said.
“I would not be surprised if eventually you see that bamboo extends across the 4-foot section, and you don't see a regular cotton towel in there,” he said.
“Customers across all channels are becoming much more environmentally aware of the products, services and resources they're using. If there's a choice for them to shop green and it's not incredibly out of the range of where their price point is, they are going to make that choice. If you're not in that marketplace, they're going to find a retailer that offers that product,” Germano said.
“The item can't be substantially more expensive,” added Al Jones, Imperial's senior vice president, procurement and merchandising. “People are willing to do the right thing but they're not necessarily willing to do it if it costs a lot more, so you keep the prices within reason and the American consumer will make that choice.”
Chris DePetris, director of wellness programs, Global Market Development Center, Colorado Springs, is seeing big growth in bamboo products, especially textiles. “I'm a huge fan of bamboo. I would like to go out and buy some bamboo clothing. Bamboo actually seems to hold up longer in the textiles than traditional cottons. It grows very rapidly. It does not use a lot of resources and it can grow in many areas of the world with minimal farming and minimal water use.”