Health Food Shops: Are There Franchises?

31/12/2018 08:00 | Food franchises

health food shop

While there’s always room in our hearts for the occasional burger, it seems that the UK population is becoming much more conscious of what it eats. Vegetarian and Vegan diets are hugely popular, and the concept of ‘Wellness’ is not only being embraced by the public, but it appears to be infinitely marketable too. It's no surprise, then, that health food shops are experiencing a resurgence in popularity – from locally-run small businesses to major chains like Holland & Barrett.

If you’re keen to get into the food industry but the idea of flipping burgers or frying chicken all day long doesn’t appeal to you, opening a health food shop may be a great alternative. From organic avocados to vitamins and supplements, gluten and dairy-free to ultra-local produce, health food is one of the big trends for 2019.

A holistic approach to wellness

It’s rare to find a health food shop for sale in the UK, which is why you need to take a holistic approach to starting up your own health food business. In today’s market, you’re going to be doing business online as well as relying on passing footfall in the high street, so it’s worth changing your mindset and embracing both on and offline marketplaces.

General health food shops are also quite generic and stock a vast range of products that range from snail slime moisturisers (yes, that's really a thing) through to organic fruit and veg, supplements, essential oils and everything in between. To be competitive, you need to think very carefully about what kind of health food business you want to develop and which direction you want to go.

How big is the Health Food market?

The health food industry is massive in the UK. Everyone from the major supermarkets to small independent stores has a finger in the health and wellness (organic) pie, and the amount that the public spends on wellness and health food products is rocketing. In 2017, sales of organic food and drink rose by 6% to over £2.2billion. The majority of these sales wasn’t through supermarkets, but via independent outlets and, interestingly, the rise of home delivery services such as ‘Hello Fresh’. When you consider that non-organic food sales rose by 2% in comparison (despite being a much larger overall percentage of the total UK food industry), it’s clear that customers are gravitating more towards quality organic and healthy food options and are less inclined to head for the traditional ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ alternatives.

Health food shops are seeing an increase in market share, albeit small in comparison to the supermarkets. However, those who do prefer to shop at health food stores are more inclined to pay a higher price for premium quality products. If you're thinking about opening a health food store, it pays to understand your potential customer base, which is predominantly 30+, middle-income, and with a higher level of disposable income.

Do I need to be a qualified nutritionist?

You don’t need to be a qualified nutritionist to open your own health food shop, but you do need to have a good understanding of your stock and the USPs (unique selling point) of each product. What you cannot do is make false claims as to the purity, beneficial effects or quality of your products – as is the case with any other business.

You will, however, need to have those key elements that any entrepreneur needs, whether you’re going it alone or are buying into a health shop franchise: determination, commitment, and the ability to finance your venture.

Try to avoid ‘fads’ or the latest fashions in food. While they may initially be profitable, they cannot form the basis for a long-term plan that will last beyond the first few months.

It’s also unwise to spread yourself too thinly unless your business is a franchise that has some serious support systems in place. So rather than opting for a generic health food shop that sells a little bit of everything, try to pick an idea that is easily manageable, doesn’t require constant investment, and has a tried and tested business model.

High street or online?

There are pros and cons to both online and high street businesses. Initial investments in high-street businesses can be high, but with the current state of the British high street under increasing pressure it may be easier to find a vacant shop with good footfall for a reasonable rate.

Online businesses tend to have lower overheads but bear in mind that if you plan to take on a health food shop UK franchise, then you're going to need storage space for your stock, which may also need to be chilled to keep perishable stock fresh. The best option is to think about a little bit of both by offering an online service and a ‘real world’ selling platform at farmer’s markets, fairs and pannier markets.

Boxing clever

One of the most significant health food movements is the ‘fresh box', where customers sign up and have their groceries delivered to them either daily or weekly. The principle is to supply customers with no more than they need to create delicious, healthy meals with minimal waste, using local producers and ultra-fresh, in-season ingredients. We particularly like Riverford Organic farmers and growers, who currently deliver around 47,00 boxes of fresh and organic goods every week. A £40,000 initial investment will allow you to buy into a premium level service with an established reputation and a growing client base that loves Riverford’s award-winning service.

Something a little saucy

Another franchise that we're particularly keen on is the wonderfully innovative Humpit. If you love the exotic flavours of the Middle East, then this £30,000 buy-in could be just the thing. They specialise in pickles, sauces, and a unique product, HUMPTEA. Low fit-out costs for sit-down and takeaway options make it an interesting variation on the health food store theme.

For more top franchise options, check out our list of The Best UK Food Franchises 2019, take your pick from our Top 5 Food Franchises, or get a little inside information on running a healthy restaurant with our article on Restaurant Business Plans: It’s Easy With Franchising.

Conclusion

The health food industry is without doubt one of the biggest and fastest growing sectors in the country, with a huge £2.2billion marketplace that’s getting bigger by the month. With new options such as ‘fresh box’ deliveries making an interesting alternative to traditional format health food shops, heavy initial investment in a high street store is not required. A growing marketplace populated by customers with high standards and higher levels of disposable income means that profit margins are higher, and health food shop franchises represent a buoyant and profitable alternative to the usual sandwich or burger food franchises.

It’s best to avoid ‘fads’ and look at a franchise that offers a long-term basis for a successful business, but do bear in mind that you will need to consider some high-ticket investments such as chilled storage space and sign-written vehicles suitable for carrying fresh produce.

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