In designing our series on Natural Success Stories, we at WholeFoods Magazine needed to come up with ways to categorize success within the natural products industry. We quickly realized that most within the industry would measure it by the positive impact made on other people’s lives. Natural, healthful products are, of course, a beneficial presence in the lives of many. But companies that focus great effort and resources on those in special need fill out the rest of the positive impact equation.

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Nearly all parents would do just about anything for their children, and that includes feeding them the best that stores have to offer. In fact, 47% of parents make sure at least half of the food they load into their grocery carts is organic (1). So says the Organic Trade Association’s newly released U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes & Beliefs 2014 Tracking Study, which surveyed more than 1,200 families with at least one child under 18.

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From bread to brownies, baked goods are favorite treats for people around the world. Statistics show that artisanal and gourmet baked goods occupied approximately 51% of the overall baked goods market in 2013, proving that when consumers go to the shelves, they want the highest quality (1).

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Not long ago, access to natural dietary supplements, gluten-free foods and organic produce in the Midwestern United States was extremely limited. It was here, in an area mainly barren of these options for health and wellness, where Barbara Hoffmann and her husband, John, decided to build an oasis for natural products shoppers.

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What’s old has become new with ancient grains capturing the attention of shoppers nationwide. From freekeh to millet, Americans see the value of ancient grains in their diets, and manufacturers are responding with exciting offerings.

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As a staple of the lauded Mediterranean diet, olive oil has been praised for its healthful qualities and flavor in countries such as Italy and Greece for quite a long time, and now it’s gained a foothold in the United States as well.

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There’s a transformation underway in the natural retailing community. After decades of strong leadership, many pioneering retailers are scaling back their duties or passing the reins of their stores to the next generation of retailers—some family members, others young entrepreneurs. At the same time, we’re seeing stores grow from the ground up under the guidance of young owners who are new to natural or retailing or both.

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If any consumer today feels that food is not a means of improving their lives, they are in a distinct minority. Data from the Natural Marketing Institute indicate nearly four out of five people believe “healthy foods and beverages can be used to increase the quality of their lives” (1). This explains the current zeal for what functional foods, from nutritious greens to probiotic-infused cookies, have to offer.

Here, grab a glimpse of who is buying functional foods, what they’re buying, and how they’re learning about their options.

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The chocolate game has changed. Today, gourmet chocolatiers are adding exotic fruit, spices and cacao nibs to their premium bars and they are flying off the shelves.

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The ballots are in. The votes are tallied. And now without further ado, we are thrilled to share with you the winners of the 2014 WholeFoods Natural Choice Awards.

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