Gluten-free shop aims at the 1%

November 28, 2011

When chasing niches, less is more. Single-theme specialty stores are often too narrow to last once the fad that spawned them loses steam.

Maybe because it’s in San Francisco, the Gluten Free Reviewer Grocery will sustain. And maybe because it sells products nationally online, its gluten-free assortments will reach many of the 1% of Americans who suffer from celiac or gluten intolerance.

But The Lempert Report has seen too many food fads through the years spawn stores that had no chance of surviving once those fads lost public favor. Two examples: The original Atkins Diet prompted hundreds of specialty stores devoted to the concept. There was also a retail operator called Gesundheit, which focused on airborne allergies. 

We think the e-commerce model will be this grocery’s future, especially if the owner provides an educational context for the foods it offers.  Gluten-free is certainly hot now, up to $2.6 billion in annual sales, according to Packaged Facts, said a Wall Street Journalaccount.

Which explains why full-sized supermarkets are carving space in many categories for gluten-free varieties. With this approach, the gluten-free segment swells and contracts with demand; retailers can nimbly adjust their planograms to capitalize when demand is on the rise, and minimize when it inevitably plateaus and declines.

This fits the overall balance that food stores need to satisfy their widest possible shopper base without hinging too much on any one element - no matter how hot it is at the moment.