Toast, low-fat margarine and Sweet'N Low. As natural products retailers, you know that these three food items do not a healthy, balanced breakfast make. In fact, I imagine that at least one of these things— the synthetic, saccharine-packed sweetener—would be on your "avoid at all costs" list. Unfortunately, health clinics operating today are dishing out weight-loss advice that includes a low-fat breakfast meal plan based primarily on these three foods.
I know this because, as part of last year's inaugural Future of Wellness study, New Hope Natural Media interviewed a man in Deer Park, Texas, who had received such advice from a local, retail-based weight-loss clinic. The husband and father told us that, even though he couldn't really afford it, he had joined the clinic to shed weight and avoid type 2 diabetes. According to him, all fats—including fish oil—were forbidden by the clinic except for two tablespoons of low-fat margarine a day.
I share this story because it illustrates several key points related to natural products retailers and their role as purveyors of health and wellness information. The first is that the vast majority of people (including those who are not yet your customers) want to be healthier and are willing to take steps—even difficult and expensive ones—to achieve that goal. The problem, however, is that many people are confused about how to actually pursue health and wellness, and this confusion makes it possible for a person to believe that low-fat margarine topped with Sweet'N Low is a healthier choice than omega-3-rich fish oil.
The second point is that lots of companies, including many mainstream retailers, are jumping on the health-and-wellness bandwagon—primarily to make money on desperate people like the man we interviewed in Texas. As a result, the U.S. market is now saturated with "health washing," while the country's obesity and diabetes epidemics continue to soar and the majority of people exist on overly processed, nutrient-depleted food.
This, of course, is where you come in. As Dean's Natural Food Market, Debra's Natural Gourmet and other longtime natural products retailers around the country know, stores such as yours are in a prime position to provide balanced, science-backed wellness information while helping your customers make progress toward their own health goals. Doing so will not only fortify the future of your business in today's competitive retail market, but it will also improve the health of the communities you serve.
So here's to you and the important work you will do in 2012 and beyond. Help us inspire others by sharing how you are transforming your store into a true health and wellness resource. E-mail your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.