Friday, August 31, 2007
Safeway Stores, Inc. is planning to built a 65,000 square-foot upscale "Whole Foods style" natural and organic foods supermarket in Pleasanton, California. Safeway's corporate headquarters is located in Pleasanton.
Safeway would build the store on a 35 acre site near their corporate headquarters according to the Pleasanton Weekly News, a weekly community publication. The site is being developed to include several large office buildings.
Safeway isn't discussing the proposed project but the Pleasanton Weekly obtained a copy of the proposed site plan.
The proposed new Safeway would have a major focus on natural and organic products and look much like a new Whole Foods store according to the proposed plans. For Safeway this would be a major step in taking their current focus on natural, organic and specialty foods in their top-tier "Lifestyle" format stores and extending it considerably in a full-blown natural foods retail format.
NSFM expects Safeway to also include a deep selection of specialty, ethnic and gourmet foods in this store if the chain does build it. This would build on Safeway's expertise honed over the last 10 years by the retailer's in-house specialty and natural foods department. This would include specialty and natural/organic foods across all store categories, including perishables and well as produce, meat, seafood, nonfoods, prepared foods and grocery.
Pleasanton would be a good location for such a store for Safeway. Safeway's corporate headquarters is in Pleasanton and the supermarket chain is one of the city's largest employers.
Second, Whole Foods currently doesn't have a store in Pleasanton or the immediate surrounding area. The natural grocer's nearest store is about 25-30 miles away.
Third, Pleasanton is a urban area in that there are 4-5 cities within a few minutes drive from the community. There are about 500,000 people within a 25 minute drive from Pleasanton.
Lastly, Pleasanton and the surrounding area has a high percentage of the population with college degrees and many with graduate and professional degrees. Whole Foods says this is the number one criteria they use in selecting a retail store site/location.
Currently the only retailer (other than an existing Safeway Lifestyle store) doing significant specialty and natural foods merchandising in Pleasanton is an independent, Gene's Fine Foods. The independent does a good job but the store is relatively small and the natural and organic selection limited.
A 65,000 square-foot Safeway, similar in look and merchandising philosophy to a Whole Foods, would likely draw from Pleasanton (about 100,000 population), next door Dublin, and nearby Livermore, San Ramon and Danville, as well as other areas close by.
Safeway has conventional and "Lifestyle" format stores in all of these areas. But a Safeway Natural Foods Supermarket shouldn't hurt these stores as it's likely many shoppers in these communities would still shop their local Safeway primarily but also shop the nearby natural Safeway secondarily. Better that for Safeway than to have these consumers shop at Whole Foods or another natural foods store in the area.
In an article earlier this week titled "Will the Big 3 Supermarket Chains Challenge Whole Foods in its Niche" Natural!Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM) posed the question asked in that title. (you can find the our article in NSFM's Tuesday Talking Points Memo.)
In our Tuesday piece we concluded that one or more of these big 3 chains would. If Safeway goes through with this proposal it could be the beginning of that challenge for one of the Big 3.
NSFM is looking further into Safeway's proposed natural foods store and will bring our readers more as things develop.
More Retailer News, Information & Analysis:
Tesco's Fresh & Easy...NSFM has written much about Tesco's development of it Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market format which the UK-based retailer is launching in the U.S. The first
stores are slated to open beginning in November, 2007 in California, Arizona and Nevada. Writing in the online publication the Huffington Post, writer Al Norman offers an interesting take on Tesco's new convenience format and compares it to Wal-Mart's new small format developments (which we have written about on NSFM). You can read his story from the August 29, 2007 Huffington Post here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/al-norman/british-invader-forces-wa_b_62357.html In the story Norman mentions how Tesco carried out a stealth campaign in the U.S. as they developed the Fresh & Easy format.
Coffee king to invade Russia...Starbucks is opening its first Starbuck's Coffee Shop in Russia next month (Sept., 2007). The first Russian Starbucks will be opened in a popular mall near Moscow. The mall already has 5 cafes located in it. You can read more here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2003859960_russia30.html
Starbucks inks Deal with A&P...Starbucks also is increasing its partnerships with supermarket retailers, placing a growing number of Starbucks cafes, coffee bars and kiosks inside stores. The latest retailer to ink a deal with Starbucks is the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., Inc., otherwise know as A&P. A&P said it will begin placing Starbucks cafes in some of its stores beginning in November with a store located in New Jersey. You can read more here: http://www.reuters.com/article/bondsNews/idUSWNAS318420070830
Starbucks has been growing it's in-store cafe partnerships with retailers at a fairly rapid pace. Supermarket chains like the idea of having the Starbucks brand inside their stores as a drawing card. And Starbucks likes the foot traffic avaliable inside a supermarket location.
Whole Foods' Market Express Format: A Brief Analysis
On Thursday NSFM reported on Whole Foods Market, Inc.'s decision to turn an existing 18,500 square-foot Wild Oats banner store in Boulder, Colorado into a convenience-type format called "Whole Foods Market Express" as part of the supernatural grocer's post-merger plan.
Whole Foods says the "Express" market will offer a "value-oriented product mix, grab-and-go offerings and will be a practical fit for its neighborhood." The store will be located in the current Baseline Road Wild Oats store in Boulder. The neighborhood includes a high concentration of University of Colorado at Boulder students.
Whole Foods' decision is very interesting in light of Tesco's current roll out of its Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market format (stores scheduled to open starting in November in California, Arizona and Neveda) and Wal-Mart's development (in the planning stages) of a small footprint upscale convenience-type store.
In the case of Whole Foods and Wal-Mart (relative retailing David's and Goliath's) their paths seem to be crossing more and more these days despite the retailers' significant size and sales differences. Wal-Mart's major natural and organic grocery sales initiative ("organics for less") for its stores has the potential to strike at the heart of some of Whole Foods' bread and butter business. Whether or not intended, Whole Foods is a target of this initiative in terms of taking category market share away from the top natural and organic products retailers.
In turn, no sooner had it been reported (about a week ago) that Wal-Mart is in the planning stages for development of an upscale, convenience-type store, we not only see Whole Foods announcing it will test one but also preparing to open it very soon. This just shows how all retail players and formats are converging when it comes to the natural, organic and specialty foods categories.
In the case of Tesco they are the first mover of the three in terms of this upscale, fresh food-oriented convenience format. (It's important here to note that a C-store chain, Wawa Food Markets based in Pennsylvania, has being operating numerous fairly upscale convenience stores which feature lots of prepared foods and specialty items for well over a decade. There are some significant differences to the Tesco, Wal-Mart and Whole Foods concepts but Wawa has been a leader in this segment on a regional basis in the eastern U.S. for over a decade.)
NSFM has no doubt that UK-based Tesco played a major role in both Wal-Mart and Whole Foods' wanting to test this format. Tesco is the world's third largest retailer and put lots of research and study into the Fresh & Easy format before breaking ground. The chain conducted much of this research in a stealth mode and suprised the industry when their plans came out in the media. Tesco also has put much research in the convenience chain's product mix--and since Tesco is considered one of the world's retail leaders in prepared foods merchandising the "fresh" concept comes naturally to them.
It's too early to tell if a small footprint convenience-oriented format will work in the U.S. on a national basis. Wawa Food Markets has proven it can on a regional basis, although they also retain many traditional C-store merchandising aspects in their stores.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
The Neighborhood Markets are complete supermarkets which offer a full selection of groceries and perishables, fresh meats and produce, non foods and all the other supermarket selections. The stores also have drive-through pharmacies and some have in-store restaurants as well.
Currently Wal-Mart as 118 Neighborhood Markets in the U.S. The stores merchandise about 28,000 items.
Neighborhood market history
Wal-Mart started off rather aggressively building Neighborhood Markets in the late 1990's to the early 2000's but has slowed down the pace considerably in the last several years. The format has been mildly successful--more successful in some regions and far less successful in others. Wal-Mart recognizes this fact, which is in part why they haven't been building very many new stores of late.
The Neighborhood Market is a small supermarket by today's standards. Wal-Mart designed it to be a niche format between their supercenters and their competitor's superstores. But the format really hasn't found itself. It's too big to be a true "convenience" format but too small in most cases to compete with the larger 65,000-90,000 square-foot new stores that most supermarket chains are building today.
Re-invigerating the Neighborhood Market format
This fact is partly why Wal-Mart is now looking at another new format, an approx. 10,000 square-foot upscale convenience-style store. It's also partly why the retailer continues to put its major focus on the supercenters which include a large supermarket in them. As such the Neighborhood Market is a relatively to not so successful format and its further development is receiving only minor attention from Wal-Mart.
This doesn't have to be the case for Wal-Mart and its Neighborhood Market format however. NSFM has an idea and positioning direction which we believe would not only re-invigerate the format at Wal-Mart but also allow the chain to express some of its more recent corporate and retail eithics and merchandising philosophies.
Format one would essentially be what the Neighborhood Market is today, with some additions and changes. First we suggest increasing the store footprint size. The current stores range from about 42,000 square-feet to about 55,000 square-feet. We would expand that to a range of about 55,000 square-feet (the smallest size) to a high-end size of about 80,000 square-feet. The smallest stores would be no smaller than 55,000 square-feet and the largest stores up to 80,000 square feet.
This increased store footprint is more in-line with what chain supermarket operators like Kroger, Safeway, Supervalu and others are building today. The larger stores would allow the Neighborhood Markets (format one) to better compete with these chains. With this larger footprint we suggest Wal-Mart expand the stores' produce departments, make an in-store eating place a standard feature, add an in-store cafe/coffee bar to all stores, make service meat and seafood a standard feature (along with self-service cases) and expand the stores' perishables offerings.
We also suggest they add more natural, organic and specialty groceries and integrate the items in these categories in-line with conventional and corporate/private label groceries throughout the core of the store.
Further, we suggest adding small but comprehensive health and wellness centers in each Neighborhood Market (format one). These centers would feature nurse practitioners who can provide minor medical treatment for a discount cost. They also would sell a complete selection of health products including vitamins, nutritional supplements, small medical equipment (especially for seniors) and related heath and wellness items.
This department can be tied-in with the format's current in-store pharmacies. The focus would be on health and wellness with minor medical care, professionals offering health advise and selling the products to supplement that advise. In addition to the upscale, convenience-style format Wal-Mart is currently developing the retailer also is developing a small footprint, stand-alone health and wellness stores Having the health and wellness departments in the Neighborhood Markets would create excellent synergies with the new stand-alone health and wellness stores once they are created and rolled out.
NSFM believes the changes and additions to the current Neighborhood Market format (format one) would dramatically improve the viability and shopping experience of the current and future Neighborhood Market stores
In our analysis we also think Wal-Mart might consider dropping the Wal-Mart name from the Neighborhood Markets. Instead of "Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market" the stores would simply be called "Neighborhood Market." This has a more community-oriented feel to it. It also takes the Wal-Mart brand off of what is designed to be an alternative to big box shopping which most consumers associate with Wal-Mart. We aren't 100 percent convinced this is needed at his point but strongly believe it should be seriously considered.
Format Two: A second Neighborhood Market format
It's format two though that has NSFM excited, and we believe offers excellent potential for Wal-Mart to re-invigerate and make successful its Neighborhood Market format.
Neighborhood Market format two is a medium-size footprint natural and organic products "category killer" grocery store. NSFM suggests Wal-Mart take the basic Neighborhood Market store footprint and shrink it a bit for the new format. The stores would be about 35,000 square-feet. They would feature a complete selection of natural and organic groceries, produce, meats and seafood, and perishables. The stores also would have an extensive selection of natural and organic nutritional supplements, skin care products and non-foods. A combination in-store restaurant/cafe/smoothie-type bar would be part of the format. A good way to look at the format is Whole Foods (with a few differences and limitations) in a smaller box.
The format's focus (or mission statement) would be "Natural and Organic Foods For Less" or something similar. The format would be a "category killer" for these products, beating Whole Foods and other natural foods stores and supermarkets significantly on the retail price points of organic groceries, perishables and non-foods.
The stores could be built in such a "less frills" but still upscale way as to keep operating costs down. And with Wal-Mart's buying, distribution and logistics systemt he chain would be able to beat the best retails currently out there while still making decent margins. After all being the price leader is Wal-Mart's strategy in terms of dramatically increasing its natural and organic product offerings in its supercenters.
The stores need to be upscale and attractive but also have the look of a "lower frills" retailer at the same time. This is important for the "category killer" positioning. A too upscale store suggests higher prices. However, a too bare-bones store isn't inviting and would discourage shoppers, as well as not keeping them in the store for as long a period of time as possible which is key for impulse buying.
The chain also can build the stores in such an environmentally sound manner that things likes energy use will be dramatically reduced compared to a typical supermarket. For example, lots of use of skylights for lighting, ceiling fans, top-grade insulation and other green building and energy-reducing principles. This is good for the stores positioning in addition to cost-reduction as environmentalism will be a big part of the format's draw along with it natural and organic product offerings.
This Neighborhood Market natural foods "category killer" format will need a name. And the Wal-Mart brand name should not be part of it. The name must evoke natural products retailing as does Whole Foods, Wild Oats or Supervalu's Sunflower Market stores. In fact Supervalu's Sunflower Market format is somewhat a model for what we are calling Wal-Mart's Neighborhood Market format two. There are major qualitative differences between our concept for Wal-Mart and the current Sunflower Market format however. Chief among these differences is size. Sunflower Market stores are only 15,000 square-feet. (See Tuesday's Talking Points Memo for a discussion about Sunflower Market.)
Why the category killer format will work
Why do we think this format would work for Wal-Mart? There are 4 basic reasons. First, the natural and organic products categories are moving from a niche market to a near-mainstream one. They aren't there yet but moving in that direction fairly rapidly. Wal-Mart knows this which is why they have launched a major natural and organic grocery initiative in their supercenters. Kroger Co., Safeway Stores and other retail chains, including Target, know this as well.
Second, Wal-Mart needs a way to re-invigerate its Neighborhood Market format as well as to be able to break out of its big box format in order to serve regions and neighborhoods where community members do not want--and fight against--supercenter stores. Format two allows for both these things in conjunction with our first point above.
Third, the natural and organic categories allow for higher margins even if the products are sold for a discount provided the retailer has the buying and logistics systems to make it work, which Wal-Mart does. The "category killer" natural foods stores for example can sell organics at substantially lower retails than Whole Foods or supermarkets can and do and Wal-Mart can still make a higher overall gross margin in these stores than they can make selling conventional groceries in a supercenter. (I'm not suggesting the gross sales between the two would be anything close to similar, merely that the margins would be higher on albeit significantly lower overall volume in the natural foods format stores vs. the supercenters.)
The last reason is "first-mover advantage." It might be in five years, ten years or perhaps a little longer, but a retail chain (or even a start up) is going to launch a "category killer" retail format focused on the natural and organic categories. We've seen this with specialty and gourmet foods, wine, beer and spirits and other categories. The natural and organic category is ripe for the picking at retail for this--and getting riper. (NSFM believes it will be closer to five years or less rather than ten for a "category killer" natural and organic foods retail format to emerge and begin to position its stores nationally on a selective basis.)
With it's buying and logistics advantages, corporate philosophy embracing natural and organic products along with environmentalism and sustainability--and its need to break out of the big retail box--Wal-Mart might just be the perfect candidate to be first in creating this "category killer" natural foods store Neighborhood Market format.
The existing retailer or start up that decides to become the "first mover" in this category in a significant way is going to have all the advantages. NSFM thinks it is worth further analysis, study, thinking and discussion by Wal-Mart.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Upscale department store retailer Macy*s is holding a buy local, organic and sustainable specialty and natural foods promotion on September 5, 2007 in its Cellar Specialty Foods department at the retailer's Union Square store in San Francisco.
Although Macy*s is an upscale general department store retailer it also offers a large selection on specialty, gourmet and natural foods in its Cellar departments in stores in major cities like San Francisco, New York and other U.S. metro regions.
The September 5 promotion is called "Local farmers and chefs help you go beyond the buzzwords and get green: Sustainable, organic, seasonal. Delicious."
Among the local farmers and artisan food producers participating in the promotion are Devoto Gardens located in Sebastopol, California, which is located about 35 miles north of San Francisco. Devoto Gardens produces 50 varieties of apples (many of them heirloom varieties), persimmons, vegetable greens and over 60 varieties of flowers.
Devoto uses sustainable farming practices on their farm and many of the crops they raise are organic. In addition to offering tastings of many of their locally produced crops, members of the Devoto family will talk with shoppers about sustainable farming practices and describe how they raise their crops in an environmentally-friendly manner.
Local winery Binziger Family Winery will be tasting some of its wines at the promotion. All of the wines offered are grown by the family winery using sustainable and biodynamic growing methods. Members of the local grape-growing and wine-making Benziger family will be on hand to discuss their farming and wine producing methods with shoppers.
Lastly, chef Greg Dunmore of the well-know San Francisco restaurant Acme will be part of the promotion. He will prepare dishes using the Devoto Family produce in addition to using other locally produced, sustainable products featured in Macy*s Cellar specialty foods department.
Macy*s is co-sponsoring in the promotion with a Northern California organization called "The Center for Urban Agriculture and Sustainable Farming." The promotional event cost shoppers $10.00 to get in-100% of which Macy*s is donating to the non-profit urban agricultural and sustainable farming center. For their $10.00 donation shoppers also will receive a reusable canvas grocery tote bag from San Francisco's popular Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market plus a sample kit from Origins Organic Skincare, a company which makes organic skin care products sold at Macy*s
The promotion ties a number of current industry hot-button trends together: buying local, green or environmental farming and food production, sustainable farming and organic products.
Another natural~specialty promotion of note...Also picking up on the buy local, sustainable agriculture theme, Stew Leonard's, a Connecticut-based four store independent retailer, is holding a promotion called "It's All Native." The promotional event, to be held throughout September and October at all four stores, will feature fresh produce and artisan foods produced by local area farmers.
The farmers will be on hand at the stores to talk about their crops, how they produce them, and offer tastings of the local bounty. The promotion has a farmers' market-style theme with an emphasis on buying local, food origins, and sustainable growing and production methods. All four stores will set up a "farmers' market" in front of each store entrance area where the promotional events will take place.
The retailer is creating a festival atmosphere during the promotion with free balloons for kids, face painting and a visit by local TV personality Produce Pete, in addition to the tastings and discussions with the farmers.
Speaking of buying local as well as organic...A new survey conducted by natural foods researcher Mambo Sprouts suggests consumers are torn when it comes to choosing between buying local foods and non-local organic products. The survey, by the firm's MamboTrack Research Service based in New Jersey, found 36.1 % of natural products consumers said they would choose local-grown produce over non-local organically grown. Another 33.3% said the opposite, and the other approx. 31% weren't sure which they would choose. This of course was a bit of a forced-choice question. However researchers probed the natural products consumers and did find the majority of them preferred produce that is both locally-grown and organic if it is available. You can read more about the Mambo Sprouts' survey and its other findings here: http://www.progressivegrocer.com/progressivegrocer/headlines/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003628332
Natural~Specialty New Product News
Kid-friendly healthy meals and snacks...Two pioneer industry companies, Amy's Kitchen and Clif Bar, have both introduced lines of "kid healthy" meals and snacks. Amy's "Kids Meals" is introducing two noodle entrees for kids--macaroni & cheese and ziti. The meals are organic and have all natural ingredients. The entrees include broccoli, foccacia bread and a fruit desert.
Clif Bar is introducing "Clif Kid," a new line of organic kid-friendly snacks made with whole grains and natural sweeteners. The bars, called Clif kid Zbars, come in a variety of flavors including chocolate chip, twisted fruit rope and honey graham.
Boulder, Colorado-based Celestial Seasonings is undergoing the most comprehensive packaging change in the company's history as well introducing a new tea line and entering the coffee category... Celestial Seasonings, a division of Hain Food Group, is revamping its basic line of tea boxes. The boxes will emphasis the "Celestial" name more so than the Seasons" name. Celestial is also introducing a new line of organic tea in a pyramid-shaped bag. The new high-end tea line will sell for about $7.99, about twice as much as the company's regular tea bag line.
Celestial is getting into the coffee business as well. The company's new line of organic, Fair Trade coffee will borrow names from their well-known tea line. Names such as Morning Thunder Coffee and the like. Celestial says increased competition in the tea category is prompting them to make the design changes as well as introduce the new, upper-end pyramid-shaped tea bag line. The coffee line they feel is a natural extension for them as they can capitalize on their brand equity in the tea category. You can read a feature story from the August 28, 2007 Rocky Mountain News for more details on the company's efforts. Click here: http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/other_business/article/0,2777,DRMN_23916_5683705,00.html
Supermarket chain Winn-Dixie to introduce new corporate specialty foods brand...Winn-Dixie, which operates 520 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, is introducing a premium line of specialty and gourmet grocery products. The line is called Winn & Lovett. The premium Winn & Lovett brand will include coffee, olives, olive oil flavored oils, fresh bakery products and other items such as condiments and other grocery items. The creation of the new premium line comes as the retailer is revamping the chain's entire corporate/private label program. Winn-Dixie says they plan to promote the premium line with in-store tastings, ads in their weekly circulars and other promotional vehicles.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
Last week Natural~Specialty Foods Memo (NSFM) wrote a piece about the Wall Street Journal first reporting that Wal-Mart was developing two small footprint store formats--one an upscale, convenience-style market and the other a similar-sized health & wellness format store. NSFM confirmed the Journal's report with San Francisco Bay Area trade sources who said they had heard about the team of Wal-Mart executives in the Bay Area working on the concept. Wal-Mart however wasn't confirming or talking about the development last week when we wrote our piece.
Today however Wal-Mart announced the mega-retailer is working on the two such formats, confiming the Journal and NSFM stories. Wal-Mart isn't saying much about the new format development at present. But perhaps there isn't much to say yet as it's very early in the development process. The Associated Press has the story today here: http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/08/27/ap4057417.html
Whole Foods Markets, Inc./Wild Oats Deal News
Just in @ 5PM PT:
Whole Foods Market, Inc. announced it has support from enough shareholders of Wild Oats Markets, Inc. to complete its purchase of its rival supernatural grocery chain. You can read the just released Associated Press story here: http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/08/27/ap4058293.html
Today's development puts an end to the Wild Oats acquisition/merger which was opposed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It's time for Whole Foods to now began the process of consolidating the Wild Oats stores into the Whole Foods corporate and retail system.
Whole Foods has already sold in principal 35 Wild Oats' stores under the Henry's Farmers Market and Sun Harvest banners. The stores are being sold to a subsidiary of Southern California-based Smart and Final, Inc. Whole Foods also plans to sell or close some Wild Oats and Capers Community Markets banner stores which are either located to close to current Whole Foods banner stores or to small for the grocer to be able to express its merchandising philosophy in. Some say this could be as many as 30 additional stores. If so that would leave Whole Foods with only 45 Wild Oats banner stores to change to the Whole Foods banner and bring into their retail system.
This should be a relatively easy--although slightly time-consuming--process for Whole Foods, even if there are more like 65 stores versus 45. NSFM expects the supernatural retailer to do this rapidly so that they can gain the optimum sales and margin advantages from changing to the whole Foods banner as soon as possible.
NSFM will be watching the merger integration by Whole Foods closely for the next few weeks. It should be an interesting and instructive process. One which we think our readers have great interest in, as does the food industry in general.
FDA Approves Seconds
August 22, 2007, The Onion
WASHINGTON, DC—In a surprising reversal of its longtime single-helping policy, the Food and Drug Administration announced its approval of seconds Tuesday, claiming that an additional plateful of food with every meal can greatly reduce the risk of hunger as well as provide an excellent source of deliciousness.
Addressing what it calls a "growing epidemic of cravings and hankerings," the federal agency recommended redesigning food labels to prominently display extra-serving sizes and pledged to better educate consumers on how to make informed additional-portion choices at home and in restaurants.
"There's plenty to go around," FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach said between spoonfuls of mashed potatoes during a benefit luncheon at the Clean Plate Club in Washington. "We've found that eating seconds is essential for keeping up the country's strength."
"Besides, with people starving in other parts of the world, it would be an absolute shame to let our nice food supply all go to waste," the commissioner added.
Once restricted to the head of the household, on Thanksgiving, or to those who had been extra good, seconds will now be made available to the general public in over-the-kitchen-counter form. However, FDA officials warn that those with a history of health problems should consult their doctor first.
"Seconds may not be suitable for everyone," von Eschenbach said. "Especially those who suffer from heart disease, those at risk for diabetes, people trying to lose weight, and women."
The FDA also recommended moderation in consuming seconds. Researchers in the seconds field have noted occasional side effects, such as hardly being able to get up from the table, pants-loosening, drowsiness, and the feeling that one "might explode" if one eats just one more bite.
A report commissioned by the Las Vegas–based International Brotherhood of Buffet Owners revealed that 75 percent of undereating occurs in those afflicted by a rare disorder in which their eyes are smaller than their stomachs, preventing them from taking advantage of all-you-can-eat opportunites. Picky eating habits and an unwillingness to stuff oneself are considered the leading preventable causes of scrawniness among Americans.
"Growing boys represent the greatest at-risk group, as unprecedented numbers of them are wasting away," registered dietician and grandmother of six Irma Jacobs said. "They'll just turn into skin and bones before our very eyes unless we make a concerted effort to get them to eat, eat, eat up."
Other nutritionists suggest that the need for seconds could be eliminated by an initial very large, or "heaping," helping.
"Larger portions could entirely eliminate the need to reach over, pass dishes, or get out of a chair," said clinical nutritionist Gary Bergen of Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, who estimates that millions of calories and thousands of hours of eating time are wasted annually by making unnecessary second-serving trips. "I find it ironic that the FDA has approved seconds, yet still hasn't standardized the dollop."
Despite months of work and the purchase of several new wardrobes, FDA researchers say their study of the consumption of thirds and fourths has been inconclusive, but they suggest a possible link between these additional servings and tummy aches.