Rite Aid drugstores nationwide have joined the ranks of grocery and health food stores when it comes to offering prepared healthy specialty foods, following the debut of the Wholesome Goodness line of snacks and chips, hot and cold cereals, granola bars, dried fruit and nuts, beverages, dressings and marinades, pasta and BBQ sauces, salsas and broths. The 25 products in the line span a bounty of benefits, which include whole grain, low-sodium, fiber, no sugar added, and a source of omega fatty acid, and are specially positioned to make healthy eating accessible to all families.
According to Wholesome Goodness, all of the foods in the line are made with a nutrition-minded approach, and have an emphasis on natural ingredients such as whole grains, fiber and beneficial antioxidants, while minimizing or eliminating sugar, sodium and fat. The company bans the use of 126 ingredients commonly used by other food companies. Prohibited ingredients include artificial additives, sweeteners, colorings and preservatives, including high fructose corn syrup, trans fats and other highly processed ingredients. All packages are clearly labeled to provide consumers with the nutritional benefits as well as identifying those that meet gluten-free and Kosher dietary guidelines.
The Wholesome Goodness better-for-you charter extends to the environment as well. A significant percentage of the products were manufactured in LEED-certified facilities and packaging is designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible. For example, cartons and boxes were made with recyclable materials and/or aseptic packaging made from renewable resources eliminating the use of plastics.
The line was developed in conjunction with Dr. David Katz, who formally serves as the company’s nutrition adviser, and is also the director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, as well as the editor-in-chief of Childhood Obesity Journal. “It’s very rare to encounter an opportunity to get involved with a food industry effort that is as committed to health and wellness as it is to the bottom line,” he said. “I was brought in as a nutrition advisor and the first thing I said to the executives at Wholesome Goodness was ‘You know I’m going to be a pain in the neck. You know I’m going to fuss about everything. You know if the ingredient list is long I’m going to fuss about it. If you put salt where salt doesn’t belong, I’m going to fuss about it. If you put sugar where it doesn’t belong, I’m going to fuss about it.’ And they said ‘Bring it on.’
“Not only did they invite me to bring it on, but absolutely every issue I have raised from the beginning they have addressed to the best of their ability,” he continued. “They take salt out everywhere they can, they take sugar out everywhere they can, they simplify the ingredient list every way they can. It’s a beautiful effort to produce a wide array of products that epitomize an expression I like, ‘loving foods that love us back.’”
He went on to add that Wholesome Goodness took great pains to craft foods that balanced health with taste. “It doesn’t matter how nutritious a food is if nobody’s eating it,” he said. “Good nutrition requires that people and the food come together. So we have to be able to love the food and nutrition is only part of the formula for producing products that can improve health.”
Each product in the Wholesome Goodness line bears a price point that the company said is comparable or less than comparable to mainstream brands, and significantly lower than other all-natural or organic product lines. “Wholesome Goodness is committed to the whole formula,” said Dr. Katz. “Food that’s delicious and food that’s affordable; so a dollar never stands between you and the better choice.”
So far, the response to the line has been positive. Lauren Wood, a spokesperson for the company reported that the company is already working with Rite Aid to enhance its initial product offering. Ms. Wood said she anticipated that a variety of new products would be added to store shelves in the spring.