This year makes it a (gluten-free) baker’s dozen as we honor our winners in the 13th annual Natural Choice Awards. Natural products in 18 categories were voted on by our readers, and we’ve come away with a truly impressive group of winners and runners up, including several multiple-time Natural Choice Award winners. There are some newcomers to the party as well.

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ancient grains

Ancient grains have achieved strong recognition from mainstream and natural shoppers alike. Here’s what you need to know about some of the hottest grains on the market.

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What do more than half of your shoppers have in common with each other? Pets! About 62% of U.S. households own at least one pet, and 47% percent have at least one dog, according to The Humane Society. Incorporating some pet care items into your store will likely make your loyal pack see your business as a one-stop shop for the entire family—and yes, that includes the furbabies!

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People will always crave carbohydrates of all shapes and sizes. But the cookies, crackers, breads and baking mixes that lead the market, especially in the natural and specialty channels, are offering a little something extra. Let’s find out what makes certain baked goods more appealing to the foodies of today, and how retailers can make use of this knowledge.

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With current strong market expansion for hemp products and state-legalized marijuana, the Cannabis plant is the foundation for some of the fastest growing industry segments in the United States today. This is in spite of the fact that no commercial production of hemp is occurring in the United States and the Cannabis plant remains prohibited by federal statute.

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Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe, CA, once ran a television/radio advertising campaign that involved three different jingles. The first featured Beach Boys-esque music and a deep male voiceover. The second was reminiscent of a 1980s female soloist and included an energetic male voiceover and the tag line “Oh Yeah!”. The third had early 2000s-inspired electronica with an autotuned voiceover and ending line, “Chill out and get your game on.” These Genergraphics Gingles were specifically designed to reach three different sets of key clientele simultaneously: Boomers, Gen X and Echo Boomers (also known as Gen Y).

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Are your food demos and store promotions getting stale? Consider highlighting some of the hottest drinks on the market: coffee, tea and drinking chocolate. Here is some fun and important information to share with shoppers when showing them off.

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Everyone is buying in on natural flavors and colors. It’s now only a matter of how far these sibling industries can push the boundaries, as the role they play in the food market is unquestioned. The use of botanical extracts in lieu of synthetic molecules is now mainstream, according to Amandine De Santi, business manager at NATUREX, Avignon, France. “The use of natural flavors, for example, is no longer a way to differentiate from the competition, but it has become a key requirement for consumers, especially in products for kids or with a healthy positioning,” she says.

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pie chart

Many of us shoot for efficiency in our lives and in our businesses. It’s safe to say from the results of the 2014 WholeFoods Retailer Survey that natural products businesses view this goal as a high priority, as many independent stores have hit on some profitable combinations of store size, product offerings, sales and expenditures.

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This is not a rapid expansion, nor is it the resurgence of something dormant. No, the rise of the coconut market over the past few years has been more like the birth of something new. Where before there was only a niche interest, today there exists a profusion of products that rake in hundreds of millions in sales annually. The majority of this growth has occurred right here in North America.

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