OCEAN, N.J. -- A test of natural and organic products in a 31,000-square-foot Super Foodtown here has proven so successful that executives of Food Circus Supermarkets are looking to expand it.
Food Circus operates 13 stores in Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties in New Jersey. The whole-health section, called "Nature's Harvest," is a five-aisle store-within-a-store anchored by the pharmacy. In addition to grocery offerings, including a bulk food department, it also has freezer space and refrigerated cases for organic dairy and natural meat, and poultry items as well.
In the event that some stores may not have the space for a 2,500-square-foot section, the natural and organic products will be integrated, said Phil Scaduto, vice president for administration and marketing.
"The health-conscious consumer is also a mainstream shopper," he told SN. "Mainstream shoppers do typically shop at health-food stores also, and our goal is to get them to shop in our stores for those items as well."
The whole-health section was set up about nine months ago, as a test. It has high gondolas, as well as refrigeration for acidophilus and flax oils, and chilled or freezer cases for all-natural and frozen organic foods, including frozen yogurt and ice cream. An 8-foot organic dairy section contains cheeses, milks and such; organic produce is in the produce department, which is close by.
The fixtures are all in a natural light wood, a maple look, as described by Paul Schneider, director of pharmacy and leader of the whole-health team. The floor is wood tiles and special signage promotes the category.
"We also merchandise our HABA adjacent to the whole-health area," Scaduto said. "Customers love it," he continued. "We initiated our own private line of herbs and vitamins, also called Nature's Harvest, competitively priced." There is also an interactive Health Notes kiosk as well as a reference center tied into the department, to help consumers learn more.
"In our pharmacy department, we just added software to educate our customers about any type of medication that depletes their vitamins and minerals so they can replenish it," Schneider said. When they fill a prescription, this program, called NutriLink, tells the patient what nutrients are depleted and which herbal and natural products would interact with that particular medication. "And we have all kinds of literature, a tremendous kiosk with an assortment of every type of booklet available, plus free printed articles for the consumer also, a multitude of them," he explained.
Store Manager Wendy White has a background in natural foods "and lives the program," according to Schneider. Food Circus sends its pharmacists to seminars frequently, he added, to learn more about natural pharmacy.
The whole-health program is promoted weekly with an insert in the advertising circular. Health bars are a big category, but so are soy items, especially soy milks, and Amy's Kitchen frozen organic foods, Schneider said.
There are two ways to look at the integration/separate set discourse, Scaduto said. "If you have the room and you can dedicate a reasonable size area to the category, it makes more sense, creates a much more powerful impact on the consumer. If you don't have the room, then certainly integration is a smart alternative.
"Then you are able to offer the items to the consumer in areas where it makes sense for them. We are pleased with the results so far," Scaduto said.