For shoppers with special-needs diets and food allergies, a little information goes a long way. That's why Jennifer Elizondo makes sure to scrutinize manufacturers extra closely before letting their products into Navan Foods, the specialty supermarket she opened this spring in Virginia Beach, Va.
Not satisfied with an ingredients lists alone, Elizondo developed a questionnaire that asks companies about their manufacturing environment and possible risks for allergic shoppers. Using the information she gathers, she prints shelf cards for every product that provide a full disclosure of ingredients and the production process. It's a labor-intensive task, she said, but her customers truly appreciate it. Like Elizondo, whose young son has multiple food allergies, many of them are used to shopping several locations to find everything they need.
“By the time they come in here and realize there's food out there for them, it's like this huge weight has just been lifted off their shoulders,” said Elizondo.
Navan Foods carries more than 600 products, including cereals, snacks and frozen meals. In addition to allergy-friendly brands such as Enjoy Life Foods and Gluten Free Pantry, the store also carries products from more mainstream companies, such as Pacific Natural Foods, that Elizondo believes display a keen awareness to food intolerances.
Although most of Navan's customers are people with allergies, Elizondo said she also gets shoppers who have autistic children, are on a gluten-free diet or are just trying to eat healthy. For them, Navan Foods is the only place where they can find everything they need under one roof.