20th Anniversary: Retailer of the Year

Join in a conversation with past winners about the state of natural products retailing.

Written By:
reporting by Kimberly Williams
View more articles in:
share

This year, as we celebrate New Seasons Market’s accomplishments, we are also celebrating the 20th anniversary of honoring the industry’s most notable retailers. Congratulations to all past winners of the WholeFoods Retailer of the Year Award. In honor of this anniversary, we spoke with past winners about the state of natural products retailing.

Retailers nationwide—join in the conversation and tell us what’s on your mind!  Share your thoughts and see how these businesses have fared over the years.

 

How do you envision the natural products industry evolving within the next 5-10 years?

"We have to get more competitive with mass retailers."
--Diana Rhoads, senior vice president of Mustard Seed Market & Cafe, Akron, OH, WholeFoods Retailer of the Year, 1999


"As long as we are able to maintain our freedom to have access to dietary supplements and the information regarding them, the natural products industry will continue to grow as more and more people expand their awareness and take responsibility for their personal health care. This will be especially true as changes continue to develop in the health care industry and affect access and choice in traditional health care."
--Rachel Humphrey, general manager and partner at Good Earth Natural Foods, American Fork, UT, WholeFoods Retailer of the Year, 2009


"I believe you're going to see more condition-specific formulas in supplement formulations. Organic foods will grow and grow."
--Al Forman, owner of Tunie’s, Coral Springs, FL,WholeFoods Retailer of the Year, 2006


"I think the lines between what people expect in from the natural food industry and what they are getting have been blurred. The movement of 'organics' into the mass market added players that have taught us cutting corners is okay and now many others have fallen into this trap. But, there are still those of us committed to providing consumers with access to organic foods in order to sustain a healthier planet and lifestyle. My view is that in the next five to 10 years, the natural food industry will be revived with new ideas about how to serve people the foods they expect from us and we will again separate from the mass market. New ways to shop and a focus on the basics will take the forefront.The industry will be where others look to for new ideas on customer experience, product development and bringing new foods to the table. There will be a switch from the concept of 'how processed can my organic product be?' to people demanding less processing and learning to live with what is in season. These will be the new natural foods customers who will be loyal to their stores because their stores are dedicated to their well being."
--Aaron Gottlieb, owner of Native Sun Natural Foods Market, Jacksonville, FL, WholeFoods Retailer of the Year 2008


"Our biggest problems are the constraints with over-the-counter vitamins and supplements. However, any products catering to woman’s health, men’s health, diabetes and arthritis will take over."
--Thom McDonald, project manager of Health Foods Unlimited, Centerville, OH, WholeFoods Retailer of the Year, 2007

 

If you could make a prediction, what would be the next “hot” thing in the natural products industry?

"Coconut water is hot right now, Kombucha and green tea."
--Rogbert Cantelon, manager and partner of Arbor Farms Natural Foods Market, Ann Arbor, MI, WholeFoods Retailer of the Year 2002


"The next hot thing: Clean Farmed Fish.  With the BP disaster, I think plenty of people are thinking about where their fish is coming from. Predictions of seafood shortages have been said to be felt in the next 30-40 years and people are not willing to lose what they love. Over the years, farmed fish have received a bad rap because of the pollution, feed, chemicals, antibiotics, growth hormones, etc. that have been part of the industry's culture. Some farms have tried to go against the grain and help leave the environment better than they found it. They do this by working with the ecosystem to keep excess pollutants out and getting the natural fish that originated in the habitat to spawn there again. The end result should be better control over the farms and environmental impact and getting the consumer a product that is superior to current standard farming practices and even most wild fish."
--Aaron Gottlieb, owner of Native Sun Natural Foods Market, Jacksonville, FL, WholeFoods Retailer of the Year 2008


"Any supplements that can help prevent heart attacks or inhibit cancer growth will be key sellers. And, any diet product that will achieve a permanent weight loss."
--Al Forman, owner of Tunie’s, Coral Springs, FL,WholeFoods Retailer of the Year, 2006


"Gluten-free products. Diagnosis and problems with gluten-intolerant people are increasing rapidly."
---Rachel Humphrey, general manager and partner at Good Earth Natural Foods, American Fork, UT, WholeFoods Retailer of the Year, 2009


"I think that locally grown products will really take the spotlight."
--Diana Rhoads, senior vice president of Mustard Seed Market & Cafe, Akron, OH, WholeFoods Retailer of the Year, 1999


"Anything to do with blood sugar, cholesterol and diabetes. So many people have blood sugar issues that don’t realize it."
--Thom McDonald, project manager of Health Foods Unlimited, Centerville, OH, WholeFoods Retailer of the Year, 2007


How has technology affected your business over the past few years? Do you participate in social media such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn?

"Technology for us has made possible some very fun focus marketing options. We are able to identify shoppers that shop in one department and make e-mail offers to help increase their awareness in other departments. Options in automation and management of inventory and re-ordering processes are being made possible from the growth of technology. Anytime you can increase your ability to market to your customers effectively, and simplify and improve your inventory management, you have greatly increased your potential for success."
--Rachel Humphrey, general manager and partner at Good Earth Natural Foods, American Fork, UT, WholeFoods Retailer of the Year, 2009


"The values of online promotion…everyone is going into that. The return rate is lower; also the cost is lower, too."
--Rogbert Cantelon, manager and partner of Arbor Farms Natural Foods Market, Ann Arbor, MI, WholeFoods Retailer of the Year 2002


"Technology has been a tremendous asset; it has provided a better analysis when it comes to pricing. The store is able to look at what its true costs are, which is a direct result of software and hardware technologies."
--Diana Rhoads, senior vice president of Mustard Seed Market & Cafe, Akron, OH, WholeFoods Retailer of the Year, 1999


"Technology has freed us from many time-consuming daily tasks that took up most of our time.  Much of the time saving has come at the cost of dealing with technology crashes and issues.  It is hard to order effectively if your Internet has gone down. Yes, you can manually call each order in, but you must instruct everyone to change temporarily and keep people updated.  I enjoy the good it has done with reporting and information, but I don’t think it saves us money or time at the end of the day rather, it helps us to make better choices with the information it provides."
--Aaron Gottlieb, owner of Native Sun Natural Foods Market, Jacksonville, FL, WholeFoods Retailer of the Year 2008


"POS systems make it easier to enhance revenues and easier to order nowadays, which can help us control margins better. POS also helps with pricing. It’s easier to track when things go on sale and for tracking what’s selling...Technology also is essential to hold onto margin. And, social media makes it easy to interact with customers on a real-time quick basis."
--Thom McDonald, project manager of Health Foods Unlimited, Centerville, OH, WholeFoods Retailer of the Year, 2007


"I can say that computers are a MUST HAVE. I could not operate without one. As far as social media goes, at this time we do not participate in it."
--Al Forman, owner of Tunie’s, Coral Springs, FL,WholeFoods Retailer of the Year, 2006

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
We want to hear from YOU, retailers! Join in the conversation and have your answers posted on www.wholefoodsmagazineonline.com. Click here to participate.

Past Retailers of the Year

1990: Bread & Circus, Massachusetts
1991: Unicorn Village Marketplace, Florida
1992: Wild Oats Markets, Boulder, CO
1993: Mrs. Gooch's Natural Foods Markets, California
1994: Whole Foods Market, Austin TX
1995: Alfalfa's
1996: Mother's Market, Costa Mesa, CA 
1997: Mother Earth Market, Gainesville, FL
1998: Hi Health, Scottsdale, AZ
1999: Mustard Seed Market, Akron, OH 
2000: Earth Fare, Asheville, NC
2001: Vitamin Cottage, Colorado
2002: Arbor Farms Natural Foods Market, Ann Arbor, MI
2003: Atkins, Tulsa, OK 
2004: Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco, CA 
2005: Basics Coop., Janesville, WI
2006: Tunie's, Coral Springs, FL
2007: Health Foods Unlimited, Centerville, OH
2008: Native Sun Natural Foods Market, Jacksonville, FL
2009: Good Earth Natural Foods, UT
2010: New Seasons Market, Portland, OR

Published online June 2010