MOM’s Organic Market Benefits from Natural Product Trends

It’s a simple name, of course, MOM’S Organic Market, and it implies a homeliness that actually reflects its business structure. The small grocery chain is still a family-owned, home delivery business, begun in 1987 by founder Scott Nash out of the garage in — where else? — his mother’s house in Rockville, Md.

A purely local startup for several years, with the intent of bringing healthy food to the community, MOM’s got a boost in 1989 when a phone-in caller name-dropped the company on a live broadcast of NPR’s Diane Rehm Show discussing organic food. Continuing throughout the 90’s with its combination of brick & mortar, home delivery, and mail order sales operations, the company has begun a much more intense period of expansion over the past 10 years, expanding from five to 18 stores since 2007, with added locations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

MOM’s started off with a single focus on produce, but since then it’s become a more conventional natural channel supermarket. With the growth of consumer interest in packaged organic food and beverages, the chain has now shaped up into a more formalized business model. It began utilizing planograms only within the past few years, according to MOM’s head coordinator Claudia Crowder, a necessity as the company finds itself with more stock options than at any time in its history.

Speaking to BevNET, Crowder said the rise of organic CPG products has helped to improve the variety of better-for-you offerings in its beverage coolers.

“The RTD case has evolved,” Crowder said. “There’s more refreshment quality, and supplemental quality. They’re not just drinks anymore, they’re functional.”

Meanwhile, the growth of beverage companies using natural ingredients has also helped to round out sets, particularly in popular categories such as soda and tea. While the retailer used to rely largely on brands such as Maine Root and Virgil’s, MOM’s has been able to complement its soda offerings with brands such as Zevia, which she called a “monster” for zero-calorie beverage sales.

The rise of categories such as kombucha and dairy alternatives has likewise reshaped the store’s offerings on-shelf.

In seeking out new products for its stores, MOM’s frequents the major natural and specialty products trade shows, including Expo East and Expo West and the Fancy Food Shows, in addition to relying on trade magazines. Its close relationships with national distributor UNFI, as well as smaller regional distributors such as Avenue Gourmet and Garden Spot, among others, also keep the retailer up-to-date on the latest brands hitting the natural channel.

“All of our coordinators are foodies, so there’s a lot of sharing of news,” Crowder said.

As MOM’s continues to expand, most recently opening a third Philadelphia metro area store last month, the challenge for the chain lies in maintaining a locally-minded approach by making sure each store is sufficiently adapted to its region. For example, Crowder said, the company tapped Philly-based coffee company La Colombe for its Pennsylvania stores in order to provide more local flair.

“We see Philly going through an amazing food renaissance,” she said. “So we’re leaning on our managers up there [to develop a] local approach.”

MOM’s also works with local food incubators near its Maryland headquarters, sourcing local product from the D.C. metro area and beyond for its stores in the Southern U.S.

As health trends hold up and more consumers seek out organic, the small chain is finally seeing serious growth while maintaining its corporate mission values of sustainability and community. MOM’s employs more than 1,000 people.

“We talk a lot about lifestyle,” Crowder said. “MOM’s is a lifestyle. We take it very seriously.”