A new kind of food store is scheduled to open Jan. 17 at the Promenade shopping center in Scottsdale, Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard and Scottsdale Road.
If you have to watch your wheat, salt or sugar intake, have a bad reaction to dairy products or are trying to lose weight with any of the popular curb -your-something diets, Aspire Markets has your number.
The store, the creation of husband and wife team Debbie Shapos and Keith Kosco, finds or makes fresh, frozen, and packaged food — everything except fresh fruit and vegetables — that adhere to just about any kind of food plan, from medically required restrictions to the latest weight-loss fads, Shapos said.
She said she scours the finest gourmet food-sellers from around the world to find products to stock the shelves.
Then a team of six nutritionists numbers the diets and the food products. For example, "1" means low calorie — less than 120 for every 100 grams of food, and "8" means low cholesterol — less than 20 mg per serving. So a food marked with a "1" and an "8" would be acceptable for people cutting back on either.
Among Aspire Market’s stocked delicacies, is D’Arbo strawberry jam, which pretty much everybody could spread on something. The plethora of numbers on the jar identifies the jam as acceptable for controlled-calories, restricted-sugar, gluten-free, low-sodium, low-fat, low-cholesterol and dairy-free food plans.
Shapos, a former marketing executive, got the idea for Aspire Markets when her 15-month-old niece, Abigail, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Shapos’ sister had difficulty finding food or recipes that would satisfy a toddler’s nutritional needs and conform to her diet restrictions. In tensive label reading became a regular pastime, Shapos said.
"It would take her all day to grocery shop in various stores and even have to order some products online," Shapos said. "We said there should be one place to find knowledgeable people, good service and (diet-compliant) food that tastes good. But there isn’t a place like this in the United States, as far as we know."
Shapos persuaded her Los Angeles-based lawyer husband Kosco to help create a store that would simplify shopping for people like her sister and for anybody on any kind of medically indicated or weight-control diet.
"We won’t tell people what kid of diet they ought to be on, but whatever diet they’re on, we want to help," she said.
Shapos believes nondieters also will become customers.
"People not on diets are still concerned about what they are eating, and if they can find a low-sugar, low-fat pasta sauce that tastes just as good, they’d rather have that," she said.
Besides just providing food, Aspire Markets will have a test kitchen and a nutritionistconcierge, who will provide free services from nutritionally labeling your grandma’s meatloaf recipe to cooking up an item you’re on the fence about, Shapos said. "We’ll cook it for you and you can taste it before you buy it," she said.
Michelle Richter, a registered dietician and professional chef, is on board to creating diet-compliant pre-packaged fresh meals daily.
Kosco is cooking up plans to turn the Scottsdale store into a chain. "We hope we can get the store open and then expand," Kosco said.
Shapos and Kosco plan to stage gourmet taste testings Jan. 21-23 to entice healthyminded shoppers to check the shop out.