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We’ve told you about a number of specialty stores that have opened up in the past few years, all of them devoted to a particular area of health and wellness. Remember those low-carb stores around L.A. that offered nothing but bars?

These days there are stores dedicated to local foods, allergen-free foods and gluten-free foods. The restricted-diet shops, in particular, fill a niche in the overall retail food spectrum, but they do play a critical role satisfying consumers who are newly diagnosed with a condition, and are seeking guidance and support as they go about changing their shopping habits.

Somehow, these small operators seem to be more approachable — at least initially. Maybe it’s the intimacy or the way these stores are staffed. Consumers with diet-related maladies often come to these outlets first before realizing they can find most of the same products (usually for much less) at their conventional supermarket.

gluten-basket.jpgStill, no retailer rolls out a welcome like this: The Simply Gluten Free Specialty Grocery Store — opening this week in Thousand Oaks, Calif. — offers three sizes of “Just Diagnosed” gift baskets, ranging in size from small to large, and in price from $50 to $150. Each is filled with brand name gluten-free products that surely remind the receiver that their days of eating cookies, cakes and snacks is not over.

It’s a neat way of making someone on a special diet feel… well, special.

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