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Following The Buzz

Health and Value Through Private Label

March 1, 2014

By now, many of you may have forsaken your New Year’s resolutions or, if they involved proclamations of healthier living, perhaps put them off until spring when the weather reminds you of approaching beach trips and bathing suits.

Statistic Brain (crediting the University of Scranton and the Journal of Clinical Psychologyas the sources) ranked “losing weight” as the No. 1 resolution for 2014. “Staying fit and healthy” ranked No. 5, while “spend less and save more” came in at No. 3.

Traditionally, healthy eating campaigns might have been the game of grocery stores, but as other channels add more fresh foods, we’re seeing healthy options pop up in surprising places.

Mass merchandiser Target introduced its Simply Balanced food line last June, which is free of artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, and transfats, and 40 percent of the line is organic. Convenience retailer 7-Eleven was offering a new 180-calorie egg white sandwich on a whole wheat English muffin for $1.99 at time of press, as well as its “buy a salad get a free 7-Select water” deal. On the nonprofit front, Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s, plans to open the first Daily Tablestore in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, offering affordable and healthy grab-and-go food cooked up from products past their sell-by dates.

Discount retailers, which allow shoppers to “spend less and save more” are also stepping up their food offerings. Limited-assortment chain ALDI, which plans to open 650 new stores over five years, launched its new SimplyNature brand of all-natural and organic food this year. ALDI also added organic options to its 70 varieties of fresh produce and awarded a year’s supply of produce to one Facebook fan who made a pledge to a healthier lifestyle in the New Year.

While researching our cover story “The Evolution of the Discount Channel” (see page 16) I was struck by the store brands ALDI has been touting and decided to make a shopping trip there to see them for myself.

The SimplyNature brand includes organic options, such as reduced-fat milk (64 oz., $3.49), free-range broth (32 oz., $1.79) and wildflower honey (12 oz., $3.49). I bought a box of SimplyNature Cranberry Almond Fruit & Nut Bars + Antioxidants, which claims on the front package the bars compare to national brand Kind Fruit & Nut Bars; they’re gluten-free, have no GMOs, and have a low glycemic index.

When I left, my basket (or armful, I should say, since one of ALDI’s discount tricks is to omit free carts and bags) consisted of: Specially Selected 100 Percent Pure Maple Syrup and All Natural Mango Fire Cheddar, Happy Farms Preferred Smoked Gouda, Priano Tortellini With Porcini Mushroom Filling, Aunt Maple’s Dark Chocolate & Peppermint Pancake and Waffle Mix, fresh Pero Family Farms Mini Sweet Peppers (1 lb.), and the SimplyNature Cranberry Almond Fruit & Nut Bars—all store brands (minus the peppers).

All in all, I gathered a perfectly pretentious basket that you might expect more from the likes of Whole Foods rather than a discount retailer. The kicker—my total basket price was $14.53.

 It might not necessarily be completely healthier living, but for discount shoppers on a budget, it’s better living.  

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