Making the Cut: How we select products in the Co-op Wellness department.

By: Gretchen Fox Schempp, Wellness Managercut

I am often approached by customers asking: “Why should I buy my supplements and body care items in your store?” This is such a valuable question and I am always happy to answer.

First and foremost, in the Oneota Wellness department, we strive to offer the best in customer service. Carrie and I are here on the floor doing a critical part of our job – ordering, stocking, and making everything neat and easy to shop. However, the most important reason for us being on the floor is to serve our members and customers. We are here to help shoppers make educated decisions about items you wish to purchase.

Every day, Carrie and I are bombarded with information pertaining to the latest industry trends – from supplement use to the next great thing to rub into your skin to make you “look younger” or “feel less pain.” It can be overwhelming to look at our inboxes and see the influx of advertisements for the latest and greatest in the health care industry. Additionally, we have well-informed members and customers that independently learn about what may suit their needs when it comes to supplements and topical use items.

We want to be able to offer our customers every product they are looking for. This makes it increasingly vital for us to stay abreast of quality products that are available. This brings me to the explanation of how we, as a Wellness department, decide what “makes the cut”.

Demand
Naturally, demand is going to dominate what any business is going to decide to offer. We are all affected by the everyday illnesses and accidents – colds, flu, allergies, cuts, bites, and bruises. We cater to these “everyday” afflictions as well as some not-so-everyday.

Trends are one of our greatest challenges. As with any trend, you don’t know how long they will last. Does the product actually work? Who is inciting this trend? Do we get on-board?

The Oneota Co-op is fortunate to be a member of the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA). The Wellness department receives weekly e-newsletters from an educated specialist in Wellness Purchasing from NCGA. They alert us of trends, including what is being talked about on Dr. Oz (one of the main trendsetters of our time), studies on certain products and where and how to obtain products.

We are also in close contact with company representatives, with whom we have developed close relationships. They are often the ones who can let us know what is up-and-coming. These relationships are key when bringing new products into our department as these individuals offer us the support we need to be able to educate customers on product and their uses. They educate us, and in turn we educate you.

Quality
What makes the Oneota Coop stand out among others? The quality of our customer service to start with. It also makes it easy (and fun) to give great customer service when you are selling quality products. This is the foundation of our buying. We know our distributors, are in direct contact with the companies that manufacture products we carry, and we have close relationships with company representatives. They often come to our store and many of you have met these educated people at our wellness desk or in classes we have offered at the Co-op. We have been able to travel and visit many of our vendor facilities and meet doctors and scientists who work on product development, research and quality control. Trainings held with company educators keep us up-to-date on knowledge of product uses and safety. The training that we do is ongoing because the industry is always changing as well.

A prime example of the changes and updating in the body care and supplement industries is with the labeling of products. High quality companies such as Mega Food, Source Naturals, Bluebonnet, Nordic Naturals, Rainbow Light, Super Nutrition, Eclectic Institute, Dr. Bronner’s, and Oneota Community Food Co-op branded supplements are doing great things with labeling. They are indicating more clearly gluten free, non GMO, organic, USDA organic, kosher and specific allergens on their labels. We, in turn, are working to get color coded labeling up-to-date with the rest of the store, making it is easier for you to shop.

Resources 
Following are some resources we use to guide our selection of products.

Environmental Working Group
Website: www.ewg.org
Particularly, the Skin Deep section of this website is used to see ratings on body care and cosmetic items. “At EWG, our team of scientists, engineers, policy experts, lawyers and computer programmers pour over government data, legal documents, scientific studies and our own laboratory tests to expose threats to your health and the environment, and to find solutions. Our research brings to light unsettling facts that you have a right to know.” www.ewg.org

Natural Products Assosiation
Website: www.npainfo.org 
“Founded in 1936, the Natural Products Association is the nation’s largest and oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to the natural products industry. NPA represents over 1,900 members accounting for more than 10,000 retail, manufacturing, wholesale, and distribution locations of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements, and health/beauty aids. NPA unites a diverse membership, from the smallest health food store to the largest dietary supplement manufacturer.

NPA is recognized for its strong lobbying presence in Washington, D.C., where it serves as the industry watchdog on regulatory and legislative issues. In 1994, NPA played a key role in the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). This important legislation strikes a balance between the need for consumers to have access to and information about safe and effective dietary supplements while also preserving the government’s interest in protecting the public from unsafe products and false and misleading claims.” www.npainfo.org

Buzzwords in Wellness
Some words you may hear us using, or see on labels, and their definitions:
Whole Food Supplements. Just what the name suggests – supplements made from concentrated, whole foods. The vitamins found within these supplements are not isolated. They are highly complex structures that combine a variety of enzymes, coenzymes, antioxidants, trace elements, activators and many other unknown or undiscovered factors all working together synergistically to enable this vitamin complex to do its job in your body. Brands we carry that are food based: MegaFood, Super Nutrition and Rainbow Light.

Freeze Dried Herbs. Freeze drying is a process used to preserve a perishable material. Freeze drying works by freezing the material and then reducing the surrounding pressure to allow the frozen water in the material to sublimate (modify) directly from the solid phase to the gas phase. Fresh freeze drying preserves all of the biologically active constituents of the fresh plant – not just some of the active constituents. Eclectic Institute is our choice brand in encapsulated herbs for their process of freeze drying herbs.

Traditional Preparation. A traditional preparation is when the whole plant is used rather than isolating one part of a plant. I would compare it to the explanation of whole food supplements (listed prior) only applied to herbal preparations.

Herb Pharm is our choice brand for traditional preparation herbals in liquid form. From Ed Smith, founder of Herb Pharm: “Our broad-spectrum extracts seek to mirror the flavor, aroma and natural plant chemistry found in Nature. This is in stark contrast to the ever-increasing trend towards isolating plant constituents, thus modifying their natural array and balance. We are still committed to herbal extracts that represent the whole plant, and to the fundamental principles of traditional herbal medicines.”

Customer Service
We strive to offer the best products in the Oneota Co-op Wellness department. If there is something you don’t find on our shelves, we will do our best to locate it for you. In most cases, we can special order items for you. Special ordering can be done by members and non-members alike. As we don’t generally carry items that we are special ordering, we do require that you commit to buying the product you special order. There is no additional cost to you for special ordering an item. As a matter of fact, if you are a member, you actually receive 15% off any special order through the Wellness department.

Another great service we offer in the Oneota Wellness Department is shipping. We will ship any items from the Wellness department to you for only $5.00. Additionally, if you place a mail order that exceeds $50.00 in product, we will waive the shipping and handling charges altogether. How’s that for service?!

Please don’t hesitate to call or email us with questions.
gretchen@oneotacoop.com