(NaturalNews) It seems that more and more big name supermarkets have a natural foods section with natural food and products. Kroger in particular has pushed its Nature's Market, now found in more than 1,300 of the 2,500 stores nationwide. With the demand to increase market share for natural foods between competitors, it could mean good news as prices fall slowly but surely.
"Used to be this was all very faddish," said Gregg Proctor, who heads up natural foods for Kroger's central division, which includes Indiana. "Not anymore. We're adding new items constantly because if we don't get it when it comes out, our competition will."
According to the Nutrition Business Journal, natural food sales grew eight percent in 2010 compared to the less than one percent growth in the $630 billion total U.S. food market nationwide. It also grew, on average, by five percent every year from 2005 to 2009.
Kroger in Cincinnati has made a point to focus on natural foods, which makes sense considering it has seen sales double in the last four years in this area.
With those figures, it seems to be obvious there is a race to natural foods among the nation's largest grocers. Many supermarkets are ramping up promotions and offerings, even launching their own brands of natural foods and products. The benefit to the consumer of not only selection and abundance, is price. The more these large supermarkets try to compete in this sector means falling prices.
"Make no mistake, there is a definite price differential," said Meg Major, editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer, a trade publication covering the industry. "But as that once small segment is growing bigger and bigger, it has not only raised awareness but affordability."
"Our whole food culture is moving in a direction of less preservatives, less processed and just the whole ingredient count is so much more on people's minds," Major said.
The hurdle in this category: education. The difference between organic and natural can be a confusing one as natural foods are not regulated, unlike organic foods that are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Organic foods are also produced with strict rules and guidelines, holding farmers and manufacturers accountable to abide by these regulations.
Not having any regulations leaves it up to the manufacturer to define the meaning of "natural foods."
In the end, it is still up to consumers to educate themselves on labels and what they purchase at supermarkets. However, with demand in this sector increasing, it is nice to see large retailers offering healthy alternatives and striving to increase their selection.