A peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread, washed down with a nice tall glass of cold milk sounds like a delicious and healthy lunch for kids and adults alike. Unfortunately, for nearly 15 million Americans today, that meal could lead to severe health consequences. Peanut, wheat and dairy allergies and intolerances are becoming more and more commonplace; between 1997 and 2011, food allergies among children spiked 50% (1). Though there are many theories as to why they are becoming more prevalent, a direct cause is still unknown. But the fact is, for those with peanut allergies, dairy intolerances or gluten sensitivities, these conditions are very real and can disrupt and even threaten their daily lives.

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Continuing on our discussion about Gourmet Snack Foods, we have an online exclusive interview with Angie Bastian, founder of Angie’s Artisan Popcorn of Mankato, MN. Angie's pops fresh popcorn batch by batch. The line includes Boom Chicka Pop Sea Salt and Boom Chicka Pop White Cheddar, as well as Sweet and Spicy, Salted Caramel, Kettle Corn and more.

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Chips. Cookies. Nuts. Popcorn. America has a love affair with snacks.

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Terms like gourmet, delectable and healthful converge in the healthy indulgences category, where consumer demand is growing and product makers are innovating. To stay on top of this market, take heed of these trends and marketing perspectives.

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The healthy, delicious and varied world of mushrooms is growing ever more popular, both in the natural and gourmet markets. With so many types to choose from, from fruity chanterelles, to meaty portobellos, to the most expensive truffles in the world, the mushroom market has something for everyone. This month, our Gourmet Guru, co-founder and owner of FungusAmongUs Lynn Monroe, talks with WholeFoods about the many benefits of mushrooms, both in culinary applications and in health.

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Your mission: Make a 30-minute meal from scratch that’s flavorful, unique and cost-effective without piling on unhealthy fats, sweeteners or too much sodium. Your secret weapon? Herbs and spices!

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According to the 2013 WholeFoods Retailer Survey, prepared foods are a key driver of foot traffic and sales in many natural products stores. Prepared foods—such as ready-made meals, fresh juice from a juice bar, bakery items and the like—comprised about 13.13% of overall sales among independent natural products retailers. Without a doubt, shoppers are drawn to stores that have fresh, delicious prepared foods that can make for a quick, healthy meal.

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Demand for natural products is as strong as ever, according to data collected in the 36th Annual WholeFoods Retailer Survey. Independent stores that participated in this year’s survey had a strong showing in 2013, selling a combined $741 million throughout their more than 1.24 million ft2 of total retail space. Most stores reported gains this year, and businesses are optimistic about the outlook for 2014, all excellent news for those who value the expertise and unique flavor that independent stores contribute to the natural and organic supplements, grocery, HABA and home products industries.

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It happens nearly every day: you’ve eaten lunch, dinner isn’t for another three hours and your stomach starts rumbling. Time to grab a quick snack! But looking at the vending machine in your office, all you see are potato chips fried in genetically modified oils and candy bars that are just chocolate-covered sugar with a side of artificial flavorings. If you and your shoppers are like millions of others today, these options just aren’t good enough anymore. You’re hungry for something healthy.

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Each sector of the drink industry brings its own excitement, including tales of success, growth and obstacles overcome. In sharing with you their window onto the beverage landscape, these insiders and entrepreneurs will help bring you up to date on the state of the healthy beverage market.

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