Shaking It Up

Getting fit in 2013 means putting your money where your mouth is, because nutritionally packed supplements, bulk items and healthy shakes are trending big in the region.

But it's tart cherry concentrate that takes the cake for optimizing wellness, according to celebrity health advocates.

The ruby elixir was thrust in the limelight this year, gaining national attention after health expert and Oprah affiliate Dr. Mehmet Oz touted it as a proven inflammation fighter and sleep aid.

"Our tart cherry concentrate is selling really well," said Ken Shepley, sales associate at Brownwood Acres. "We started selling it in 1999 and we're now the nation's largest retailer of tart cherry concentrate."

Shipley said the endorsement from Dr. Oz contributed to the increase in sales.

"Every time Dr. Oz is on TV talking about cherry juice and cherry supplements, our sales rise," he said. "We think the popularity of cherries is still coming into its own. I've seen food and fruit fads come and go. The thing about cherries is that it really works. That's what separates it from the others."

Each quart of the concentrate makes two gallons of cherry juice. Studies show in addition to supporting healthy joint and cardiovascular function, it also boosts the immune system. Brownwood Acres has sold more than one million bottles of its concentrate online at, through its retail outlet in Eastport and through grocery retailers like Kroger.

To supplement the concentrate, they also sell a popular line of soft gel cherry supplements and fruit bars under the Fruit Fast label. Both the bars and capsules use the whole fruit and come in cherry, pomegranate and blueberry flavors.

"We make it right here in Eastport," said Shepley. "You get all the nutrients from the skin and the whole fruit. It's been absolutely huge for us."

Kathy Newton, owner of Herbalife nutrition club Nourish, said Traverse City residents are serious when it comes to diet, exercise and an active lifestyle.

"In our community, people are very health conscious," she said. "Baby Boomers are realizing that diets don't work. Our high-protein shakes of all types are very popular. We get a lot of people stopping by for lunch."

Nourish is located at Kid's Creek Marketplace on U.S. 31. For five years, it has offered more than 70 different flavors of shakes designed to help with weight loss and increase protein intake.

Among the most popular flavors are Butterfinger, Snickers and blueberry muffin, Newton said.

"They may not sound healthy, but they are," she said, laughing. "All of them contain 21 vitamins and minerals and are 200 to 250 calories, with a minimum of 20 grams of protein. And they're all lactose-free and gluten-free."

For weight loss, clients are encouraged to replace a meal or two with the shakes, then eat a balanced, healthy variety of low-fat, low-sugar foods with a focus on a certain amount of protein. A recommended intake of 1,200 calories per day along with 100 grams of protein is the minimum, but depends on the individual, Newton said.

In northern Michigan, ground zero for healthy food trends is Oryana Natural Foods Market, where things have changed dramatically since it opened in 1974.

Then, a small group of families began distributing sacks of brown rice and oats from a porch in Traverse City. Now, the once tiny co-operative has evolved into a certified organic retailer with a full line of grocery products produced in ecologically sound ways.

The store is committed to good food, especially locally grown items. In addition to produce grown on area farms, Oryana carries eggs, milk, cheese, jams, soaps, candles and other items produced by local farmers, artisans and small companies.

In spite of the aisles of prepackaged choices, bulk reigns supreme.

"Our bulk items are selling very well," says Steve Nance, the co-op's general manager. "People are making their own high-quality natural meals at home.

Each month, Oryana puts dozens of its bulk products on sale. A recent listing included a wide variety of items, including pecans, almonds, carob, cinnamon sticks, cocoa powder, nutmeg, vanilla extract, brown and white rices, apricots, cranberries, walnuts, and six varieties of pistachios.

While some Oryana customers are culinary do-it-yourselfers, others prefer to let Oryana do the cooking.

"We're selling more grab-and-go entrees," Nance said. "That's an area that's up industry-wide. I think folks are overall more interested in food, saying that it's important to feed their family well."

Nance noted that in addition to foods, sales are up in Oryana's vitamin, supplement and wellness departments.

"Pet food sales have been very dynamic," he said. "People are taking care of the whole family." BN