Water Water Everywhere... and all on sale this week.
June 17, 2007 8:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm buying Groceries... for a grocery store. I'm now buying for the grocery department of the largest store in our (rather small) chain and I'm at a loss as to what to fill the store with! So Mefi Vegans & Organic Foodies... What organic, all natural, or "alternative" foods, snacks, drinks, & cleaning supplies could you not live without? Do you know of any blogs that cover or review natural & organic packaged foods?

So basically I've been given control of the grocery department of the largest store that makes the most money and is also in the highest income neighborhood. These customer's have got money burning in their pockets & I want to give them some variety.

The previous manager had a problem getting the store filled so just created multiple facings. Way too many that is... 24 facings of the same brand & size of unbleached paper towels?

I tried using my resources and downloading plans from our main supplier... but they can't deal with the space we have. Let's put it this way... They have never had anyone ask for more than 12 feet of water That's 4 sections of shelving, usually multiplied by 5 shelves in a section... so 60 total feet of shelf space. I have 32 feet devoted to water. That's 160 feet of shelving. Needless to say, I carry every variety of water they have & all that 4 other distributors carry.

So I turn to my friends here at MeFi. Please turn me on to new brands of packaged foods & drinks. What are you favorite all natural cleaners? I need ideas, people! (Bonus points if they're vegan or gluten free!) Sorry, storebrands need not apply. Despite what my distributors think, I can't carry Whole Foods 365 brand.

Do you know any blogs that can help? I used to Candy Blog when I was the candy buyer, would love something like that for other foods.

And if anyone can tell me why in the world I have 32 feet of water, I'd be greatful
posted by aristan to Food & Drink (45 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You're going to want to take a look at Melissa's Farm Fresh Produce. Huge selection of great products, including some less-common fruits and vegetables. Our Gelson's Markets here in Los Angeles carry a lot of this line.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:13 PM on June 17, 2007

How about you make a suggestion box and see what the customers what you to stock?
posted by aubilenon at 9:23 PM on June 17, 2007

Here's what I like that's tough to find at my local "normal" supermarket, but you've probably heard of these brands:
- Kashi stuff, the 7 grain crackers specifically, though I'm fond of some of their granola bars
- Luna bars
- Lake Champlain chocolates, particularly the 5-Star Bars. In his book Candyfreak, Steve Almond wrote that these were the best candy bars ever . . . (rereads OP) . . . which means you're probably already familiar with them. Vosges chocolate bars, too.

Actually, thinking about it, my favorite thing at Whole Foods is the prepared food section. I like getting lunch or take out there. Same thing for Wegmans.
posted by booksherpa at 9:25 PM on June 17, 2007

For your 32 feet of water, I'd love to see some Hint Water (http://www.drinkhint.com/), the stuff is great and seems to be getting more popular lately. I assume you've got the usual spread of sparkling and flavored waters already, but if not, that would be nice.

How about ripping out some of the unused shelf space and putting in a salad bar or something similar? Might be a better use of space.
posted by zachlipton at 9:26 PM on June 17, 2007

And if anyone can tell me why in the world I have 32 feet of water, I'd be greatful

Because I really do think AquaFina tastes better than Dasani, and that square Fiji bottle won't fit in my car's cupholders. And I like to take fliers on things, like Ramlösa, because I suffer from the delusion that there's a better water out there.

Speaking of water ... my suggestion would be to take a look at what boutique hotels are offering in gift baskets and the like, because they're constantly, deliberately trying to be hip, to the point where they're seeking advice from style consultants. This is why I know my brother-in-law's famous hotel (you've heard of it ... or rather, you've heard of the starlets getting their photos taken sans panties in front of it) now stocks Voss water -- because he paid a guy to come in and tell him this was what the cool kids would be drinking soon.
posted by frogan at 9:31 PM on June 17, 2007

Response by poster: Booksherpa - Carry Kashi stuff, though I didn't know they made granola bars. I am actually not familiar with the Lake Champlain chocolates... they're on the list now!

zachlipton - Hint is in. I carry every flavor. Though I hate to disappoint you... they've discontinued the Apple flavor. Now if we can just get them to stop changing the shape of the bottle so people know it's the same product week after week.

CrayDrygu - Yep, I carry Honest Tea. Lots and lots of Honest Tea. In fact, I carry every flavor twice (two facings on the regular shelf and then one in a cold box.)

Asparagirl - We carry some Melissa's but I'll look into some more from that line.

Aubeline - Good idea! Though, the most common suggestions I've gotten lately are "Diet Coke" (The drug store next door went out of business and now they're deprived) and "American Spirits" (Our company refuses to sell tobacco products of any kind).
posted by aristan at 9:36 PM on June 17, 2007

Response by poster: Frogan - I already carry Voss. In fact, I carry apparently black market Voss in the glass bottles, which are only supposed to be sold in hotels. When you have 32 feet of water, you take risks.
posted by aristan at 9:41 PM on June 17, 2007

Try looking at what your competitors stock. There are so many great hippie/organic/vegetarian etc products now that I don't even know where to begin.

Whole Foods is an obvious one. Clicking on their store locator, they seem to have 5 stores in NC. I would take a trip to the nearest one and bring a clipboard and a camera (and maybe a couple of assistants with clipboards too). Write down as much as you can, take pictures of their displays, etc.

Also look at online stores that carry this stuff -- for example. I will link to some at the bottom with specific brand recommendations, but really you can just google "organic groceries online" or something similar.

It would be good if you can partner with local produce and dairy growers, both organic and conventional, and label things "Locally Grown" in big letters.

I expect a big grocery store "natural foods etc" section to have: A variety of nuts and nut butters; many health stores offer fresh-ground peanut butter. Tahini. Tofu in various firmnesses. Seitan, tempeh. Hummus and other pre-made dips/spreads. Bulk foods like nuts, grains, granola, etc. Flax and fish oils (they give omega-3 fatty acids, which are a hot health craze among vegetarians right now). Vitamin supplements. Herbal teas. Organicy junk food (potato and tortilla chips, "healthy" granola/candy bars, ice cream substitutes, popsicles, fruit leather, etc). Soy milk in various flavors. Organic milk and yogurt, including plain unflavored yogurt. Nayonnaise (fake mayo). Vegan "butter". Flavored oils (olive, walnut, sesame, etc). Salad dressing. Fake meats - there are so many! Fake ground beef, fake frozen meatballs, fake frozen chicken nuggets, veggie burgers, fake balogna and other lunch meats, fake sausage, on and on). Organic soups, premade stocks and boullion cubes, including vegetarian. Pastas, and falafel, and rice - there are a number of brands of boxed risotto, falafel, cous-cous, etc. Dried beans, canned beans. Organic soaps, shampoos, etc. "Green" cleaners, paper products, houshold cleansers, etc. It's nice to have vegan pills, candies, and cheese (no gelatin, no rennet, etc).

Specific brands that jump to mind on a completely random sampling:
Annie's Goddess Dressing and other Annie's products (their boxed macaroni and cheese is also great)
Nayonaise fake mayo
Newman's Own makes a million things, dressing, spaghetti sauce, potato chips, etc.
Kettle potato chips in a bunch of flavors get a lot of space at my local stores.
Tribe of Two Sheiks, aka Tribe hummus; lots of flavors.
Near East falafel and other kinds of boxed mixes (eg risotto, cous-cous)

Personal care brands: Alba Botanica; Kiss My Face; Bert's Bees
House cleaning brands: Seventh Generation
Menstrual supplies: Duva Cup and The Keeper/Moon cup; Natracare organic cotton tampons and pads
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:53 PM on June 17, 2007

Kashi makes good breakfast cereals, also really good granola/candy bars. Yes - stock these!
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:55 PM on June 17, 2007

The things this vegan would most like to see her (vegan-unfriendly, grumblegrumble) local grocery stores carry:

- Seitan
- Vegan versions of dairy staples: Vegenaise, Tofutti sour cream and cream cheese, Earth Balance margarine.
- Tofurky deli slices, sausages (esp. the sweet Italian) and roasts.
- Boca "chicken" patties.
- Gardenburger riblets
- Whole Soy yogurt
- agar agar powder (a vegan gelatin substitute)
- Soy ice cream (Soy Delicious and Tofutti brands are equally good IMO)

A lot of this is more on the processed ersatz-food side of the vegan spectrum, but having this stuff around can make life so much easier when you've had a long day and you just do not feel like spending an hour and a half making dinner. And, processed or not, it's all really good.

Also, I think it's pretty hard to get, but the word is Sheese is the best vegan cheese out there (which is a pretty big thing -- cheese is particularly hard to veganize). Might be worth checking out. (I haven't tried it yet, due to the aforementioned difficulty finding it.)

One more thing: be sure to advertise well if and when you do start stocking all this stuff! If one of my local stores started carrying even half of the things I listed, I'd do all my weekly shopping there.

And on behalf of all the vegans in your area: thanks!
posted by AV at 10:00 PM on June 17, 2007

Here's a list of stuff I wish my neighborhood grocery store would carry so that I don't have to drive all over town to get all my provisions:

-a variety of tofu, including low-fat & baked varieties
-soy bratwursts & polish dogs
-soy mayonaise, ideally nayonaise
-Sriracha chili paste
-vroot, other good organic, quality fruit & vegetable juices
-a selection of rices, brown, basmati, etc.
-a selection of noodles, rice, buckwheat, etc.
-spring roll rice paper
-tamari sauce
-dried fruit w/ non sulphur processing
-wasabi peas
-a wide variety of fancy mustards
-almond butter
-high quality, fresh, organic salad greens

I'll add more as I think of them.
posted by pluckysparrow at 10:06 PM on June 17, 2007

You want to attract affluent locals, one thing that has worked in my neck of the woods has been pimping local produce. Everything from fruits and veggies to farm-fresh eggs and milk, even ground beefalo.

The Rivermarket in downtown Little Rock has a farmer's market that has a basket-a-month program that you can sign up for for six months at a time. All local produce, peppered with locally made items like artisan breads from local bakeries, fresh made pasta, oats that were rolled three days ago, and sauces from local restaurants. This program is the cornerstone of their whole business, and the local affluents eat it up big time. And it comes delivered in an actual bushel basket.

Not prepackaged, I know, but stuff like this really appeals to the wealthy and middle-class families around here, because it allows them to eat good food that costs more but supports the people in their area. There's a kind of prestige to it, believe it or not. And goddamn if farm-fresh milk and eggs aren't miles better than what comes off the assembly lines.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:09 PM on June 17, 2007

Fair trade stuff is also big. I might like to see a display of fair trade chocolates and fair trade coffee, for example.

I've looked at some of my green blogroll, but there isn't anything you can use. Part of the difficulty of your request is that a lot of the stuff the market will make money on isn't healthy or very "green" -- eg the prepared "tv dinner" or boxed dry foods, potato chips and fatty salad dressings. So it won't be on real "green" blogs. So what you want to look at, probably, is info coming from the companies that make the food and their advocates... hence, the Organic trade Association USA, which runs the All Things Organic Trade Fair. And companies who advertise in veg/hippie lifestyle magazines.

Also possibly useful: Organic Consumer's Association USA
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:10 PM on June 17, 2007

For frozen foods, I like Amy's Kitchen -- all organic; they carry stuff with rennet-free cheese and with soy cheese for vegans. Personally, I'm partial to their (plain) lasagna and their mushroom/olive pizzas.

Also, I can't live without JASON products, especially their shower gel and hand soap, and especially in the rosewater and glycerine scent, though lavendar is also good.

Can't think of anything else right now -- think that others pretty well covered the stuff I use/like to use.
posted by brina at 10:11 PM on June 17, 2007

You might be interested in one of my former employers, SPINS, which is a natural and organic market research firm. They sell reports that would tell you what sells well in your area of the country and nationwide, and it may be possible to work out a barter relationship if you trade your (anonymous) checkout data with them. You're exactly their kind of customer!
posted by rhizome at 10:11 PM on June 17, 2007

I think that you should make sure to have a very well stocked ethnic food aisle!

I hate when I am trying to make a meal and I have to go to two or three different stores to get everything I need.

I really like the Thai Kitchen line of foods. Most grocery stores have a very limited section of their products, but they make a ton of great things!

A new grocery store opened near my house and they had a terrific ethnic section. They had foods from countries I've never seen represented in a grocery store.

Another thing I always check out right away at grocery stores is tea. I am addicted to buying tea, so when a store has brands I've never seen or just a better selection than most places, I can't help buying more!
posted by Becko at 10:11 PM on June 17, 2007

Cleaning & Skin/Hair Products: Seventh Generation, Ecover, Naturally Yours, Vermont Soapworks, Toms of Main, Nutribiotic, Dr. Brommers, ShiKai, Jason, Natural Value (sponges etc) Burt's Bees, Earth Therapeutics

Vitamins/Homeopathic: boiron, Nutribiotic (grapefruit seed extract) Source Naturals

Food: spectrum organics, Robert's American Gourmet, Annie's Homegrown, Amy's Kitchen,

Misc: books! vegan/vegetarian cookbooks, books on organic gardening and housekeeping. Clothes: hemp/unbleached cotton aprons, shirts, etc. Dish towels, candles, light bulbs, fancy cutting boards, knives, kitchen utensils, etc.
posted by nerdcore at 10:11 PM on June 17, 2007

(If you do decide to roam a competitors aisles with a camera and clipboard, be discreet. As a former ethnographer, I can tell you that grocery stores in particular are very sensitive to this thing. I often had to leap huge hurdles to be able to take photos in grocery stores without being asked to stop and/or leave the premises.)
posted by jeanmari at 10:11 PM on June 17, 2007

Cookies! Newman's Own has amazing orange chocolate chip cookies. Hygiene/beauty products too- I personally am a total sucker for those. Why I'll spend twice as much on shampoo made out of leaves instead of the drug store variety, I don't know, but I so will. A sandwich bar type thing is a good idea, if you can. Everyone likes sandwiches, especially really good ones. Have samples, especially of fruits and produce in general. A sample thing at a grocery store like yours made me like brussels sprouts (cooked with chicken broth and brown sugar and pecans mmm). That's a few things off the top of my head.
posted by MadamM at 10:12 PM on June 17, 2007

Really good veggie burgers, not just the pretty nasty "GardenBurgers'

As 'cruelty-free" as possibly eggs. My neighborhood greengrocer has free range eggs, from chickens who still have their beaks, and are never force molted, etc.... they charge an arm and a leg for them but they seem to sell tons of them.

snack foods that are made from real things, not just corn syrup.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:12 PM on June 17, 2007

Locally grown is important to me too, from the global warming angle.

Perhaps educational materials that explain this.
posted by idb at 10:19 PM on June 17, 2007

I love to buy from the huge number of bulk bins at my local store, especially the spices, cooking oils, and cleaning products.. I always have a huge jar of Fantastic falafel mix since it is cheap and almost as fast as ordering at Mcdonald's.

I drool over a good cheese selection. I like some of Amy's organic stuff, especially their matar paneer and palak paneer. Quorn is probably the most convincing meat sub I have tried. Bob's Redmill is always cool for odd flours and beans. Fresh, in-season produce is something I am always a sucker for. Cooking greens seem to be one of the most popular items. A deli counter, if you don't have one in the works, would probably do well. Get to the one at my local store after 1:30pm and they are usually sold out.
posted by Foam Pants at 10:20 PM on June 17, 2007

Also, I hope you have a good bulk section. You should have a full run of flours (pastry, unbleached white, several wheats (including whole wheat pastry flour) buckwheat, cornmeal, barley, rice) along with whole grains for grinding, plus several kinds of rice, and oats, a variety of nuts, both raw and salted/toasted.

Other things I forgot: Braggs, Wildwood Farms tofu, Traditional Medicinals, Taylor Maid Farms teas, Avalon Natural Products, Clearly Natural Soaps, Muir Glen canned tomatoes etc. Kozlowski Farms dressings and jams (I don't know if you'll be able to get this brand but I think I've seen it in other parts of the country) Fantastic Foods hummus mix.
posted by nerdcore at 10:25 PM on June 17, 2007

I'll throw out a water here for you - Mendota Springs sparkling mineral water. Comes in plain, lemon, lime, and something red. Comes in a can, zero calories. I've never found anything quite like it and what store I go to depends on who is carrying it.
posted by adipocere at 11:34 PM on June 17, 2007

Exotic salts, such as RealSalt, mined in Utah from an ancient seabed and looking as if it is about 25% ground terra cotta, and Comvita from sea water off New Zealand, are amazingly popular, and seem to get better prices per pound than pork roasts.

If I lived in your area, I would want to buy the famous Carolina heirloom rice varieties, and I would buy any interesting cane sugars you could find made by small mills by traditional techniques. Soda pop is having a renaissance right now, and I would try anything you could find made locally.

High fuel prices and the cachet of local will mean a tremendous reawakening of interest in home canning of all kinds of fruit and vegetables, I think, starting this harvest season.

I believe cheese is going to become even hotter than it is now, with a special interest in goat cheeses, and cave cheeses, and an extra-special interest in 'living' cheeses, in which the cheese-forming organisms are still viable, insofar as state and federal laws will permit. The same goes for any living pickles you may find, I suspect; they will all come to be regarded as potential pro-biotics.

I have been astounded recently to discover how good some of the varieties of dates are; I particularly recommend Khadrawi, Barhi, Khalas, Halawi, and Zahidi, most of which are available organically grown in California, I believe.
posted by jamjam at 1:05 AM on June 18, 2007

Garden of Eatin' are fantastic organically grown chips and snacks -- the Tamari corn chips are the best tasting snack chip ever.

Simple Green cleaning products – especially the Original All Purpose Cleaner -- get a lot of work done around my house.

Although not organic/vegan, Milo's Tea is the best Southern sweet tea commercialy available. (They started as a hamburger stand in 1946, the tea and their secret sauce are legendary throughout the Deep South.) Their yellow label sweet tea (with Splenda, not sugar) is completely gorgeous. Had to plug a local favorite from my neck of the woods.


Hungry Girl focuses on healthy, tasty, and low-calorie foods. She will occasionally blog about a product that fits your original post.

Chocolate and Zucchini a marvelous French blog (in English) by the brilliant and beautiful Clotilde Dusouler that is the best free education in the culinary arts available. Start. Reading. Her. Immediately.

Hungry Girl focuses on healthy, tasty, and low-calorie foods. She will occasionally blog about a product that fits your original post.

Serious Eats worth a look at least once a week. This blog mostly consists of links to some great articles, blogs, etc.

Ethicurean will help you chew the right thing.

And one suggestion:

Have you thought about making some shelf (cheesracks or endcaps) space for some great cookbooks?

I imagine that some really nice hardcover cookbooks or cooking texts would/might make nice impulse purchases for hungry folks?
posted by cinemafiend at 1:12 AM on June 18, 2007

On second thought - perhaps I should have linked to some vegetarian cookbooks?
posted by cinemafiend at 1:31 AM on June 18, 2007

Great idea to stock all kinds of books on healthy, environmentally sound ways of livng, including vegan and vegetarian cookbooks!

Then, I'd focus on anything you can do to reduce the amount of plastic you're selling - plastic is evil!

Do you have personal care products like liquid soap in the bulk section? People bring in their old containers, weigh them, and reuse them for the new stuff, subtracting the container's weight from the purchase price.

Great that some of the water you're selling is in glass bottles. Hey, is there any way you could sell water in bulk too? A giant water cooler could take up a lot of space and reduce the amount of plastic that's being consumed unnecessarily, too.
posted by hazyjane at 3:40 AM on June 18, 2007

One set that I look for and have trouble with is dry lentils by the pound. Especially red and puy lentils. I also rarely see soybeans by the pound, which I think is strange. You could also go to nearby indian grocers and see the wide array of 'unusual' items.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:00 AM on June 18, 2007

Unscented, good-quality shampoo and conditioner. And pump hand soap. Whatever kind you can get. Please. Dr. Bronner's may be OK, but it's pretty dilute and I never buy it.

If you can find unscented hair gel, I might just drive to your store to buy some.

Amy's frozen non-dairy enchiladas and enchilada meals. So good, so convenient.

Organic, locally-grown, _real_ tomatoes (locally-grown because _real_ tomatoes are too soft to ship well, I think).

White Wave brand, organic, extra-firm tofu. This is the best stuff for cooking scrambled tofu.

Mori-nu (I think) silken tofu, organic (it comes in boxes, non-refrigerated) -- best stuff for making soup, although I don't have great breadth of experience here.

I've just started seeing "tikka masala" spice mixtures for sale here. This, combined with some vegetarian chicken (frozen, please find some good stuff) and a jar of minced ginger would make a potently delicious meal. I haven't found minced ginger in a grocer store yet (haven't checked an Indian grocery yet) and have minced my own in a food processor - major pain, very fibery. Jarred minced ginger would be fabulous.

Powdered soy milk is a great thing to have around for baking, especially making biscuits. I mention it here because I used it in my faux-chicken tikka masala recipe.

You probably already have this, but I go through massive quantities of Muir Glen organic canned tomatoes (just the plain or no-salt-added), along with the occasional package of frozen vegan ravioli. I'll try whatever brand of vegan ravioli is available, but prefer those that contain some protein (not just potatoes or squash).
posted by amtho at 5:10 AM on June 18, 2007

Cold you buy direct from local growers, bakeries, dessert shops, etc.? How about giving each a "stall" in the store? It doesn't have to be a real stall - just a column for their products.

Also, if you could work with these folks to get into the US, I'd GREATLY appreciate it.
posted by jwells at 6:53 AM on June 18, 2007

Tastybite Indian boil-in-bag
Druide hair/skin care
Celentano frozen entrées
string shopping bags
Rachel Perry skin care
Honest Ade drinks
Paesana sauces
Dr Praeger's burgers
Aura Cacia bath stuff
De Cecco pasta, esp in uncommon shapes

When I lived in the States, I was always impressed with what Trader Joe's turned up by way of esoteric brands; I'd browse there for ideas.

The site suggests it might not be available in the US, but Dr Oetker frozen pizza puts Amy's to shame. So does the Celentano in the frozen entrée dept. I like Amy's cheese enchiladas, but their stuff is, on the whole, bland and overpriced. They have not stumbled on the secret of making non-disgusting frozen burritos...

If you can flog expensive shampoos that don't lather well with success, you can also sell a good hairbrush.

Refrigerated acidophilus. Good yoghourt; no zero-fat gelatin'ed-up mass-market junk. Vegetarian soup stock/broth that isn't all salt; the Knorr in the aseptic packaging is surprisingly decent, better than a lot of things labelled "all natural" and 3x the price. Fresh salsa if it's possible to have a few house-made items. Good salad dressings (for example).
posted by kmennie at 6:57 AM on June 18, 2007

Get in touch with United Natural Foods, Inc. and Tree of Life. Two of the largest distributors in the Natural Foods industry. Ask them for their list of top 100 best selling items (even if you are not a current customer, you can probably get a sales rep to 'entice' you with such).
posted by iurodivii at 7:23 AM on June 18, 2007

Oregon Chai Concentrate! Trader Joe's or Costco have the best price on this around here, but I need the Slightly Sweet kind and both of those places stock Original only.
posted by anitar at 9:11 AM on June 18, 2007

I will whole-heartedly second the Quorn recommendation. It's a frozen chicken substitute. The "naked cutlets" are like chicken breasts, and they also sell nuggets, roasts, and other varieties. This stuff is soooo tasty - please stock as many varieties as you can get!

I'm also a big fan of the jarred Indian sauces - Tikka Masala, etc. Every brand I've tried has been tasty, so I won't recommend any in particular.

And yes, please, Kashi TLC crackers and a very wide cheese selection - with weekly samples! I buy sooo much more expensive cheese when I can try it first to make sure I like it.
posted by vytae at 10:07 AM on June 18, 2007

I'm not a vegan but I love the cooler groceries around here. I like to find local brands of Salsa. I'm in Austin Tx right now and you can find 30 or more brands of salsa at a store here pretty easily. I'm not sure if it would be as popular where you are but it's great here. Salsa is one of those thing were there are tons of brands that all taste different and plenty of the brands are all organic.

Same goes for beer. I rarely drink beer but when I do I prefer to buy a random 6 pack of things I've never heard of before. One really cool thing some places do is sell a make your own 6 pack. They let you get any random 6 beers from the case and put them in a case and pay one price for it. It's awesome for people that like to try new things with out committing to buying a whole six pack of something you very well might hate.

The central market I used to go to in Dallas had an awesome display of local or alternative sodas. It's so rare to find a good black cherry soda that we just had to get one when we went.

For me, someone who is not quite a foodie, but is related to a foodie, I'm more about variety than brands when it comes to your type of store. I want to see cooler versions of the things I normally eat. I want to be able to try something new. I like to see a wide range of tea, cheese, vinegar, wine and mead, bread, mustard, pickles and peppers, chocolate, salsa etc....

What would be nice is a place that carried a couple reputable brands of Asian things. I hate having to search ten places to find tiger lily blossoms when I make hot and sour soup. I'd love to find a place that carried fresh Asian ingredients. I go to Asian markets a lot but the ones near me have an overwhelming smell of fish, and nothing is ever as easy to find as it should be. And the grocery stores that carry Asian food just carry one row of the most American prepackaged Asian food, sauces and spices. I can never tell if something is fresh. I can’t read the packages. Even when the stuff is good I always feel like it is of dubious quality. I bet if you found some good Asian stuff that is in American style and quality packaging you could sell tons of the stuff.

Sorry that I don’t have any brand names to request you stock but for me it really is more about finding wide range of things I’ve never tried. Your type of store is almost always more expensive than the local HEB/Kroger. Since I am not a vegan or have other strict dietary reasons for shopping at a place like that, I just go for fun. If you are interested I could make a list of the coolest stuff I see next time I go to Central Market or Whole Foods.
posted by magikker at 10:08 AM on June 18, 2007

Ditto on Amy's...their stuff is great!

I don't know how far across the country they wholesale, but Vicolo's makes amazing frozen pizza, and they use non-GMO cornmeal, no preservatives, etc.

Fantastic Foods has some great products. I love their Vegetarian Chilli - and I'm a meat-eater!

Stacy's pita chips are great!

I also agree that you should take advantage of local products.
posted by radioamy at 10:23 AM on June 18, 2007

Also, amtho is right - it is soooo hard to find truly unscented products. Having them all in one section of a store would be amazing! For those of us with scent allergies, finding personal care products is a nightmare. I buy Mane n Tail "barrier" as a heat-protection/detangler.
posted by radioamy at 10:26 AM on June 18, 2007

Zone bars, South Beach Diet Bars, Shrimp Chips, Bob's Red Mill specialty flours (I use the garbanzo bean flour making pakoras) Millet, Barley, Quinoa, Vegetarian gravy packets, Egg drop soup packets, Miso soup, Ghee, frozen Seaweed Salad if you can get it, Quorn meatless alternatives, The best croutons you can find, Pickled Asparagus, Frozen wild salmon, bay shrimp, bay scallops, Mussels, Clams, Mochi, Pita, Babaganouj, Gourmet olives and peppers, Sesame Oil, Udon, Frozen Bananas (in chocolate), Pea Soup Andersen's Split Pea Soup.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:27 AM on June 18, 2007

I will go out of my way for really high quality dairy -- Greek yogurt (which used to be hard to find till Trader Joe's started stocking it), clotted/Devon cream, Irish or French butter, etc.
posted by scody at 12:03 PM on June 18, 2007

Spelt pasta (spelt is well-tolerated by many people who can't do conventional wheat; this pasta has 8 g protein per 2 oz serving)

Ezekiel 4:9 (sprouted grains and legumes; 9 g protein/ 2 ozserving)

Papadini lentil pasta (haven't got the package in front of me so don't know about the protein)

quinoa-corn pasta (4 g protein per 2 oz dry serving)

organic soybean pasta (23 g protein/2 oz serving)

Bless you for including gluten-free products. I'd be very very sad without buyers like you.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:53 PM on June 18, 2007

Yogi Tea is delicious, though you may already stock it. I'd also nth local/interesting cheeses and yogurts as well as local or unusual produce
posted by fermezporte at 2:22 PM on June 18, 2007

Hemp protein and Almond Breeze. Essential building blocks for protein shakes.
posted by solongxenon at 10:30 PM on June 18, 2007

I have Celiac, so I can recommend some good gluten-free items.

Tinkyada is the best pasta.

Amy's has incredible canned tomato soup, frozen mac & cheese, & rice-crust pizza. Their other frozen selections are also good.

Kinnickinnick frozen pizza crusts and donuts are wonderful.

Kind fruit & nut bars are yummy. Lara bars are also good, but I like Kind better.

Pamela's cookies will make you forget you have to eat gluten-free! Her baking mix is also good.

Almond Breeze is a favorite--the chocolate & vanilla are both very good. Dream Rice is also very good, but it is NOT gluten-free.

Nemaste makes really good cakes (mixes)...you almost can't tell the difference from "regular" cakes--very moist & tasty.

Ian's frozen chicken nuggets and fish sticks.

EnviroKidz cereal has varities like Frosted Flakes and Honeycomb that are very good.

There are lots of "regular" foods that are already gluten-free...
- most pasta sauces
- meat, cheese, fruits, veggies are all naturally gluten-free
- many condiments (A1, ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauces)
- pudding
- many varieties of ice cream
- McCormick's sloppy joe seasoning
- Old El Paso taco seasoning
- Tostito Scoops
- most salsa

I would highly recommend that you buy the book Gluten-Free Grocery Shopping Guide. I think it would be really helpful in your admirable efforts to accomodate those who need/want to eat gluten-free.

Hope that helps!
posted by Mrs. Smith at 5:53 AM on June 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Do you have an international section? You might distinguish yourself as having not only the best health food in town, but also the most selection of international foodstuffs. There's a store in my hometown that basically caters exclusively to people who want to try different things (or the random expat, I guess). They have probably 10 feet of space just for stuff from England, for example (they have an entire aisle for Asian foods, one side East Asia, the other side South Asia). They also have probably 100 varieties of oils.

Do you sell meat there? You could be the only place in town to get goat.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:08 PM on December 13, 2007

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