ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Natural-food sections in supermarkets are becoming the norm, even in neighborhoods that are not necessarily young, boomerish or even upscale.
The addition of a Natural Products Day at the Food Marketing Institute's industry convention, which began Saturday and continues through Wednesday morning, demonstrates that the segment is attracting a more diverse consumer base.
During today's Natural Products Day program, described as "A Day Devoted to the Exploding Natural Products Segment," Kurt Krahn of Copps Corp., Stevens Point, Wis., will discuss his company's natural products program.
Copps Corp. is one of a growing number of retailers that are giving special attention to the segment. In visits to several chains here, for instance, SN found substantial natural-food sections in two Ralphs stores, as well as in one Lucky and one Pavilion.
A Ralphs unit on East Lincoln Avenue featured a 20-foot natural-food section in a grocery aisle that also stocked international and kosher foods, as well as pickles, olives and condiments. The placement was logical, since natural-food shoppers often buy international items in such categories as grains, condiments and beans.
The section stocked organic canned vegetables like peas, carrots and corn, as well as a wide variety of soups and cup-a-soup and meal-in-a-cup products from such manufacturers as Nile, Perfect Recipe and Fantastic Foods. A wide selection of cereals, cookies and crackers were in stock, along with rice and rice mixes. Soy milk, from Vita Soy and Rice Dream, was also on the shelves.
At another unit, a 20-foot section of natural food was in a grocery aisle with canned beans and vegetables, canned and bottled juices, canned fruits, diet items and international foods. While the aisle assortment was unique, it made sense, since natural-food customers are likely to purchase canned or bottled juices, canned beans and diet foods.
Though the aisle sign read, "canned meats, kosher foods, soups, salsa, tea and coffee," a standing aisle sign identified the natural-product mix.
This store carried an even larger selection of cup-a-soup items, from Fantastic Foods, Knorr, Nile, Spice Islands, House of Tsang, Spice Hunter and Private Selection. In addition, some products typically found in natural-food sections -- such as rices and pilafs from A Taste of Thai or Near East -- were merchandised with Asian foods. The aisle also had a wide selection of Hispanic products.
Next to the soups in the natural-food section were box items from Bean Cuisine, which are soup mixes that include beans, herbs and spices. Also in this aisle, in a separate section, were a variety of different of teas, many from Celestial Seasonings.
At a new Lucky/Sav-on store in Mission Viejo, Calif., the natural foods were opposite the produce, which itself featured about 25 organic items.
The natural-food grocery products occupied about 50 linear feet, with about 10 feet devoted to bulk items like pasta, rice, beans, pulses (dry lentil-size beans), popcorn, seeds, granola and dried fruits.
Like Ralphs, this store carried organic pasta, but Lucky's also had other organic products, including whole wheat pastry flour, oat flour and dry beans.
Similarly, a number of healthy cereals were available, along with cup-a-soup products, soups and rice mixes. Lucky's also had meatless frankfurters from Loma Linda; canned organic vegetarian beef stew and chicken style chili from Legume, and organic pasta sauces from Muir Glen and Millana's Finest.
Soy beverages were in stock, along with San Gennaro's Polenta products, pasta and bean box mixes, and Spice Hunter gourmet mushrooms. One endcap held more dried fruits and some candies, along with nuts and trail mixes.
In the next aisle, on the other side of the natural-food section, were reduced-calorie products like cookies, jams, rice cakes, granola bars, chips and peanut butter.
Some of these items fit into the "diet" category, while others were fructose-sweetened. Fat-free cookies and chips also were available.
Opposite the reduced-calorie foods were some Middle Eastern selections, including beans, olives, soups, noodle soups, eggplant mix, raisins and dried currants.
The bread aisle was loaded with wheat and corn tortillas.
In still another grocery aisle, Hispanic, Asian and kosher foods could be found, with a wide selection of sauces, spices, pastas, peppers, condiments, boxed pasta and rice products, and more cup-a-soup products. Obviously, the demographics in Mission Viejo, along with the rest of Southern California, can support an array of Hispanic and Asian foods in the supermarkets.
A Pavilions in Anaheim Hills, the most upscale neighborhood SN visited in the Anaheim area, had a 35-foot section of natural food, but many of the products were actually in the diet category.
The Pavilions had a selection of cup-a-soup products and organic soups from Healthy Valley, in addition to a number of Estee sugar-free products, Pritikin and Weight Watchers items, and Fifty50 fructose-sweetened cookies.
The natural foods were merchandised across from the salad dressings and mayonnaise, many of them lite and fat-free.
Next to the salad dressings were croutons, condiments, olives, pickles, mustards, sauces, chutney and glazes, along with Hispanic foods.
Further down the aisle where the natural foods were stocked were additional Hispanic items, as well as Asian foods, but not as many as in the other stores.