Driving Center Store Shopping with Natural Foods

Oct 29, 2019

With $47.2 billion in sales and a five percent increase over last year, natural product sales are outpacing the total food and beverage market, according to a new report from SPINS, a wellness-focused data technology company.

The natural food category is loosely defined, but essentially these foods are minimally processed, with low or no preservatives, additives, sweeteners, etc. Dairy alternatives, plant-based proteins, gluten-free, and organic products all fall under this category. Many center store natural food products are inspired by items in the produce department, creating an opportunity for retailers to grab those produce shoppers and convert them to natural foods shoppers.

Exploring that opportunity was the impetus behind last week’s Driving Sales in Natural Foods webinar with IGA CEO John Ross and Gabriel Perez Krieb, CEO of Red Oval partner Chosen Foods. They discussed insights from the natural foods category, including who these shoppers are, how to attract and educate shoppers, and how Chosen Foods’ natural products, like the company’s popular avocado-based oil, mayonnaise, and now salad dressing, act as a gateway to introducing shoppers to the overall natural foods category. 


As consumers continue to look for ways to incorporate healthier foods into their diets—including healthy fats—farmers, manufacturers, and retailers are paying attention. Avocado imports have doubled over the past 10 years, leading to a boom in popularity among products that prominently feature avocado. 

“Avocado-based products like mayonnaise, dressing, and sauces have really paved the way to giving a healthier alternative, and that’s where we’re seeing consumers who are getting more conscious go for it,” says Perez Krieb.


Watch the webinar for more insights around the natural category, and read on for tips to help you grow your center store sales through natural food offerings like Chosen Foods’ products. 

Step 1: Educate Shoppers.

With alternative fats gaining in popularity thanks to the keto and paleo diet trends, shoppers want to try new options for cooking. Coconut butter, ghee, and avocado oil are big hits for those diets. “In the case of avocado, it has a high oleic fatty acid,” says Perez Krieb. “It has antioxidants, it has Vitamin E.”

Those healthy properties will attract the diet-conscious set, but what about your average home cook? Now it’s time to educate the shopper, since some oils and fats are better for high-heat cooking, like stir fry. For example, many home cooks’ go-to for cooking, olive oil, has a smoking point in the mid-300 to mid-400°F, which is unhealthy for high-heat cooking.

“When you’re cooking, and you turn on the heat, the different oils break at different temperatures,” Perez Krieb explains. “And that means when it breaks, the unhealthy fats come out. In the case of avocado oil, [the smoking point is] 500°F, so it’s probably the highest one up there. If you’re going to be doing some cooking, try using a high-heat oil.”

Visit IGA.com to share the Top 5 Cooking Oil Tips blog with your shoppers on social media, and stay tuned this January for more Chosen Foods blogs and recipes to help your shoppers start the New Year off on the right foot.

Step 2: Give Shoppers What They Crave.

While trends tend to start on the coasts and work their ways into the middle of the country, the natural food trend is active everywhere. “In center middle America, they’re very engaged,” says Perez Krieb. “They’re really active in wanting different options and alternatives in their diets.”

He says that the data suggests that shoppers want the option to expand their consumption of natural foods. “The data that we have shows that shopping baskets are 47 percent higher when our products are in them, and the consumers tend to spend about one and a half times more when one of our products are in their baskets,” Perez Krieb details.

That data is encouraging to independent retailers looking to boost center store sales. Ross suggests IGA stores follow the consumer lead and stock natural products, like Chosen Foods’ lines. “You’ve got to look at it and go, ‘Maybe the reason center store is down is because I’m not assorting to what the shopper wants—and increasingly wants more often—as opposed to running the old play,’” Ross says.

Click here for a complete list of Chosen Foods products, and talk to your IGA Licensed Distribution Center (LDC) about stocking the products that are right for you. 


Step 3: Sample and Merchandise Creatively.

With most shoppers looking for a valid alternative to healthy cooking, the types of products Chosen Foods offers in the natural foods space attract a demographic willing to spend more. So once you’ve stocked the natural products, how can you encourage shoppers to purchase them?

In-store Samples

Ross suggests putting up an end cap or hosting an in-store sampling that says, “Want to be healthier and incorporate natural foods?”

Tuna salad made with avocado mayonnaise is a great recipe to offer during an in-store sampling, says Perez Krieb. Serve it on crackers, or make tuna melts by adding organic cheese and whole grain bread, and using a panini or waffle maker sprayed with Chosen Foods Avocado Oil or Organic Chosen Blend Spray. Cut into bite-sized squares and serve!

Chosen Foods offers a myriad of recipes on their website, which you can use to lead your in-store samplings, share in social media posts, or as part of your in-store merchandising.

Prepared Foods Au Naturale

Attract shopper interest from produce and center store and bring it to your deli with this unique differentiator. Make some of your deli’s prepared foods with natural products like Chosen Foods Infused Avocado Oil sprays for a roasted vegetable pasta salad or a Mexican chopped salad using their Avocado Oil Mayonnaise. Promote the natural food ingredients, like avocado oil, on your signage, placing it near the shelf display of Chosen Foods products in center store, near the avocados in produce, and in the deli itself.



Perez Krieb says that best practices for merchandising natural products—especially those derived from ingredients in the produce department like avocado oil—depend on the types of customers at your store. He suggests placing the products where your shoppers gravitate. Some stores see success with a destination station, like in an open refrigeration display near produce. Others have been successful placing all natural foods together in center store.

Want more ideas for merchandising or advice on how to stock natural foods? Watch the webinar here and contact your LDC to add more Chosen Foods to your shelves.

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