This is the third time we've published our WH Sourcebook, but the first time it's being mailed out with this week's SN Power 50 issue. Talk about “value-added.” We have our own Fit 25 list of companies leading the way in whole health. It's important to state right off the bat that this is not, and never was, a “best of” list, because health and wellness is still much too diverse to make such declarations.
There are some definitives to use with the Fit 25, however — especially this year. What we like about the 2008 compilation is that it's made up entirely of retailers. We couldn't do that in earlier versions because there were either too few categories to cover or too few supermarket operators that qualified for consideration.
Happily, that's no longer the case. This year we have Channel Champions, Service Stars, Aisle Advocates and Green Giants. As usual, we started out by highlighting those retailers who are doing fine overall jobs with umbrella wellness programs.
This year, there's more to work with: We were able to take what used to be a single category labeled “special events” and subdivide it into single event, kids' marketing, community outreach, and so on.
One of the most active areas was devoted to Green Giants. This section, focusing on sustainability, was greatly expanded this year, and is home to some of the most creative thinking in the business right now. Whether it's energy conservation, recycling or building stores with new materials, we found that the supermarket industry is among the most avid of all participants out there, and truly acting in a leadership manner that is likely to inspire other industries to take up the cause.
Indeed, supermarkets are in much better shape than they were just a few short years ago when we launched the Fit 25 list. At that time, manufacturers made up half of the profiles. Certainly suppliers are equally as important to the whole health business, but our aim all along, as a retailer-focused publication, was to skew reporting to the part of the industry that we cover, and the majority of our readership. Even though they may not be named this year, manufacturers still get a lot of credit, since they work so closely with their retailer partners in making wellness much more accessible and affordable.
There's plenty still to do. The annual study of the U.S. whole health industry by the Natural Marketing Institute found that retail sales reached nearly $103 billion in 2007, representing growth of 15% over 2006. This figure includes sales across all retail and direct-to-consumer channels. What this number does not directly reflect is the contribution to this growth made by supermarkets, wholesalers and manufacturers. The sales increases such as those reflected in the NMI report help explain what made our job so easy for this special issue.
Of course, this could also be too much of a good thing. I wouldn't be surprised if that, soon, there will be too many qualified retailers, and not enough categories to support them.