Taste of Tuscaloosa: Manna Grocery and Deli Keeps Things Fresh and Healthy

Francis Drennen and her business partner, Earle Drennen (not pictured), co-founded the natural food store Manna Grocery in 1980. Francis Drennen and her business partner, Earle Drennen (not pictured), co-founded the natural food store Manna Grocery in 1980. Sheena Gregg

It’s hard to ignore the influx of health-conscious businesses that have been springing up in Tuscaloosa over the past five years. With television advertisements, new medical research, and a plethora of internet resources touting the importance of diet and supplements, it’s no wonder that businesses of this type continue to appear. However, those transient to Tuscaloosa may not realize the long-standing history of health food and product selection that Manna Grocery and Deli in Tuscaloosa offers.  

Manna Grocery and Deli co-owner Francis Drennen and her business partner, Earle Drennen, have been in the natural food business since the 1970s.  

“We first started with a business on The Strip named Harmony Natural Foods. We moved away for a short time and came back and opened Manna Grocery in 1980 on 15th Street, “said Drennen.  

Since it first opened, Manna has expanded twice: Once in 1983 (including a deli), and then a move in 1989 to its current McFarland Blvd. location.  

 “Though we have people that have been shopping with us since the 70s, we get quite a number of new customers to our store,” Drennen said. “People from other parts of the country are always impressed with the variety and quality of supplements and other products that we have to offer.” 

Longtime Manna deli employee Brenda Hill said she loves the atmosphere of the restaurant and store. 

“My favorite thing about Manna is making our daily soups, with my favorite being the kale vegetable soup,” said Hill.  

For Drennen, her favorite day in the deli is Friday.  

“On Friday, we offer our ‘soulful salmon’ which features a salmon filet served with an in-house sauce one of our cooks created several years ago.”   

Despite the vast selection of made in-house food options that Manna offers, the business prides itself on being a place of education for customers.  

“We don’t claim to diagnose, prescribe, or heal people with our products, but we believe that nutrition supplements can help give the body the nutrition it needs for self-care when diet itself is lacking,” Drennen said, adding that employees focus on helping customers make an informed decision, avoiding product pushing.  

“We focus on what’s in the food and what’s not in the food. I attribute the success of our business to people feeling comfortable and confident with knowing exactly what’s in our products.” 

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Sheena Gregg

Registered Dietitian/Assistant Director, Health Education and Nutrition Services at The University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa

Website: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sheena-gregg-83612a9b

Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.